Knockhill Race Circuit, 22nd/23rd April 2017
The weather gods smiled on Knockhill race circuit at the weekend as unexpected sunshine shone down on the inaugural round of the Marin Scottish Sidecar Cup.
Sterling efforts by Gavin Browne, the new chairman of the SSRC, together with the support of his committee and sponsorship from patron Boris Stroud resulted in a bumper entry of 18 outfits - the best turnout of sidecars at Knockhill for over 10 years. Not even a chilly North wind could cool the enthusiasm of teams who came from as far afield as Bedlington and Belfast to enjoy some great racing and Scottish Sidecar Club hospitality.
Steve Kershaw/Stuart Clark lead Michael Bell/Tom Pugh and the pack give chase
The field was well mixed with riders of various abilities. Steve Kershaw – partnered with Stuart Clark - was returning to the circuit for the first time since 2015 as preparation for his round at the Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecars Championship in June. Also well publicised locally was the maiden meeting for the two fair maidens – Yvonne Davidson, niece of previous world champion Jock Taylor and her passenger, Mary Grant.
Yvonne Davidson and Mary Grant
Qualifying saw Steve Kershaw/Stuart Clark take pole but with less than 3 seconds between them and second and third pairings Peter O’Neill/Aidan Browne and Michael Bell/Tom Pugh. F2 pairings Dave Lillie/Ben Chandler, Stuart Anderson/Sandy Mayhew and Karl Pring/Chris Bonsall followed in that order and these six made up the first three rows for race 1. All other teams qualified successfully except Yvonne Davidson/Mary Grant - an electrical fault on the first lap cost them a qualifying time so, unfortunately ,their first race had to be postponed until the Sunday.
Kershaw/Clark predictably swept the board , winning all four races in great style and steadily improving lap times to a final best of 53.094 seconds. Steve reported that, as well as blowing away the Knockhill cobwebs, the team were using the meeting to find the suspension set up for the circuit and lighter passenger weight and that, hopefully, this would allow him to have the settings fixed for the Knockhill round of the British Championship in June. It’s great to see this fantastic Scottish team back in the paddock.
From the remaining F1s, Bell/Pugh and O’Neill/Browne were both chasing second place honours and had mixed fortunes on Saturday. Michael Bell decided a good start was essential in race 1 – unfortunately his start was a little too good and incurred a 10 second penalty for not waiting around to start with everyone else! O’Neill/Browne should have been in a position to grasp the advantage at this point but a missed handle going into Duffus during the warm up lap had resulted in a spectacular exit from the chair for Mr Browne and their race was over before it started! The excitement obviously got to both again in race 2 when Bell/Pugh overcompensated for their false start and stalled on the line! O’Neill/Browne then fried their clutch allowing Bell/Pugh to collect critical points from a 4th place finish. Both were back in action and on Sunday with Bell/Pugh taking second and O’Neill/Browne third in both races.
The F2 contest was led by a series of close battles between Dave Lillie/Ben Chandler and Stuart Anderson/Sandy Mayhew with Lillie/Chandler taking the honours in race 1 with a second place followed by Anderson/Mayhew in third with those positions then reversed in race 2. Race 3 was a furious affair with Lillie/Chandler just making the line in fourth place ahead of Anderson/Mayhew in fifth following a tremendous race with less than 0.5 seconds separating the outfits at the finish. All to play for in race 4 with Anderson/Mayhew looking to balance the books. Unfortunately, a spin coming out of Duffus Dip cost vital seconds and, despite a determined recovery effort, the gap proved too much to close with Lillie/Chandler taking a comfortable fourth place to finish as top F2 for the weekend.
Following on behind there was plenty close racing between various teams competing for points. Karl Pring/ Chris Bonsall and Graeme Hodgson/Philip Gravel battled for the third place F2 slot throughout the meeting with Pring/Bonsall proving the stronger, finishing ahead in all four races and taking the third place F2 trophy for the weekend. Gavin Browne/Murray McKay and Stuart Lithgow/Hannah Brunton treated their supporters to a succession of close battles – particularly in race 4 where they swapped positions no less than eight times. They also chose to do so in full view of the grandstand for maximum effect! Stewart and Hannah’s best lap of 1.03 merits a special mention as, although Stewart is an experienced passenger, this was his first time driving at Knockhill. More remarkable – this was only novice Hannah’s second race meeting. Definitely a team to watch.
Finally – amid trumpet fanfares and the roars of the crowd – Yvonne Davidson and Mary Grant overcame their electrical gremlins to qualify on Sunday morning and finish their first race on Sunday afternoon. Well done girls and welcome to the party!
So following a fantastic weekend of racing the overall points table looks like this:
The Marin Cup is officially off to a tremendous start and is great value with subsidised entries making the total cost £515 for four meetings at two great venues (two each at Knockhill and East Fortune). Electrical hook up is available to all at both tracks just to show that we’re not as tight north of the border as everyone thinks!
There are still three rounds to go with limited spaces available – East Fortune 15/16 July and 12/13 August, Knockhill 2/3 September (Jock Taylor meeting) - so if you want a slice of big grids, fantastic tracks and a great atmosphere contact the SSRC Club Secretary Dorothy Lithgow (07428 649979) for an entry form.
See you all for the next round at East Fortune on 15th and 16th July.