The Eastern Airways British Sidecar Championship announced its arrival back on the main British Championship scene over the Easter weekend with a double victory at Brands Hatch for Tim Reeves and Gregory Cluze. The duo, who only arrived at the cicuit late on Saturday, led every single lap around the Indy circuit to leave with a maximum 50 points and a 10-point advantage over Ben and Tom Birchall who took a brace of seconds.
After the Birchalls topped the leaderboard during free practice, there was a surprise for the field in Saturday’s qualifying when Reeves and Cluze, who were not scheduled to contest the event, arrived at the circuit and, subsequently, a three-way battle ensued for qualifying. Pole position changed hands frequently but, at the end of the 20-minute session it was Barry James and Jamie Winn that came out on top just 0.212s ahead of Reeves/Cluze. The Birchalls were three tenths further back in third with the local team of Andy Peach/Charlie Richardson rounding out the second row.
With only 0.09s between the same three crews in morning warm-up, Sunday’s first 18-lapper was set to be a cracker but Reeves and Cluze had other ideas. It was they who grabbed the holeshot and they were able to control affairs from the front as James and Winn also got pushed back to third by the Birchalls on the opening lap. They pressurised Reeves and Cluze as they posted the fastest lap on lap 3 and again on lap 14 reducing Reeves’ lead from 1.4s to 0.6s. However, the Anglo-French pairing were consistently lapping in the mid-48s bracket and, when they ran into backmarkers, they were able to edge away in the closing stages before taking victory by 0.711s.
The battle for third saw James and Winn go head to head with Scott Lawrie/James Neave and Roger Lovelock/Rick Lawrence and although the pole sitters held sway early on, Lawrie/Neave got quicker and quicker as the race wore on and secured third for good on lap 12. Their task was made easier when James/Winn crashed out of fourth at Paddock Hill on lap 14 and that allowed Lovelock/Lawrence to take the position with Ben Holland/Lee Watson and Phil Bell/Ashley Hawes rounding out the top six. Meanwhile, Simon Gilbert/Shelley Smithies and John Clarke/Stuart Graham crashed out after a coming together at Clark Curve.
The second race on Monday, in front of the Eurosport TV cameras, saw Reeves and Cluze make it two wins from two with another start to finish victory in the 18 lap race. The duo again grabbed the holeshot and consistently pulled away during the course of the race to take a near 3-second victory, with the race ending 2 laps early due to a collision between Ian Drowne/Ryan Anderson and Gordon Shand/Lee Barratt at Clearways. Both passengers required medical attention but, fortunately, neither were seriously injured.
It was Reeves/Cluze who, like Sunday, grabbed the holeshot, this time from Lawrie/Neave but there was disappointment for Peach/Richardson as their outfit ground to a halt in a plume of smoke just after they’d left the line. By lap three, the Birchalls had found their way past Lawrie and Neave but, try as they might, they were unable to close the gap on Reeves/Cluze and, save for lap 7 when the Birchalls set their fastest lap of the race, the no77 machine was able to continually pull away as each lap was chalked up.
Behind, there was an excellent battle for third between Lawrie/Neave and Lovelock/Lawrence, which eventually went the way of the latter with a similar battle going on behind between Bell/Hawes and Holland/Watson. Holland appeared to have it in the bag but Bell wasn’t to be denied and he claimed the 11 points although his cause was aided by the premature finish just as it looked like Holland would go through again. Meanwhile, another superb ride came from Stephen Kershaw/Robin Wilson who, in just their 3rd race on the F1 machine, took 7th place but there was further disappointment for James/Winn and Clarke/Graham who were both forced to retire.