As a club which has a long history of boosting the careers of up-in-coming talent and pushing them towards bigger and better things, the continued health of the Thundersport GB club has made for entertaining racing. Their 2014 season kicked off on the 8th and 9th March, as Brands Hatch hosted the Invicta Challenge, which was the first meeting of nine for the whole club. With the Thundersport GB club being popular with fans for showcasing various types of championship, one category in 2014 that would catch people’s attention after 2013 was the Van Insurer sponsored Sportsman Elite 600 Championship. Combining the grids of Formula 600 and Superstock 600, the championship is fought over nine weekends, with one qualifying session and three races, split with one on Saturday and two on Sunday. As riders from each class battle to be the overall series champion, the focus on winning their own respective class is also on their minds, meaning the racing is entertaining throughout the field.
Looking back at 2013, the star of the overall championship was Formula 600 front runner Daniel Frear, as he claimed the overall championship by seventy-seven points on his Yamaha. The rider from Scunthorpe went on an epic run at the start of the year, winning seven races by the half way mark and putting himself in the perfect position to claim the title. As Frear was closely followed by class rivals Lee Williams and Richard McNeill in the overall standings, the highest placed Superstock 600 rider ended up being Curtis Wright in fourth, however the champion of that class ended up being Sam Thompson on the Kawasaki. Through the season, Thompson had struggled to score big points, but after riding in every meeting, he ended the class champion ahead of Essex’s Sam Cox. With most of the riders from 2013 returning for another season, the fight for the titles was expected to be close and plenty of riders were hoping that the opening round would excel them towards the overall title. One name that appeared on the grid for 2014 and caught the attention of a few was in the form of a Sheene, as the son of legendary bike rider Barry Sheene appeared on the Quelch Afterdark Racing Kawasaki. Freddie Sheene would be making his full time debut in the Sportsman Elite 600 Championship after riding for fun in Australia and now making the step on UK soil in a competitive championship. By being the son of Barry Sheene, all eyes would be on how he performed and whether he could match the talent of his father.
Saturday’s Qualifying Showed a Few Surprises
After the morning’s qualifying session on Saturday and the three races, we were in the paddock wishing the best of luck to our mate, Paul Charman. Racing on the 600cc Suzuki from the Formula 600 class, Paul was hoping to start the season in the best possible way and end the weekend on a high. With only fifteen minutes to set the fastest times, no one could stop pole man David Allingham, on the Yamaha Superstock, but Paul rode consistently to end the session in 25th, five places ahead of Freddie Sheene. With a lap time of 51.772, Paul was 2.919 seconds down on Allingham but would start the opening race on row nine. Qualifying ended with the top eleven covered by less than a second and the 2013 champion, Daniel Frear, would find himself outside the top five in sixth.
Van Insurer Sportsman Elite 600 Qualifying: Top Five:
1. David Allingham (3) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = 48.853
2. Curtis Wright (74) – Triumph 675 Superstock = +0.255
3. Richard McNeill (22) – Suzuki 600 Formula = +0.258
4. Sam Cox (54) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = +0.293
5. Adam Shelton (61) – Kawasaki 600 Superstock = +0.373
David Allingham Secures Opening Honours
Starting from Pole position, David Allingham unfortunately got away slower than his rivals, as the Yamaha was beaten on the run into Druids by Richard McNeill on the Suzuki. As Allingham settled into second, a huge pack of riders descend on Druids, with Curtis Wright, Daniel Frear, Sam Cox and Adam Shelton dicing over third position. With everyone staying on-board, there were a very close shaves mid-pack, especially for Paul Charman, as his Suzuki came into close contact with Jordan Rushby’s Superstock Yamaha. After starting 25th, Paul was inside the top twenty off the line, but the incident with Rushby saw him lose a few places and end lap one in 22nd. Back at the front the first lap of sixteen was completed with Richard McNeill leading, but by the time they reached Druids, Allingham was back in front. With the top two closely matched, Curtis Wright held third, but was under serious pressure from Shelton and Frear, who were swapping positions throughout the laps.
With the race seeing Allingham in slight control and McNeill trying to find a gap, the two pulled a small gap over Curtis Wright before the yellow flags were issued at Paddock Hill Bend. Lap five of the race saw Donald Gilbert hit the gravel trap entering Paddock Hill Bend, which nearly collected Stephen Parsons in the process. After running in 22nd and two behind Paul, Gilbert retired and rejected Parsons to last, behind Freddie Sheene in 32nd. Paul Charman would go on to end the race in 22nd, after a long battle with Neil Gregory.
When the yellow flags were brought back in, focus switched to the battle for third, as Adam Shelton, on the Superstock Kawasaki was putting Curtis Wright under pressure. With Daniel Frear sitting behind and looking for a gap, the reigning champion was coming under threat from Sam Cox. After Frear dispatched Shelton to fifth, Sam Cox jumped at the chance to move into the top five.
Just after the half way mark, there was a massive change within the podium places, as Curtis Wright challenged Richard McNeill at Druids and moved in second. With Allingham breaking away in the lead, lap twelve saw McNeill attempt a fight back, but a mistake exiting Graham Hill bend, saw the Suzuki rider fall to sixth and out of podium contention. With McNeill making an error, Daniel Frear gained the final podium spot, seconds down on Allingham and Wright, who ended up in first and second. Sam Cox ended the race in fourth, whilst the top five was completed by Adam Shelton.
Van Insurer Sportsman Elite 600 Race One: (Top Ten)
1. David Allingham (3) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = 16 Laps = 13:08.042
2. Curtis Wright (74) – Triumph 675 Superstock = +2.707
3. Daniel Frear (1) – Yamaha 600 Formula = +3.071
4. Sam Cox (54) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = +4.244
5. Adam Shelton (61) – Kawasaki 600 Superstock = +4.326
6. Richard McNeill (22) – Suzuki 600 Formula = +5.570
7. Lee Williams (94) – Suzuki 600 Superstock = +13.157
8. William White (26) – Triumph 675 Superstock = +13.229
9. Reece Rothwell (6) – Triumph 675 Formula = +15.368
10. Joe Barton (106) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = +16.971
Allingham Doubles Up with Win on Sunday
Starting on pole for the first race of Sunday, David Allingham made no mistake and got off the line well to lead into Paddock Hill, as Sam Cox and Ben Currie fought over second and third on the opening few laps. After starting on row two, Daniel Frear used the first few laps to move up the order and moved into second by the end of lap two, whilst rivals Curtis Wright and Adam Shelton struggled to make an impact. Richard McNeill had further problems as after starting seventh; he found things hard to move up the order in the early stages.
Out of the title contenders in the championship, lap four saw disaster for Curtis Wright, as the Triumph rider became a non-finisher, losing sixth place after attempting to push towards the front. This promoted Richard McNeill up a place but he was losing ground to front runners; Allingham, Frear and Sam Cox, who were lapping faster than the rest of the field. A
As a few more riders unfortunately ended up as non-fishers, including Freddie Sheene, our mate Paul Charman had been contesting multiple places after starting in 22nd. One of the riders who Paul regularly competed with was Jordan Rushby but towards the closing stages, he was dicing inside the top twenty against Neil Gregory (196) and Dave Sellers (169). Paul would finish the second race in 19th, three places up from race one on Saturday.
Back at the front in the closing stages, the top three remained unchanged, as Allingham had broken clear of Daniel Frear, whilst he himself had left Sam Cox for dead. The closing stages of the race had seen Richard McNeill move up the order and end up +0.475 seconds come the flag. After sitting in fifth for much of the race, McNeill made his move into fourth on lap fifteen, by passing Adam Shelton. For Shelton, this was the second race in a row where he had completed the top five.
Van Insurer Sportsman Elite 600 Race Two: (Top Ten)
1. David Allingham (3) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = 16 Laps = 13:02.372
2. Daniel Frear (1) – Yamaha 600 Formula = +2.437
3. Sam Cox (54) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = +8.502
4. Richard McNeill (22) – Suzuki 600 Formula = +8.977
5. Adam Shelton (61) – Kawasaki 600 Superstock = +9.748
6. Lee Williams (94) – Suzuki 600 Superstock = +15.357
7. William White (26) – Triumph 675 Superstock = +15.740
8. Andrew Fisher (98) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = +16.363
9. Reece Rothwell (6) – Triumph 675 Formula = +18.703
10. Joe Barton (106) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = +20.585
Reigning Champion Collects a Win, as Allingham Doesn’t Finish
After starting on pole position for the third time in the weekend, David Allingham targeted win number three, however with Shelton, Cox and Frear lining up alongside and behind, things were going to be difficult. With the field tightly packed as the lights went it out, it was the end of the first lap that saw plenty of drama. As the field blasted towards Clearways, David Allingham was sent flying towards the gravel trap, whilst the Yamaha continued on its path and catapulted over the tyre barrier. With Allingham sitting up ok, his removal from the race left Daniel Frear to charge on ahead.
With Adam Shelton and Sam Cox keeping Frear in sight in the opening stages, the two started trading places, before Richard McNeill’s Suzuki got involved in their battle for second. As three riders fought over the remaining podium places, Frear was able to break away from the pack, but Sam Cox always made sure he could keep an eye on the leader, as his Superstock Yamaha sat within a couple of seconds and matched the speed of the Formula Yamaha. McNeill was able to settle into third by lap four and continued to keep Shelton at bay, whilst he had pressure from Curtis Wright. For Curtis, he was looking for a strong finish after crashing in race two and starting in fifth for the final race. Between laps twelve and the finish, Shelton and Wright traded places, with the Triumph rider cementing fourth on the final lap.
For our mate Paul Charman, the final race saw a very strong start, after starting in nineteenth. In the opening few laps, Paul had climbed to a highest of fifteenth, dicing for position with Chris Hellewell (64) and Scott Adam (38). With positions changing between the lap one and fourth, Paul unfortunately lost a couple of positions, falling behind Lee Shallcross (55) on lap five and then getting involved in a scrap with Neil Gregory and Dave Sellers for the third race in concession. In the closing stages, Paul found himself just inside the top twenty and holding off Josh Hill from lap twelve to the finish. The final lap of the race saw Hill stick a move on Paul, as the Yamaha Superstock rider slipped into nineteenth and rejected Paul to twentieth. After rising as high as fifteenth in the opening stages, Paul would have been disappointed to end the race lower than his grid spot.
Back at the front, Daniel Frear showed the class of a champion to wrap up the win after leading from start to finish. Nearly three seconds separated Frear from Sam Cox, but what was most important; the win had lifted Frear to the top of the standings and in the right position to start the defence of his 2013 Van Insurer Sportsman Elite 600 title. For Sam Cox, the win in the Superstock class meant he led the standings in that division, after seeing Allingham crash out and collect no points. The final place on the podium, taken by Richard McNeill meant he ended the opening weekend fourth in the overall standings but second behind Frear in the Formula 600 Championship by fifteen points.
Van Insurer Sportsman Elite 600 Race Three: (Top Ten)
1. Daniel Frear (1) – Yamaha 600 Formula = 16 Laps = 13:08.535
2. Sam Cox (54) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = +2.718
3. Richard McNeill (22) – Suzuki 600 Formula = +4.384
4. Curtis Wright (74) – Triumph 675 Superstock = +6.971
5. Adam Shelton (61) – Kawasaki 600 Superstock = +7.044
6. Lee Williams (94) – Suzuki 600 Superstock = +7.907
7. William White (26) – Triumph 675 Superstock = +9.665
8. Andrew Fisher (98) – Yamaha 600 Superstock = +11.826
9. Bradley Jones (7) – Kawasaki 600 Superstock = +12.463
10. Reece Rothwell (6) – Triumph 675 Formula = +12.984
After what has been a very competitive opening weekend in the Van Insurer Sportsman Elite 600 Championship, round two will be now be on everyone’s mind. With just over a month to prepare and refresh, everyone will be setting their sights on the famous Donington Park circuit, as Leicestershire venue hosts the Robert Fearnall Trophy on the 12th and 13th April. The riders in the Van Insurer Sportsman Elite 600 Championship will do battle again over another three races during that weekend and currently it is the 2013 Champion, Daniel Frear, who leads the pack on sixty-one points. With Frear taking one win in the final race at Brands Hatch, the rider to watch for 2014 certainly looks to be newcomer David Allingham. If it wasn’t for the crash in race three on the opening lap, the Yamaha rider looked capable of securing the triple win, after being consistently fast all weekend. Heading north to Donington, Allingham finds himself eleven points adrift of the Formula 600 rider, but after moving from the Aprilia RRV450 GP Championship, Allingham has made himself a front runner for 2014. Sitting only one point back from Allingham and easily within a shout of the title for 2014 is Essex’s Sam Cox. After 2013 showing plenty of promise, the preparation for the new season seems to have paid off, with the Maldon rider in a strong position and creating a nice gap between himself and Richard McNeill. The focus for Sam is definitely the overall title in 2014 and after breaking into the podium positions in races two and three, Sam is hungry for his first win of the season. With first place in the Superstock standings after Brands Hatch, you wouldn’t put an overall win at Donington Park past the Essex lad.
With so many points are on offer for the weekend, the opening round at Brands Hatch has surely shown that there are multiple contenders for the 2014 titles, with the top ten in all three races very rarely changing. Even with one round completed and many more races to go, you could expect this championship to go to the wire, or at least not have a runaway leader. For Daniel Frear, the task of retaining his title will surely be difficult and this has to be a reason why this could be the most competitive and exciting championship to watch on the Thundersport GB club package.
Van Insurer Sportsman Elite 600 Championship Standings: (Top Five)
1. Daniel Frear (1) = 16+20+25 = 61
2. David Allingham (3) = 25+25+0 = 50
3. Sam Cox (54) = 13+16+20 = 49
4. Richard McNeill (22) = 10+13+16 = 39
5. Adam Shelton (61) = 11+11+11 = 33
Van Insurer Formula 600 Championship Standings: (Nine Runners)
1. Daniel Frear (1) = 25+25+25 = 75
2. Richard McNeill (22) = 20+20+20 = 60
3. Reece Rothwell (6) = 16+16+16 = 48
4. Matt Pearce (67) = 13+10+10 = 33
5. Neil Gregory (196) = 11+11+11 = 33
6. Stephen Parsons (11) = 7+13+13 = 33
7. Paul Charman (9) = 10+9+9 = 28
8. Shane Smith (39) = 9+8+8 = 25
9. Nick Edgeley (62) = 8+7+7 = 22
Van Insurer Superstock 600 Championship Standings: (Top Ten)
1. Sam Cox (54) = 16+20+25 = 61
2. David Allingham (3) = 25+25+0 = 50
3. Adam Shelton (61) = 13+16+16 = 45
4. Curtis Wright (74) = 20+0+20 = 40
5. Lee Williams (94) = 11+13+13 = 37
6. William White (26) = 10+11+11 = 32
7. Andrew Fisher (98) = 8+10+10 = 28
8. Bradley Jones (7) = 5+8+9 = 22
9. James Pickford (27) = 4+7+8 = 19
10. Joe Barton (106) = 9+9+0 = 18
In 2014, racing from the Thundersport GB club will again be shown on Motors TV (Sky 447 / Virgin 545), which on the 27th February had made the switch to Freeview TV for the first time. Therefore a much wider audience can catch up on the bike racing from the club, over four dedicated programs, lasting for 30 minutes or an hour and a half. For the Sportsman Elite 600 Championship, combing Formula 600 and the Superstock 600 class, this is being shown under the THUNDERSPORT ELITE program, which lasts for 90 minutes and also includes Thundersport GP1. The opening round from Brands Hatch as detailed above would be broadcast on the 20 March 2014 at 7:30pm, but for the rest of their season, the times and dates can be found here.
For more information on the Sportsman Elite 600 Championship and the Thundersport GB Club, please click here.
For more pictures from the class and the rest of the Thundersport GB Club, please visit our Flickr page.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.