Lauder's Kershaw Racing sidecar duo surges to success
For the 4000 spectators allowed into the Donington Park circuit in Leicestershire last weekend, there was an abundance of entertainment that provided edge-of-the-seat action all the way through.
Part of the World Superbike event was round three of the world sidecar series, reports Robin Wilson, and Lauder-based Kershaw Racing was hoping to put the woes of the first two rounds behind them and show the home fans what they could do.
Several of the European teams opted not to race because of the new customs regulations since Brexit, but the main challengers were there, backed up by several British wildcard teams looking for track time and a chance to measure themselves against the best.
In qualifying, local hero Todd Ellis, with Emmanuelle Clement in the chair, took pole in a time under the existing lap record, hoping to claim race wins and improve on his second place in the standings.
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Steve Kershaw and Ryan Charlwood struggled with an ill-handling bike to claim fifth but worked out the problem overnight, to be confident of matching the pace of the front runners.
As is expected in the British summer, when the crowds come out, the clouds come out, and Saturday’s race one took place in the dry but with bubbling thunder clouds looming in the distance.
‘Lady Luck’ was also looming large and once again took out her displeasure on Kershaw/Charlwood. After a strong start, they were riding clean round the outside of series leaders Schlosser/Fries in turn one when wildcard entrants Philp/Bryant miscalculated their braking marker and rammed straight into the back of Kershaw’s LCR, putting both outfits off track into the gravel.
Luckily, both managed to get straight back on track behind the pack but Philp had damaged a wheel arch and Kershaw had a punctured rear tyre. This left the Borders boys having to limp almost a full lap back to the pits for a hasty wheel change.
Up front, the chaos had let Reeves/Rousseau and Ellis/Clement get a gap from Schlosser/Fries and Paivarinta/De Haas ahead of a gaggle of British teams, headed by Blackstock/Rosney. After losing three laps, the Lauder duo re-emerged on track, needing to complete three quarters of the race distance to be classified in the points, so slotted in behind the Blackstock/Rosney and Christie/Christie battle for fifth to keep out of harm’s way.
Meantime, a rare Reeves/Rousseau error saw them on to the grass down Craner curves at over 100mph but kept it upright to rejoin, albeit in sixth place.
For the remainder of the race, Ellis/Clement managed their lead brilliantly to take their first ever world win from the two European teams and Reeves/Rousseau, who tried in vain to get higher than fourth.
Kershaw/Charlwood rolled in last of the finishers but still claimed a valuable four points for 12th.
Sunday’s race two felt even more brooding, with a massive cloud just off circuit sending a warning shower of rain as the teams gathered on the start line.
This time ‘Lady Luck’ decided it was Schlosser and Fries’ turn for misery as their engine expired on the sighting lap, and also scorned Biggs/Schmidt in a similar manner on the warm-up laps.
With a space in front of them where Team Schlosser should have been, Kershaw/Charlwood fired off the line from row three straight into second place behind Reeves/Rousseau and ahead of Ellis/Clement.
Reeves, a master in the tricky conditions, pulled a two-second gap but, as the track dried, Ellis/Clement hit their stride, passing the Kershaw outfit on lap five and setting off to catch the leader.
The Borders battlers were not to be outdone and tucked in behind, knowing they could hang on to the front two crews and, for the next 11 laps the top three were never more than half a second apart.
Everyone sensed it was all going to happen on the last lap and they weren’t disappointed. With three corners left, Ellis dived under Reeves on the brakes into the Foggy Esses to take the lead but lost momentum, allowing Reeves to attack around the outside down into the Melbourne hairpin.
Kershaw sensibly swung out wide to keep the speed up and, as the front two collided going for the same bit of track, mid corner, nipped past Reeves to take second.
On the drag up the hill to the final corner, the Goddard hairpin, it looked like Ellis had done enough for the double but braked too late, ran wide – and a grateful Kershaw/Charlwood cut inside to take a storming maiden world victory from Reeves/Rousseau, who stole second by half a bike length from an exasperated Ellis/Clement.
The Team Kershaw pit crew could hardly believe it and there were emotional scenes and congratulations all round as the victors rolled into pit lane, with everyone agreeing it was the best race of the meeting.
“I was happy just being in a podium position” said Steve. “But, with four laps to go, we were still there and I thought ‘we can do something here’. So we sat back and let the other two fight each other and it worked out perfectly for us.”
Ryan added: “After the last two rounds, it was great to show what we are really capable of and, also, how good sidecar racing is at this level.”
The result meant Team Kershaw was back up to fifth in the championship and hoping to improve again at the next round in Assen, Holland, from July 17-18.