TODD Ellis and Emmanuelle Clement shared the wins with Stephen Kershaw and Ryan Charlwood as the FIM Sidecar series made its long-awaited return to Donington Park.
For the first time in years, the outfits shared the stage with the World SBK championship as all the top crews and a number of British wildcards mixed up the order.
Tim Reeves and Kevin Rousseau were philosophical about their Hungary disqualification last time out, and determined to put it behind them with a strong performance here on home-ground.
Early running in qualifying put Reeves/Rousseau (Bonovo Action Yamaha) into provisional pole, as the rest of the field settled in. It was not the first time at Donington for Ellis’s female passenger Clement, who had been in action earlier this summer alongside Harry Payne at the FSRA British F2 round. That almost certainly helped her partner Ellis’s Santander Salt Yamaha to the fastest time later in the session.
Also going well were Lewis Blackstock/Paddy Rosney who chased Markus Schlosser home in fourth. Next up were Kershaw/Charlwood from the Christie brothers and Biggs/Schmitz. Pekka Paivarinta/Ilse de Haas were eighth fastest almost two seconds back from pole time.
In the second qualifying session later in the day, track and ambient temperatures soared as Ellis went straight in with a sub-lap record time, sending a strong message to the field. Reeves put in a far greater number of laps than his young rival but seemed unable to better his time of 1.36.820.
Meanwhile, Paivarinta moved sixth, but few others improved from the opening session. Ellis, however, was the exception to the rule, as he and Clement claimed pole late on with a time of 1.36.479.
With wet and cool conditions for race one on Saturday, Reeves and Rousseau made a great start to steal the lead over polesitters Ellis/Clement and the seven-time champ looked to be in great form as he stormed off round the opening lap.
In the shuffle for Redgate, Tommy Philp/Tom Bryant had a coming together with Kershaw/Charlwood damaging the sidecar wheel arch on Philp’s outfit, and ripping out the valve of the Kershaw’s rear wheel, leaving him deflated. They lost two laps finding and fitting a replacement wheel but still managed to finish in 12th to score points, but Philp was not so lucky and retired as a result.
At the front, Reeves and Ellis were line astern in close company until Reeves and Rousseau got it slightly wrong going into the left bend at the top of Craner, causing the outfit to head straight onto the grass. Reeves later suggested the exit from pitlane by Kershaw as he re-joined the action was an untimely judgement by race direction, causing Reeves to choose a different line out of Redgate.
He and Rousseau re-joined down in sixth place with work to do, while the antics gave Ellis a four second margin he was not about to squander, but there was no doubting the speed of Reeves and Rousseau as they set about making amends.
Behind Ellis/Clement, series leaders Schlosser and Fries were in a race-long tussle with Paivarinta/de Haas, and despite Reeves recovering to set the fastest lap, he could only manage to climb back to fourth. There was plenty of strength further down the field with Sam/Adam Christie enjoying a battle with Blackstock/Rosney ahead of Santander Salt’s Rob Biggs/Jeroen Schmitz and Payne/Wilkes, who rounded out the top eight.
John Holden and Jason Pitt were also early retirees, with John’s son George and Oscar Lawrence claiming ninth place, off the back of a strong seventh in the British Championship just one week ago. Rupert Archer and Kevin Cable were the next two finishers ahead of Kershaw/Charlwood.
There was more weather uncertainty in race two with wind and showers threatening to play havoc and as the grid formed, there were spots in the air. Ellis was back on pole position from Reeves and Schlosser and after a short delay, the race was declared a dry race. The unfortunate Schlosser blew a new engine on the warm-up lap, so his day was done.
Reeves/Rousseau led after lap one with Kershaw/Charlwood getting a flyer in second place ahead of Blackstock/Rosney and race one winners Ellis/Clement.
Ellis moved to third on lap three with Blackstock and Philp in close formation behind. Then came Paivarinta and Payne/Wilkes while back at the front, Kershaw set the fastest lap on lap four to close the gap on Reeves.
By lap five, Ellis was in second place and closing in on the leaders just as Paivarinta moved up into fifth ahead of Philp/Bryant, while eighth place was held by the Christie brothers ahead of Holdens John and George respectively.
At half distance, Reeves’ lead over Ellis was slashed to half a second as Paivarinta moved fourth past Blackstock/Rosney. Kershaw/Charlwood were running strong in third and looked in the hunt as the trio were almost tied together.
Meanwhile, Philp and Bryant were having a storming ride in fifth and looking good for 11 points behind the flying Finn Paivarinta before going one better at the flag and with two laps to go, the top three were 10sec clear of Paivarinta with Reeves and Ellis almost on the same piece of tarmac.
With just over a lap to go, Ellis was within a tenth of a second as it all went down to the final lap. And despite Reeves and Ellis scrapping hard on the final lap, with a bit of contact, it was a delighted Kershaw and Charlwood who stole victory.
Schlosser now holds the championship lead just two points clear of Ellis, with Paivarinta third on 92 and Reeves some 23 points back on 69.
The next round is from The Cathedral of Speed, Assen WorldSBK July 23-25.