Eastern Airways British F1 Sidecars roar into action at Brands
This weekend sees Brands Hatch play host to the opening round of the 2012 Eastern Airways British F1 Sidecar Championship and, held alongside the premier British Superbike Championship meeting, it promises to be an action packed weekend of racing.
Held on the 1.2-mile Indy circuit, all of the best drivers in the country will be in attendance as they begin their Championship campaign and it's set to be extremely hectic with over 30 teams on the entry list. Indeed, the series is sure to guarantee thrills aplenty, providing its usual, unique, and high class, spectacle and there'll be no shortage of talent on display with a number of crews in with a great chance of challenging for the title during 2012.
The man to beat will undoubtedly be champion for the past two seasons Tim Reeves. The Northern Ireland based Kent driver dominated last year's series with a staggering 14 wins and 5 second places from the 20 races and although he has a new passenger this year, in the shape of Ashley Hawes, the triple World Champion will more than fancy his chances of completing a hat-trick of British titles.
There are plenty of teams who'll have a strong say about that though, with Ben and Tom Birchall expected to lead the challenge. World Champions in 2009, the Nottinghamshire brothers took fourth last year after missing a number of races so will be fired up to get back to winning ways.
Scott Lawrie/James Neave and Roger Lovelock/Rick Lawrence were pictures of consistency last season racking up countless podiums and top six places so will be looking to edge ever closer to the race wins whilst Ben Holland/Lee Watson, the most improved pairing on the grid in 2011, hoping to be regular podium finishers this time around. Meanwhile, Barry James, a double race winner in 2011, has a new passenger in the shape of Calum Lawson and he'll be looking to convert his pace into more consistent results.
Arguably the most interesting outfit on the grid comes in the shape of the Buildbase BMW outfit driven by Ben Bygrave and Paul Knapton. The move represents the first time BMW have entered the class in the modern era and with Stuart Hicken's BSB team adding their technical expertise, there's every chance we could see the German manufacturer return to the highs last experienced between the 1950s and 1970s when they dominated the sport.
Other crews worth keeping an eye on include Steve Kershaw/Robin Wilson, Gary Horspole/Rob Biggs, Mark Edwards/Lee Barrett and Phil Bell, whose passenger is yet to be confirmed, and the local parings of Andy Peach/Charlie Richardson and Ian Guy/Carol McBride. TT winner and British F2 Champions John Holden/Andy Winkle will also contest the F1 series this year.
There's an extremely strong challenge from mainland Europe at the opening round, however, with former World Championship runner-up Jorg Steinhausen expected to be well to the fore. His passenger is Gregory Cluze, champion for the past two seasons with Reeves, so they're sure to be challenging for the race wins whilst Janez Remse/Jamie Biggs, Johan Reuterholt/Aki Aalto and Philippe Gallerne/Julien Chesneau add to the International flavour.
Lovelock and Reeves share the spoils in F1 Sidecar opener
Roger Lovelock/Rick Lawrence and Tim Reeves/Ashley Hawes shared the spoils at the opening round of the Eastern Airways British F1 Sidecar Championship held at Brands Hatch over the Easter weekend. The duo took a win apiece but it was Ben and Tom Birchall who left the Kent venue with the Championship lead after taking a brace of second place finishes.
It was Reeves and Hawes who claimed pole position in Saturday's single qualifying session with a time of 48.002s, just 0.198s ahead of the Birchall brothers with Lovelock/Lawrence showing good form in third and Jorg Steinhausen/Gregory Cluze in fourth, the German-French pairing going well on their BMW outfit. The front 4 were covered by just 0.7s with Barry James/Calum Lawson and Ben Holland/Lee Watson rounding out the top six.
The opening race of the weekend, held late on Sunday afternoon, saw Lovelock/Lawrence grab the holeshot before Reeves/Hawes moved ahead going into Druids and it was they who led at the end of the opening lap ahead of the Birchalls and Andy Peach/Charlie Richardson with Lovelock slipping back to fourth. Reeves opened up a lead of one second before Birchall began to pull him back in but it was in the second half of the race when all the drama unfolded.
On lap 5, the Birchalls took over at the front and soon opened up a gap but first to drop out were Peach/Richardson at the start of lap 8 and two laps later Reeves spun out of second. This gave the Birchalls some breathing space but by lap 12, Lovelock was right on their back wheel and they took the lead a lap later as the Nottinghamshire brothers dropped back, by which time Holland/Watson had crashed out spectacularly at Surtees. With Lovelock revelling in the drying conditions, he swept home for a commanding win with the Birchalls second and Scott Lawrie/James Neave completing the podium positions.
A charging John Holden/Andy Winkle took full advantage of their slick tyres to take an excellent fourth just ahead of James/Lawson, Steinhausen/Cluze and Reeves/Hawes who were able to rejoin the race and move back up the field. Brian Gray/Colin Two, Gary Smith/Carl Morgan and John Clarke/Stuart Graham rounded out the top ten.
With heavy rain on Monday, the second race took place at the end of the day, live on British Eurosport and although it was Lovelock who led into the first corner, a brilliant start by Reeves saw him move up from 7th to take the lead at just the third corner. With oil and fuel on the circuit after a spill in the Supersport 600cc race, conditions were extremely tricky as all of the crews found traction negligible but the Kent driver was able to pull away and had a lead of over two seconds when they reached backmarkers in the second half of the race. Negotiating the traffic saw the Birchalls bring the lead down to half a second but with a succession of fastest laps, Reeves and Hawes were able to pull away for their first win of the season.
James/Lawson held onto third in the early laps ahead of Lawrie/Neave, Lovelock/Lawrence and Steinhausen/Cluze and it was the latter who moved steadily through the pack as Lawrie and Neave ran into the gravel trap at Paddock Hill on lap 9. On lap 13, the German driver moved into third place and try as he might, James was unable to find a way through and it was the BMW outfit took third. James and Lawson were secure in fourth whilst Lovelock secured fifth just eight tenths of a second clear of Holland/Watson who made amends for their previous days spill. Lawrie/Neave regrouped to take seventh with Peach/Richardson getting points on the board in 8th ahead of Gray/Two and Craig Chaplow/Darren Tritton. Holden/Winkle were unable to repeat their first race feats and retired on the fourth lap.
With two second places, the Birchalls have taken an early Championship lead with 40 points and they're closely followed by Lovelock/Lawrence (36), Reeves/Hawes (34), Steinhausen/Cluze (26), Lawrie/Neave (25) and James/Lawson (24).
Reeves claims victory at opening British F1 Sidecar round
Tim Reeves and Ashley Hawes took a well deserved victory in the second race at the opening round of the Eastern Airways British F1 Sidecar Championship held over the Easter weekend. Competing at Brands Hatch, the duo led from almost start to finish and, with 7th in the first race on Sunday, when they spun out of second, the haul of 34 points places them second overall in the title table.
After setting the fastest lap time in Saturday's free practice session, Tim was confident of putting in a repeat performance in the single qualifying session late in the afternoon and although conditions were a lot cooler, he did just that and a lap time of 48.002s put him 0.198s ahead of nearest rivals, Ben and Tom Birchall. However, when Sunday's 15-lap race came under starters orders, the 1.2-mile Indy circuit was extremely damp due to regular rain fall during the afternoon although it had stopped when the lights went green.
Although he was third off the line, Tim hit the front at Druids just a third of the way around the lap and his lead was almost a second two laps later. However, the Birchalls were reeling him in and they took the lead at Clearways on lap 5. With the track drying, Tim's wet tyres weren't the ideal choice for the conditions but he stuck with Ben and Tom until lap 10 when he spun at Clearways. To make matters worse, he also hit caught the kill switch and the end result was that he found himself back in 9th. He managed to claw back some of the deficit and crossed the line at the end of the race in 7th place for nine valuable points.
With Monday's weather consisting of rain, and more rain, the outfits also had to contend with oil and fuel on the circuit after an earlier solo spill but Tim and Ashley made a superb start from their 7th place on the grid and, amazingly, seized the lead, at Druids bend, less than a third of a way around the lap! For the next few laps, they steadily increased their advantage over the second place Birchalls, with the gap reaching 2.2s by lap 8 but as they ran into backmarkers, Ben and Tom were able to brig this down to just over half a second with only four laps to go. However, with some clear track ahead of them once more, Tim and Ashley were able to pull clear again and took the chequered flag by 2.2s for their first win of the season.
Speaking afterwards, a delighted Tim said; "It's been a tough few days with all the bad weather whilst the oil and fuel that had been laid down on Monday made track conditions even worse - I've never known anything as slippy! The bike was working brilliantly throughout and pole position was the perfect start so I felt confident for the two races. In Sunday's I opted for wet tyres, which proved to be the wrong choice, and then I nearly ran into the back of Ben at Clearways. In my efforts to miss him, I spun the outfit and then, like a complete novice, I pulled the lanyard out and stalled the outfit! Getting back up to 7th was the best I could do but got me some valuable points. In Monday's race I made, perhaps, my best start ever and once I hit the front I was able to control the gap and bring the bike home. It's great to get a win under our belts so a big thanks to the team and especially to Ash who did a mega job all weekend."
Solid start to the season in dreadful conditions at Brands
It was very much of case of discretion being the better part of valour as Victor Cox and Ash Beech both rode sensibly and solidly in extremely difficult conditions to finish 9th and 17th respectively in the first round of the Metzeler National Superstock 1000 Championship at a rain sodden Brands Hatch 'Indy' circuit on Easter Monday.
As always Cox was consistently quick throughout the weekend, with his ILR Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R never far away in the final shake-up during qualifying. Equally pleasing for team boss Ian Lougher though was the pace and attitude shown by team debutant and Superstock 1000 rookie Beech.
The field was split into two groups for qualifying and both Victor and Ash found themselves in Group B. The first session saw Cox down in 11th, just missing out on possibly finishing a bit higher in the closing stages as he elected not to use dry tyres as the track dried slightly. Beech meanwhile was going about his business in a determined fashion and the Moorside rider managed to get to within just 0.22 seconds of his more experienced team-mate which was an incredible achievement!
The second session saw Ash again impress as he posted a fastest lap of 48.03s, good enough for not only 14th in Group B but 15th fastest overall. Victor was also doing the business, running top 3 for most of the session he then topped the standings with just over five minutes to go and eventually lost out on third with only forty seconds remaining in the session to eventually finish fifth. However with the session declared wet and the organisers deciding to adopt the 'alternate' method of determining grid positions it meant that both Victor and Ash found themselves in lower grid positions than their qualifying performances deserved.
The early morning rain in Kent hadn't eased as the Superstock 1000 field set off gingerly on the first of their 22 laps and as they came round at the end of the opening lap Cox was 13th with Beech further back in 22nd as a few riders were already falling victim to the conditions. On the second lap for some unknown reason, Victor lost the use of his rear brake which put him at a big disadvantage as he uses the rear brake a lot. Nevertheless he soldiered on, by the eighth lap he was still in 13th and circulating with Lee Costello as Ash now found himself on his own in 20th. Two laps later and Cox was up to 11th and still on Costello's case as the duo now closed in on David Johnson. Beech meanwhile was now 18th and starting to put pressure on Billy Mellor who he relegated to 18th a lap later.
On the twelfth lap the Ninja ZX-10R of Cox moved into the top 10 for the first time in the race, but unsurprisingly Victor was having a few moments out there and was concentrating on bringing it all home safely. With six laps to go he was again 11th but very much in with an excellent chance of making the top 10, behind him Beech was 17th and doing his best to get into the points. With three laps to go, John McGuinness crashed out as Cox finally got the better of Costello to move into ninth, a position he managed to defend to the chequered flag,
Beech was now 16th but unfortunately just lost out to Sam West in the final few laps to finish 17th.
So two solid performances upon which both riders can build when the series moves to the next round at Thruxton this weekend.
Victor Cox: " I'm just about dried out after that. Conditions were really sketchy so I am pretty happy to have just brought it back with some points to start the season. The team did a great job all weekend and I'm now really looking forward to Thruxton."
Ash Beech: "Things were tricky out there today. In warm-up I was struggling for rear grip but we changed the rear spring and it was a lot better. I'm pleased to get my first race out of the way and have learned a lot all weekend. I can't wait to get back out on the bike again, hopefully in better conditions!"
Superb start to 2012 for KMR Kawasaki
Ryan Farquhar and his KMR Kawasaki team got their 2012 season underway in fine style over the Easter weekend with a series of top class results. Farquhar himself won both of the Supertwin races held at Bishopscourt on Saturday whilst team-mates Jamie Hamilton and Conor Parkhill both joined him on the podium.
The weekend couldn't have started any better for Ryan as he won the first two Supertwin races and his joy was increased when Hamilton and Parkhill finished behind him in 2nd and 3rd in the second encounter. Conor added a 2nd place to his haul of results in the third race whilst Jamie also contested the three Superbike races on his ZX-10R Superstock bike and notched up a brace of 11ths and a 12th.
Ryan opted out of Easter Monday's meeting at Kirkistown but Jamie and Conor kept the KMR flag flying with the former taking two comfortable race wins in the Supertwins races and the latter a fifth place. Hamilton also took 5th and 10th in the two Superbike races.
Speaking later, a more than satisfied Ryan commented: "The weekend was more about getting time on the bikes for all of us and although the weather wasn't the greatest, I'm very satisfied with the outcome. There's a bit more work to be done on the Supertwin bike but, overall, it was working very well and to notch up another 1-2-3 in the class was superb. Jamie has a deal with a different tyre manufacturer so we tried various things all weekend and it was definitely an improvement each time he went out so we're getting there."
"It was a similar story with the bike and he steadily improved his results notching up a fifth place in the Mayor's Trophy on Easter Monday. I was also very happy with Conor's performance and he's proving to be an excellent acquisition for the time and he's got a good future ahead of him. There's a lot of big races coming up over the next couple of months, not least the International road races, so rather than risk anything I sat out of Monday's races as conditions weren't the greatest. It's a good way to start the season and with everything looking good, I'm very excited about the year ahead."
Five timer for Farquhar at Scarborough
Ryan Farquhar got his 2012 pure road racing season underway in fine style on Sunday when he recorded five wins at the Ian Watson Spring Cup meeting at Oliver's Mount, Scarborough. The KMR Kawasaki rider overcame the difficult conditions to take victory in the Supersport 600cc, Supertwins and Superbike categories whilst team-mate Jamie Hamilton also enjoyed a strong day with a trio of top four finishes.
Like most of the country, the woodland venue enjoyed some bright sunshine but extremely low temperatures and this made life difficult around the 2.43-mile circuit with traction particularly problematical. After taking runner-up in the Superbike heat, Ryan took his opening win of the day in the first leg of the Supersport 600cc where he finished 4.5s clear of Ivan Lintin and promptly followed this up with victory in the first Supertwins race after getting the better of both Lintin and Daniel Frear.
Starting strangely from the third row of the grid, Ryan had a lot of work to do in the first leg of the Ian Watson Spring Cup Superbike race and with overtaking never easy, he had to bide his time but he gradually moved his way through the pack and eventually took the lead from Derek Sheils on the penultimate lap, eventually crossing the line 2.7s clear. There was then drama for Ryan in the second Supersport race when the 600cc Kawasaki fell from under him on the warm-up lap but he quickly regrouped to take his fourth win of the day and this soon became five with another start to finish victory in the Supertwins race. However, just as it looked like he'd win 6 races from 6 starts, Ryan was forced to retire on the second lap of the Ian Watson Spring Cup, his third race in quick succession, as he lost feeling in his hands, thus preventing him from retaining the feature trophy.
Meanwhile, Hamilton, having his second outing at Oliver's Mount, also enjoyed a good day with the highlight being an excellent runner up spot behind Ryan in the second Supertwins race, the gap between Ryan, Jamie and third placed Lintin just 1.9s at the chequered flag. Third in the opening Supertwins race, Jamie, clearly getting to grips with the course, also had a strong ride on the ZX-10R Superstock Kawasaki in the second Superbike race as he came home in fourth place. He'd earlier taken ninth in the opening leg.
Speaking afterwards, Ryan said; "It's been a really difficult day with some really challenging conditions and although I'm disappointed not to have taken the Ian Watson Spring Cup, coming away with five wins is very pleasing. With some overnight rain and the low temperatures, it was really hard to know what tyres to go with as some of the track was dry, some damp and some wet and with the likes of the North West 200 and TT coming up, I knew I had to be extremely careful, especially as I slipped off the 600 in morning warm-up, albeit at low speed. Once the races started though, I was able to get into a good rhythm and with Dan Frear, Ivan Lintin and Derek Sheils all riding well in the various races, I had to work hard for all the wins and it was good to come out on top."
"In the final race though, I lost all feeling in my hands with cramp, which was probably a combination of the cold weather, all the heavy braking, three races on the trot and a lack of fitness on my part as I've simply had no time to train due to working flat out to get all the bikes ready! It was disappointing to end the day like that but 5 wins is still a good return. Jamie had a great day too and is going about his racing in an excellent manner, taking his time to learn the circuits and building things up gradually. He was riding really well on the Supertwin but also did a superb job on the big bike, ending up with a strong 4th place in the second Superbike race, and he's a great asset to the team. Overall, it's been a good day's racing so we can now look forward to the Cookstown 100."
The Cookstown 100 is the first road race on the Irish calendar with the race taking place on Saturday April 28.
Cox moves up to fifth in championship with fourth place finish at Thruxton
Victor Cox rode to a strong fourth place finish in the second round of the Metzeler National Superstock 1000 Championship at Thruxton on Sunday, coming agonisingly close to a podium finish in the process.
It was once again an impresssive performance by the ILR Kawasaki teamster who is showing excellent early season form.
Never out of the top three in both sectors, Cox made his intentions clear with second place in free practice just 0.58 seconds off the pace with a best lap of 1:18.29s. Meanwhile his team-mate Ash Beech had immediately knuckled down to the task in hand and had set about familiarising himself with the track whilst still posting an impressive 1:20.73s for 22nd place, the young newcomer to the series had only completed two laps of the Hampshire circuit before this year's meeting.
Despite missing the first 15 minutes of the First Qualifying session, Cox didn't take long to pick up where he had left off. Consistently in the 1min 18sec bracket, he finished the session 6th fastest just 0.28s off provisional pole and quickest through the second sector. Beech was also going well, improving his lap time by almost a second he finished the session 21st quickest just 1.8 secs off the pace and ahead of some of the more established runners in this class.
Any hope of further improvement in qualifying was dashed when the second session was held in wet conditions. With the forecast for race day dry, it was decided that nothing would be achieved by participating in the session and so Victor and Ash sat it out.
The weather forecasters got it right for race day, however the race was only a few seconds old when the safety car came out and remained on track for 4 laps. On the fifth lap they were racing for the first time in earnest and at the end of the lap Victor came through in 6th place at the head of a four man group and half a second down on fifth place man Danny Buchan but on the next lap Cox put in the fastest lap of the race at 1m:17.86s to break clear of his pursuers and close right up on Buchan and Howie Mainwaring. Ash Beech was down in 34th place and trying to find some clear track to make up ground after a bad start.
On the next lap Cox got past Buchan to move into fifth, right on Mainwaring's tail and just 0.8secs down on the leader Steve Brogan and he determinedly held this position for the next five laps constantly within striking distance of the leaders whilst fending off Jonathan Railton and Jason O'Halloran with Adam Jenkinson and Buchan also threatening. With two laps to go Victor moved into fourth, 0.5secs behind Mainwaring in third.
Meanwhile Ash Beech was on the move and had gained nine places to 25th and in the thick of a four man battle. With a lap to go O'Halloran got past Victor to demote him to 5th but on the final lap Steve Brogan went out as he made a move for the lead and Cox again went fourth, just missing out on a podium by 0.35secs. Beech had also ridden superbly to battle his way through to 21st, posting a lap of 1:19.60s on Lap 11, his fastest lap of the weekend.
So, with the fastest lap of the race and first and fourth fastest respectively through both sectors, it was a good weekend's work for Victor and the ILR Kawasaki team as he now moves up to joint 5th in the championship standings. Ash Beech again impressed team boss Ian Lougher with his speed and commitment. On an unfamiliar circuit and in only his second race at this level, Ash rode well all weekend and is showing tremendous promise.
Victor Cox: 'It was a good weekend, I'm a bit gutted we weren't on the podium but we showed we have the pace and it was good to set the fastest lap in the race. The team as always did a great job and I am now really looking forward to the next round at Oulton Park.'
Ash Beech: 'The weekend went well. I just need to work on my qualifying to get on the first few rows and get tougher in the race itself. It was nice to get a dry race under my belt on the 1000 and I can't wait to get back on the bike and start getting some good results.'