The culmination of the 2017 season was every bit as exciting as it might have been. A record entry of almost forty outfits, subject to one or two late cancellations, would guarantee a packed grid for both races, with world class former champions mixing it with young hopefuls and established championship regulars.
Tim and Tristan Reeves came to Brands seeking an unblemished clean sweep of all twenty races over the season, whilst newly crowned world champions Ben and Tom Birchall were within touching distance of the British 600cc Cup Crown, to add their FIM Gold Medal.
Gary Bryan and Phil Hyde
John Holden and Mark Wilkes, whilst not in contention for the 600 title, could certainly spoil things for rookie Todd Ellis/Chaz Richardson. Holden and Wilkes finished third in the world championship this year, and on paper would have the measure of the British series leaders
All that assumed the Birchalls dominated on race-day, and given their performances throughout the season, few would bet against that.
In the main 1000cc category, second place was very much to play for, with an absent Ricky Stevens/Ryan Charlwood leaving the field clear for Kershaw/Clark and Holland Ramsay.
Qualifying – threw up no real surprises, other than Steve Kershaw/Stuart Clarke getting the Express Tyres/Blinkbonny Kawasaki to within two tenths of pole men Tim and Tristan Reeves. The 600cc Yamaha of Ben and Tom Birchall was fourth on a very fast track, just behind Ben Holland and Stuart Ramsay who destroyed their Hannafin Kawasaki fairing in an tail-end impact with a back-marker. A quick fix with a borrowed fairing will see them back in the mix for double point honours.
An impressive fifth fastest was claimed by the Santander Salt pair of Gary Bryan and Phil Hyde, ahead of a shock speedy return by former Champions Roger Lovelock and Rick Lawrence.
Anticipation of the 600cc showdown was heightened, with John Holden/Lee Cain (Barnes Racing/Silicon Engineering Kawasaki) only fractionally faster than series leaders Todd Ellis and Chaz Richardson on the Santander Salt/GBM Honda).
If Ellis could run at this pace, then his title hopes were very much alive, and he might well defend against Holden.
Phil Bell and Justin Sharp
Race One – In fair weather conditions, both races took place on Saturday, The opener was just after mid-day before a live Eurosport TV audience.
Tim and Tristan Reeves made no mistake off the line, and led from start to finish. They
were chased all the way by the flying Kershaw/Clark pairing, who once they had overcome a sluggish start, ran at the pace throughout.
Am amazing start by Gary Bryan and Phil Hyde on the Santander Salt Kawasaki put them in third, and this they managed to maintain to the flag.
Behind them, at Druids on lap one. A huge crash involving Frenchmen Leglise/Oliger and Lovelock/Lawrence unsettled the pack somewhat, and Ben and Tom Birchall, who did not have the best start, were forced to play catch-up. They were still 600cc Cup race leaders at this point, and became locked in a scrap with four times world champion Pekka Paivarinta and Greg Cluze.
These top-flight charioteers gave a great display of 600 power, with a fourth and fifth place finish overall.
The 600cc Cup title was then balanced on a knife-edge, with John Holden/Lee Cain taking points from Todd Ellis/Chaz Richardson, who followed them home.
This bodes well for the reverse grid structure coming up in race two.
Race One Result – 1/ Reeves/Reeves, 2/ Kershaw/Clark , 3/ Bryan/Hyde, 4/ Birchall/Birchall (Cup winners), 5/ Paivarinta/Cluze, 6/ Bell/Sharp(Marin Motorsports Suzuki), 7/ MacLaurin/Hope, 8/ Holden/Cain (Cup), 9/ Ellis/Richardson (Cup), 10/ Guy/Pilmoor-Brady, 11/ Founds/Schmitz (Cup).
Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clarke
Race Two – The final race of the season was filled with intrigue, not least of all the battle for the 600cc Cup.
With the reverse grid rule in place, there would be opportunity for many crews to shine. The brightest of these lights from the outset was the Marin Motorsports Suzuki of Phil Bell and Justin Sharp.
They made a cracking start and despite everything unfolding behind, were able to hold on to a fine third place to the flag.
The Grand Prix circuit at Brands has fast flowing bends, which suit the 600's, but long straights which leave them breathless.
This made the fourth place finish by the Birchall brothers the more remarkable, with a fastest lap just under two seconds shy of the race winners Tim and Tristan Reeves.
There were two big stories in this race, the first being the totally fantastic ride by Steve Kershaw and Stuart Clark, as they hounded the Reeves brothers the entire race, setting a fastest lap in the process. It was only a back-marker in the final lap, which prevented a possible upset of Tim and Tristan's clean sweep of victories.
Todd Ellis and Charlie Richardson
(SE here, brilliantly done you two and all the team, so chuffed for you both!)
The other big story was the possibility of John Holden and Lee Cain steering the Barnes Racing/Silicon Engineering Kawasaki ahead of potential champion Todd Ellis, and handing the 600cc Cup title to the Birchall Brothers.
Holden and Ellis started alongside each other, with the rookie Ellis going ahead at Paddock Hill Bend.
All eyes were on this battle, and as they made their way through the field in convoy they fought through, and Ellis moved ahead of the 1000cc Santander Salt Kawasaki of Gary Bryan/Phil Hyde.
Holden could not emulate the move, and Ellis had the longest final lap of his life as he made it home to claim the title by a hairs-breadth from Ben and Tom Birchall.
It was a race of attrition, with no fewer than fourteen crews dropping by the wayside, but such was the size of the entry here, they were hardly missed.
There were many great individual performances, not least of all the 100% race win record for the brothers Reeves, the debut season Cup title for Todd Ellis, the sheer speed and style of the Birchalls, and most of all, the stunning progress of Kershaw and Clark. This heralds a new dimension in this championship, with someone really taking the fight to Tim and Tristan for the first time this season.
The series is alive and well, so roll on 2018.
Tim and Tristan Reeves.
(SE again.. Congratulations Tim and Tris, stunning show of domination.
We know that to finish all races in a season on a sidecar is one thing but to win them all is out of this world, let alone all the lap records and poles)
Race Two Result – 1/ Reeves/Reeves, 2/ Kershaw/Clark, 3/ Bell/Sharp,
4/ Birchall/Birchall (600 race winners), 5/ Ellis/Richardson (600 Cup Champions),
6/ Bryan/Hyde, 7/ Holden/Cain, 8/ Guy/Pilmoor-Brady, 9/ Lowther/Lowther,
Final Standings – Reeves 550, Kershaw 324, Stevens 229, Holland 226, Bryan 223,
Bell 164, Horspole 151, Walker 103, Archer 100, Peach 91, Guy 89, MacLaurin 86
Cup Standings – Ellis 132 (Champion), Birchall 130, Christie 78, A Founds 74,
Holden 61, P Founds 40, Gray 37, Blackstock 21