World Champions spice up Assen action, as Stevens/Charlwood crash out
No fewer than thirty-four crews entered for the penultimate round in Holland, headed by three former, and one current pair of World Champions.
It was no surprise therefore, that qualifying was dominated by three of those aforementioned, with newly crowned Tim and Tristan Reeves leading the way on the Carl Cox Motorsport Kawasaki.
Multiple World Champion Pekka Paivarinta, accompanied by a returning Gregory Cluze, managed a respectable sixth fastest on his Grand Prix 600cc Honda.
Best of the rest, in terms of British challengers, were the Express Tyres/Blinkbonny Kawasaki pairing of Steve Kershaw/Stuart Clarke, and Hannafin's Ben Holland/Stuart Ramsay, now with their faithful Kawasaki power-plant installed again..
They looked to be the other men most likely to be in the mix at the top of of the results sheets come the actual race.
Race One – Overnight heavy rain, and continued precipitation through the day, made track conditions tricky, with some standing water around the track. Earlier Superbike qualifying had claimed several high-profile fallers, so the three-wheelers left the line well aware of what was at stake.
From the lights, the Reeves brothers led the cautious charge to the first turn, with a cloud of spray behind them. If there were any moves to be made, the opening lap would be the opportunity of glory for the chasing bunch.
From the off, Kershaw and Clark were in touch, as indeed was Benny Streuer who was using his 1000cc plot, as opposed to the 600 outfit he has run all season in the FIM series.
Such were the conditions, that discretion was the buzz-word, and Reeves, whilst certainly ahead, did not gallop away as we have seen him do previously.
Holland/Ramsay, keen to stay in touch, overcooked it, and ended up in the gravel before the lap was completed. They did recover with the help of the marshalling team, but gave themselves a huge degree of work to do.
Meanwhile, the 600's were giving a good account of themselves, with the newly paired Paivarinta/Cluze crew running strongly with the leaders.
Deeper into the race, Reeves was steadily eking out his advantage with Kershaw looking the main threat.
The Scottish challengers took a major setback when they did a full spin and rotation on lap five, only to rejoin and continue the fight. They eventually recovered to claim a brilliant third in class.
It was significant that the top four finishers were all former, or current world champions, having raced this circuit many times in Grands Prix.
Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood on the JG Speedfit Cool Kawasaki were safe and steady, maintaining their second place in the title chase albeit by a reduced margin, with Kershaw sniffing at their heels.
A red flag brought the race to a close, when Alan Founds somersaulted his outfit, spilling passenger Tom Christie, and ending up track-side in the gravel. Race control made the decision to halt proceedings, much to the disappointment of the crews who had waited all day in the rain for their chance.
Race One Result –
1/ Tim/Tristan Reeves (Carl Cox Motorsport Kawasaki),
2/ Benny Streuer/Gerard Daalhuizen (Suzuki LCR),
3/ Steve Kershaw/Stuart Clark (Express Tyres/Blinkbonny Kawasaki),
4/ Ricky Stevens/Ryan Charlwood (JG Speedfit Cool Kawasaki),
5/ Phil Bell/Justin Sharp (Marin Motorsports Suzuki),
6/ Ben Holland/Stuart Ramsay (Hannafin Kawasaki),
7/ Paul Leglise/Maxime Oliger (521 Competition Yamaha),
8/ John Lowther/Jake Lowther (Lowther Racing Kawasaki)
600 Cup Result – 1/ Ben/Tom Birchall (Mitchells of Mansfield Yamaha), 2/ Pekka Paivarinta/Gregory Cluze (44 Racing Honda), 3/ Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsely (Trustland Construction/Rowtech Engineering Suzuki), 4/ John Holden/Mark Wilkes (Barnes Racing Kawasaki), 5/ Todd Ellis/Chaz Richardson (GBM Santander Salt Honda) 6/ Sam/Adam Christie (Christie Racing Honda).
Race Two – Day two dawned significantly better with glorious sunshine throughout the morning. If conditions stayed fine, then the 600's would find their job much harder against the big boys. However, clouds formed ahead of the race, so fingers were crossed for dry conditions.
Tim and Tristan Reeves were in search of the unbroken record of wins, so could make no mistakes from their fifth row “reverse grid” position.
Pole men Todd Ellis and Chaz Richards got away well, but were gobbled up by the big engines before turn one, as the JG Speedit Cool Kawasaki of Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood surged alongside a rapid starting Phil Bell/Justin Sharp on the Marin Motor Sports Suzuki.
Looking much more like the lap-record holders they are, the former champions made the most of their flying start and got their heads down.
Surging through, came Kershaw/Clark and the Reeves brothers, who within two laps, were sitting third, dragging Kershaw with them.
Guest rider Benny Streuer was showing his local knowledge, and a runner-up spot in race one, was set to be duplicated here. Streuer very quickly made his intentions clear.
In the 600 class, the Birchalls and Paivarinta were both looking good and were eventually to fight through to fourth and seventh places respectively. Whilst the foreign guest riders spiced up the action, they were not eligible to take points from the British Championship regulars.
Ben Holland and Stuart Ramsay had another solid ride, and were rewarded with a fine fifth place finish against world-class opposition. This was to strengthen their hold on their title position going into double points at Brands Hatch.
Reeves was by now six seconds clear from Streuer, with the battle raging for fourth between Stevens and Kershaw. This came to an abrupt end on the penultimate lap, when the former champions somersaulted, throwing Ryan Charlwood through the air like Superman, landing heavily, feet-first on the tarmac.
Broken metatarsals were the result, whilst Ricky escaped shaken but unstirred.
The Reeves road-show rolls on, with Kershaw and Clark now second in the title chase.
In the 600's, Ellis's margin was reduced, with everything to play for at the final Brands Hatch round.
Race Two Result –
Standings – Reeves 450, Kershaw 242, Stevens 229, Holland 226, Bryan 165, Horspole 113, Bell 106, Walker 103, Peach 91, Archer 84, James 84, MacLaurin 64, Cable 64, Biggs 61, Guy 47
Cup Standings – Ellis 108, Birchall 90, Christie 72, A. Founds 62, Holden 37, P. Founds 34, Blackstock 21, Shand 20, Lambert 16, Smith 10, Costello 10, Wallis 5
Points subject to confirmation by TSL Timing prior to Brands Hatch
Media Matters, Barry Nutley