Round Six - Brands Hatch - July 21-23, 2017
The mid-summer round on the Brands GP circuit was, as expected, drama packed and fiercely contested.
Practice and qualifying were both sun-kissed, with the track in perfect condition. Tim and Tristan Reeves, the former nursing severe bruising after the well-documented Southern 100 crash the previous weekend, were again in brilliant form on their local circuit. From the word go, at near-lap record pace, they laid down a marker on the Carl Cox Motorsport Kawasaki and then sat back.
Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clark, using their third engine in as many weeks came close, showing once again what the Express Tyres/Blinkbonny Kawasaki is capable of, finishing just half a second behind the multiple world champion. Third quickest were the Hannafin Kawasaki pair of Ben Holland/Stuart Ramsay who came home one just ahead of Chris Walker/Ashley Hawes (Santander Salt Kawasaki).
Defending champions Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood (JG Speedfit Cool Kawasaki) missed free practice with gear selection issues, but recovered to take fifth.
John Holden and Mark Wilkes
Unpredictable weather would play a part in proceedings, and the opener followed a huge shower which soaked the track. Earlier Superbikes took the worst of the wet away, but there were still large damp patches evident as the lights went out. Tim Reeves elected to run a slick rear, as did Barry James/Jack Tritton. There was drama from the word go, as both Steve Kershaw and Alan Founds/Tom Peters pushed off the grid with problems. Kershaw with a trapped throttle cable – obviously far from ideal.
Reeves got the drop from the off, with Andy Peach/Ken Edwards in hot pursuit. Peach had opted for a wet rear, along with Ben Holland/Stuart Ramsay. Both these crews were in the hunt in the early stages, and came under fire from Walker/Hawes, who steadily worked their way up into third place. Peach/Edwards slid out at Paddock Hill Bend, and then the scrap was on.
Steve Kershaw and Stuart Christian
Several other teams were caught out in the damp conditions too, as the drying track then started to degrade tyres.
Reeves' lead at half-distance was twenty seconds, and from there he did not look back. James/Tritton made it through to second place when Chris Walker retired with a broken chain with one lap to go, and Holland/Ramsay claimed another podium.
In the 600cc Cup race, John Holden/Mark Wilkes came home winners, fifth in the main race behind defending champions Stevens/Charlwood. Todd Ellis/Chaz Richardson were runners-up, extending their lead over the absent Birchall Brothers.
Ben Holland and Stuart Ramsay
1/ Reeves/Reeves (Carl Cox Motorsport Kawasaki
2/ James/Tritton (Difuria Contractors Kawasaki)
3/ Holland/Ramsay (Hannafin Kawasaki)
4/ Stevens/Charlwood (JG Speedfit Cool Kawasaki)
5/ Biggs/Ransley (Express Tyres/Excalibur Suzuki
6/ Jones/James (BeMoto/Route 11 Yamaha)
7/ Bryan/Hyde (Santander Salt Kawasaki)
8/ Horspole/Connell (Sleaford Quality Foods/Baker Plant Suzuki).
1/ Holden/Wilkes (Barnes/Silicone Engineering Kawasaki)
2/ Ellis/Richardson (Santander Salt Yamaha)
3/ Blackstock/Rosney (Dave Holden Racing Suzuki)
4/ Gray/Pitt (Brian Gray Powerbiking Yamaha)
Barry James and Jack Tritton
A mid-afternoon slot before a large crowd and live TV was a big stage for the second encounter. This fact was not lost on the Reeves brothers starting from tenth on the grid. Also coming from way down were Kershaw and Walker following their previous DNF's.
Two 600's were across the front row, Cup leader Todd Ellis sat alongside sixth in the FIM World series, Blackstock/Rosney as the lights went out. They were gobbled up on the uphill sprint to Paddock Hill Bend by a charging Ricky Stevens/Ryan Charlwood, with Reeves fighting his way through the pack. Spots of rain were falling, but what fell from the sky was minute compared to what happened on-track on the opening lap.
There was frantic activity up to Druids, with a massive tangle involving Chris Walker/Ashley Hawes making up places from row eleven, and Andy Peach/Ken Edwards fighting up from a similar handicap. The pair were locked together at Druids, with Peach losing his wheel-arch and Walker sustaining fairing damage and a rear puncture. They were both out before the left-hander of Surtees.
The wily Ben Holland stayed out of trouble, and slotted into third behind Reeves. On lap three, Tim and Tristan were in the lead and held it to the flag. Stevens/Charlwood were much more on the pace this time and came home just five seconds in arrears of the unbeaten championship leaders.
Kershaw was by now in a spirited battle with Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde, Barry James/Jack Tritton and Rob Biggs/Ben Ransley.
This scrap went almost race-long, but Kershaw/Clark broke free to hunt down Stevens at the flag with a fastest lap in the process.
Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood
Tim and Tris Reeves
Round seven comes from the ultra-fast Thuxton circuit in two weeks time, and a rejuvenated Stevens/Charlwood pairing will be hoping for victory on their home track.