With Brands Hatch starting the second half of the 2015 season on the 18th and 19th July, the FIM Sidecar World Championship made a welcomed return to the British Isles. The fast flowing 2.4 miles Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch would see the teams tackle round seven of their 2015 season, with most describing Brands as a favourite of theirs for being a real rider’s circuit. Coming into the Brands Hatch weekend, the Anglo-French partnership of Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze were leading the way, only five points ahead of Finnish pairing Pekka Paivarinta and Kirsi Kainulainen. The past four races have seen Reeves and Cluze secure victory and the duo were expected as favourites, on a track Tim Reeves would naturally call “Home”. History in the British championship has shown how well the two can go on the Brands Hatch circuit; however the 2015 season has seen a major challenge from Paivarinta and Kainulainen, especially at the previous round in Hungry. While attention was going to be on the leading two, the Dutch pairing of Bennie Streuer and Geert Koerts were sitting third in the World Championship on 90 points, after being on the podium on four occasions during the season. The two were targeting more podiums and had a comfortable margin over the pair in fourth, allowing them to push harder at Brands. The German/Austrian pairing of Uwe Gurck and Manfred Wechselberger lied fourth on 68 points, after a slow start to the season had affected their run of points. The turning point in their season happened in Hungry when they secured a podium finish, closing the gap to 22 points and giving them confidence to challenge for a top three spot on a regular basis.
With a competitive field competing within the FIM Sidecar World Championship, the teams had extra pressure at Brands Hatch with the addition of teams from the Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship. Leading the line-up of British teams was the current championship leaders, Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood, who had already appeared in the FIM Sidecar World Championship at Donington Park in April, where they secured victory. Beaming with confidence from a strong showing within the British series, it was expected by most in attendance that Stevens and Charlwood would be challenging for a podium spot, or even the race win. With fifteen other teams joining from the British series, there was the potential that some teams could upset the World Sidecar regulars by taking vital points, creating spectacular racing.
Reeves & Cluze secure Vital Front Row.
Basking under the Kent sunshine on Saturday 18th July, twenty-four teams took part in two qualifying sessions around the GP circuit, to determine the grid for Sunday’s eighteen laps encounter. With the teams only competing in one race this weekend, grid position was vital, even more so for the British teams with only half points being awarded towards the Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship. Over the two sessions, the pairing of Reeves and Cluze had been named by many as favourites for pole and a race victory, showing intent early on with a 1:30.345 in the Team E-Aide Motorsport/Remse Racing prepared LCR Kawasaki. This went on to be the fastest time of the session, as the red flag was shown ten minutes in, after oil was spotted on circuit. With the session declared, the closest team to Reeves and Cluze was the British pairing of Andy Peach and Charlie Richardson, leading the charge from the British championship. With a time of 1.31.744, the margin of 1.399 seconds to Reeves and Cluze showed just how quick the multiple world champions were to the rest of the opposition. In terms of competitors from the FIM World Sidecar Championship, the closest to Reeves and Cluze in session one was the experienced John Holden, paired with Reeves’ former team mate Ashley Hawes. The weekend saw Holden and Hawes doubling up with World and British duties, but the team was setting their sights on a first FIM World Sidecar podium for 2015. A time of 1:32.767 after just four laps put them fourth, 2.422 seconds down on the pole time for Q1 in their LCR Suzuki.
With qualifying session two made slightly longer after the lost time in qualifying one, this allowed for teams to complete plenty more laps and times fell below what was set in Q1. For Reeves and Cluze, this opened the door for them to go a lot quicker and they did that after just three laps. Breaking the 1:30 mark with a 1:29.992, the duo decided to return to the pits and watch the session out. As Andy Peach and Charlie Richardson were the team closest to the pole sitters in Q1, things were expected of them in Q2. With their time from Q1 under threat with times expecting to improve, the duo unfortunately faced a session within the garage, as on their opening lap, the drive chain snapped on the LCR Kawasaki and ended all hope of pole. With Peach and Richardson slipping back onto row two, this allowed the current British Championship leaders to climb up the order and grab second spot. The AOS / Be Wiser LCR Kawasaki of Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood lapped the Brands Hatch GP circuit with a 1:31.168 on their seventh lap of fourteen, but found they couldn’t push any harder to topple Reeves and Cluze. With the teams from the Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship running well in both sessions, it wasn’t a surprise to see John Holden and Ashley Hawes line up on row two, with a time of 1:31.998 from Q2. In pushing for their FIM World Sidecar Championship podium, the team were in the perfect position, especially as Reeves and Cluze’s main championship rivals Pekka Paivarinta and Kirsi Kainulainen were struggling down in sixth. Throughout both sessions, the team were quoted for saying they were struggling for power down the straights, allowing teams to set faster times around the GP loop. Their time of 1:32.652 from Q2 put them on row three, alongside another British team of Stephen Kershaw and Rob Wilson. With Paivarinta and Kainulainen lying sixth as a FIM World Sidecar Championship pairing, you had to go all the way back to row six and eleventh to find the next one in the class, being championship contenders Bennie Streuer and Geert Koerts. This was because the next five places were taken up by teams from the Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship, with Roger Lovelock and Aki Alto seventh, Tony Brown and Lee Cain eighth, Ben Holland and Lee Watson ninth and lastly the top ten rounded out by Craig Chaplow and Tristan Reeves.
FIM World Sidecar Championship / Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship Combined Qualifying Top Ten:
1) Tim Reeves Racing (No.77 – LCR Kawasaki) FIM = 1:29.992s
2) AOS / Be Wiser (No.100 – LCR Kawasaki) HHIBS = 1:31.168s
3) L&W Racing (No.14 – LCR Kawasaki) HHIBS = 1:31.744s
4) John Holden Racing (No.3 – LCR Suzuki) FIM = 1:31.998s
5) Express Tyres Lockerbie (No.29 – LCR Kawasaki) HHIBS = 1:32.261s
6) 44 Racing (No.44 – LCR BMW) FIM = 1:32.652s
7) BB Bikeshop (No.49 – LCR BMW) HHIBS = 1:32.676s
8) Paymundo.com (No.57 – LCR Kawasaki) HHIBS = 1:33.019s
9) Finning Cat (No.60 – LCR Kawasaki) HHIBS = 1:33.340s
10) Team E:Aide Motorsports / Shanks (No.73 – LCR Kawasaki) HHIBS = 1:33.971s
Plenty of Drama leaves British Teams on top
Conditions were perfect as the Sidecars lined up to end proceedings, with eighteen laps set to determine the outcome of race, with most anticipating a clear victory for Reeves and Cluze. As the lights went out, the pole sitters did exactly what everyone expected, blasting clear into Paddock Hill Bend, as the rest of the field went streaming through. With the field watching on as Reeves and Cluze pulled away, there was a stun of silence when Cluze raised his hand along the Cooper Straight. Signalling that there was a problem, Reeves and Cluze coasted back to the pits to fix the problem, handing the lead to Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood, of the British championship. Reeves and Cluze would re-join the field, but they were two laps down.
Before the end of the first lap, the lead had swapped for a second time, with Andy Peach and Charlie Richardson taking the AOS / Be Wiser LCR Kawasaki. At this time, the top three was controlled by British teams, with John Holden and Ashley Hawes leading the FIM World Sidecar championship race, whilst in third overall. These three would run within a second of one another for the next few laps, before retirement to Peach and Richardson on lap six changed the order again. A mechanical failure with the rear brake was the cause of the retirement, promoting Stevens and Charlwood to first and allowing them control over the British championship yet again. The retirement for the L&W Racing squad promoted the Finning Cat pairing of Ben Holland and Lee Watson to the overall podium, but they were heavily under pressure from four teams, all running within a sidecar train, which included the Paymundo’s Kawasaki, Lovelock and Alto’s BMW, Kershaw and Wilson’s Kawasaki and lastly Paivarinta and Kainulainen, who sat third overall in the FIM World Sidecar podium. The teams constantly traded positions, before at mid-race distance, three teams pulled out a gap in trying to close down John Holden Racing in second and the AOS / Be Wiser pairing out front.
As the race moved into its second half, one team that was flying was the recovering Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze. After going into the pits early on, the duo found themselves twelfth, but still a lap down. Lapping two seconds quicker than anyone else on track saw them passing teams easily, but the twelfth lap of the race saw yellow flags deployed and the start of plenty of drama. The first team to unfortunately bite the bullet was the FIM World Sidecar Championship race leaders, John Holden and Ashley Hawes. Running second overall and chasing down Stevens and Charlwood, the LCR Suzuki suffered a mechanical and spun the pairing into the gravel trap on the GP loop. On contact with the gravel, Holden and Hawes were thrown from an upside down Sidecar, but came away uninjured. With marshals running to the scene of this accident, another section of the GP loop saw contact between two other teams. In trying to past the Santander Salt LCR Suzuki of Garry Bryan and Jamie Winn, a locked wheel on the Suzuki meant the team collided with Reeves and Cluze. The contact meant the two teams spun into the gravel at high speed, ending their races instantly. With sidecars dropping out around the Grand Prix circuit, the next lap effectively saw the end of proceedings, when an opportunity to become FIM World Sidecar Championship leaders for Pekka Paivarinta and Kirsi Kainulainen came and went. Running as the leaders of the class after the retirement for Holden and Hawes, they became the second team to flip on the GP loop. As Kirsi Kainulainen got caught underneath the flipped sidecar, a decision was made to red the race and get medics on the scene.
The call to issue the red flag declared the result after thirteen laps, with Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood the overall winners and victors within the Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship. With Ben Holland and Lee Watson second on the road at the time of red flag, the duo secured second overall, ahead of fellow British team Stephen Kershaw and Rob Wilson, completing an all Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship overall podium. With the British championship competitors filling the top six positions at the flag, Dutch pairing Bennie Streuer and Geert Koerts secured the FIM World Sidecar victory with a seventh overall. After a shocking start to the race, the Dutch duo climbed up the order to take their first win in the world championship. After coming into this meeting third in the standings, the DNF for Reeves/Cluze and Paivarinta/Kainulainen had allowed them to close in on their rivals in the fight for the title. With the next round of the world sidecar championship moving to their home round at Assen, the pairing were now targeting more wins. Alongside Streuer and Koerts on the World Sidecar podium in second was Mike Roscher and Anna Burkard, who had secured their first podium of the season, finishing eighth overall in the Roscher-Burkard-Penz 13 Racing LCR BMW. The final podium spot was completed by Slovenian Milan Spendal and his French passenger Freddy Lelubez, for the Spendal Racing team. They came home tenth overall, after holding off Brit Stuart Ramsey and driver Janez Remse in the final stages.
FIM World Sidecar Championship / Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship Race Top Ten:
1) AOS / Be Wiser (No.100 – LCR Kawasaki – Stevens / Charlwood) HHIBS = 13 Laps = 20:03.101
2) Finning Cat (No.60 – LCR Kawasaki – Holland / Watson) HHIBS = +17.821s
3) Express Tyres Lockerbie (No.29 – LCR Kawasaki – Kershaw / Wilson) HHIBS = +21.243s
4) BB Bikeshop (No.49 – LCR BMW – Lovelock / Alto) HHIBS = +21.307s
5) Paymundo.com (No.57 – LCR Kawasaki – Brown / Cain) HHIBS = +22.010s
6) Gary Horspole (No.32 – LCR Suzuki – Horspole / Connell) HHIBS = 48.253s
7) Team Streuer (No.4 – LCR Suzuki – Streuer / Koerts) FIM = 59.778s
8) Roscher-Burkard-Penz 13 Racing (No.66 – LCR BMW – Roscher / Burkard) FIM = 1:13.219s
9) 138.com (No.25 – LCR Yamaha – MacLaurin / Hope) HHIBS = 1:24.665s
10) Spendal Racing (No.24 – LCR Yamaha – Spendal / Lelubez) FIM = 1:26.730s
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs