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Stevens and Charlwood claim second title in tense Brands Finale

Stevens and Charlwood claim second title in tense Brands Finale

The 2016 season came to an end at with two races at Brands at the weekend, and a record sidecar line-up qualified in very cold conditions late on Friday. The decision to allow 600cc outfits regardless of chassis type into the series appears to have been a resounding success as ten stalwarts from the F2 ranks joined the fray. No fewer than thirty-three outfits circulated in qualifying with the battle at the top shaping up between the Team E-Aide Motorsport Yamaha of Tim Reeves/Greg Cluze, the Holland/Watson Hannafin Kawasaki, defending champions Stevens and Charlwood for Quattro Plant Cool Kawasaki and the Walker/Hawes duo on their Santander Salt Kawasaki. These four crews were all in with the chance of title success, so qualifying was all the more important. Pole position went to Reeves/Cluze alongside arch-rivals and defending champions Stevens/Charlwood. Behind them, Holland/Watson lined up alongside the Walker/Hawes Kawasaki. Row three featured a returning Rupert Archer/Steve Thomas in sixth, next door to John Holden and new passenger Lee Cain in fifth. Fastest 600 was Pete Founds who with Jevan Walmsley in the hot seat claimed thirteenth spot on the grid.

Race One – The sun was out and conditions perfect as the army of gladiators charged towards the first right-hander at Paddock Hill Bend. Grabbing the lead with full knowledge of what they needed, Reeves/Cluze stormed off followed by a brilliant Hannafin Kawasaki mounted Ben Holland/Lee Watson. They in turn had John Holden and new passenger Lee Cain for company with the Walker/Hawes outfit sniffing for the place and Gary Bryan/Stuart Ramsey very much in the hunt on the second Santander Salt Kawasaki. This scrap persisted, as a sluggish start by the series leaders saw the Quattro Plant Cool Kawasaki down in sixth. Reeves and Cluze had no control over events behind, and they were unable to open any real gap. Holland and Watson sensed this and slipped by to lead. The five times World Champion was quickly back in front but could not break the tow. Meanwhile once into third, Stevens/Charlwood brought it home safely, with a very close finish splitting the podium. Holland/Watson had closed to within five one hundredths of a second at the flag with Stevens/Charlwood just two tenths further back. Double points meant that the leaders’ margin was reduced to twenty-nine points with it all to play for in the final encounter. Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley lifted the 600cc honours claiming twelfth place overall.

Race Result – 1/Reeves/Cluze, 2/Holland/Watson, 3/Stevens/Charlwood, 4/Holden/Cain, 5/Walker/Hawes, 6/Bryan/Ramsey, 7/Archer/Thomas, 8/Biggs/Ransley, 9/Guy/Pilmoor-Brady, 10/Horspole/Connell,

Race Two – A roller-coaster night due to bad weather and the postponement of the second race for twenty-four hours did little to ease the tension as the lights went out. Pole men Reeves and Cluze could do nothing more than go for the win, and that they did in fine style. With a twenty-nine point advantage, the Quattro Plant Cool champions needed a top five finish, and found themselves nicely in fourth place by mid-race distance. Ahead of them, a very much on-form Ben Holland/Lee Watson chased hard ahead of the Walker/Hawes duo, who themselves were seeking a double podium. Surprise packages came this time around in the shape of the flying Founds brothers and a rapidly improving Michael Dunlop/Dan Sayle. On a wet track, the 600cc bikes were much more in the hunt, with Dunlop/Sayle actually setting the fastest 600 Cup lap towards the end of the race. On the penultimate lap, Holland spun out almost capsizing with passenger Lee Watson jettisoned for the outfit. They recovered to save face and valuable points keeping Walker/Hawes at bay in the title chase. A disappointed Reeves was unable to talk after the race, such was his emotion at being so close to victory despite missing two rounds. The champions were delighted to have brought it home to title success. Ricky Stevens said “We found it frustrating not race hard at the front, but we knew we had to keep calm and bring it home with enough points to do the job. It’s been a fantastic season and we have well and truly arrived”. His passenger Ryan Charlwood was equally upbeat. “All the hard work and training have been worthwhile. It’s a hard road to a championship – early nights and a strict regime – but we’ve done it”. Michael Dunlop thoroughly enjoyed the second race. He said after the race - “I found yesterday in the dry really hard on the arms and shoulders, but Dan and I had a bit of a chat overnight, I relaxed much more and let it flow. The conditions were great for me and to come home fifth, be on the 600 podium and record the fastest lap is just the most brilliant feeling. A big thanks to the Birchalls for giving me such a fantastic sidecar outfit”.

Race Result – 1/ Reeves/Cluze, 2/Walker/Hawes, 3/Founds/Walmsley (600 Cup Winners), 4/Stevens/Charlwood, 5/Dunlop/Sayle, 6/Holland/Watson, 7/Founds/Payne, 8/Archer/Thomas, 9/Blackstock/Rosney, 10/Reeves/ChristieChris Walker and Ashley Hawes proudly showing off their second place trophy

Final Standings – Stevens/Charlwood 397 (Champions), Reeves/Cluze 386, Holland/Watson 337, Walker/Hawes 305, Biggs/Ransley 174, Archer/Thomas 172, Bryan/Wynn/Ramsey 160, Horspole/Connell 156, MacClaurin/Hope 141, Holden/Ramsey/Cain 135 Guy/Pilmoor-Brady 102, Gray/Christie 98, Cable/Pawsey 92

2017 Dates will be announced shortly