A full grid lined up for the Hyundai British F1 Sidecar season opener at Brands Hatch with sn immaculate field of predominantly 1000cc outfits and a handful of 600s making a spectacle to behold as qualifying got under way in dry and breezy conditions, with a track temperature of twenty-four degrees.
From the outset, a determined Reeves pairing nailed the pole position time on lap five, and then just sat back. This was just half a second off record pace, and proved impossible for the chasing pack to better. Reigning champions Ricky Stevens/Ryan Charlwood came to within eight tenths, but remained in that slot. Huge credit must go to a returning Steve Kershaw who, with new passenger Stuart Clark, clinched third a further three tenths back.
Chris Walker/Ashley Hawes were fourth, and Andy Peach/Ken Edwards a creditable fifth on an outfit they only collected twenty-four hours prior.
Conditions were less predictable for the opener with clouds gathering and rain arriving quickly. The race was held before a decision to run on slicks was made. Ambient temperature had also plummeted, with the tarmac hovering around fourteen degrees. That made life interesting as the pack hurtled to Paddock Hill Bend. Pole position man Reeves made no mistake and assumed control. Slip-sliding away, he was never headed, and stretched his advantage steadily to twelve seconds at the flag.
This does not however, tell the story of the race behind, which brought several new names to the fore in the early stages. Most impressive were newcomers Neville Jones/Tom Bryant who had their Yamaha up to fourth place at one point behind Steve Kershaw/Stuart Clark and Chris Walker/Ashley Hawes.
Meanwhile, the Stevens/Charlwood pairing were making up for lost time on the JG Speedfit Cool Kawasaki, eventually stealing the runner-up spot from Kershaw. A spin on the warm-up lap in the adverse conditions gave them cause for concern, and a understandable reluctance to charge too hard too soon.
Behind this bunch, a concerted push from Ben Holland/Stuart Ramsey saw them ease the Hannafin Kawasaki into fifth, relegating Neville Jones to sixth.
Another performance worthy of mention was a sterling effort by the only short chassis in the race with Greg Lambert and Julie Canipa on board. They eventually dropped back but still earned the final point.
Alan Founds and Tom Peters ran out winners of the 600 Cup class on the Brian Gray Powerbiking Yamaha R6, and declared their first venture on a long chassis a thoroughly enjoyable affair. They brought it home ahead of the Christie brothers and Lambert/Canipa.
1 - Reeves/Reeves (Carl Cox Motorsport Kawasaki)
2 - Stevens/Charlwood (JG Speedfit Kawasaki)
3 - Kershaw/Clark (Express Tyre Service/Blinkbonny Kawasaki)
4 - Walker/Hawes (Santander Salt Kawasaki)
5 - Holland/Ramsey (Hannafin Kawasaki)
6 - Jones/Bryant (ProperlyProtected.co.uk / BEMoto Yamaha)
7 - MacClaurin/Hope (Blue Group/Fielder Filters Yamaha)
8 - Bell/Belsey (Marin Motorsports Suzuki)
9 - Guy/Pilmoor-Brady (Yangi Motorsport Suzuki)
10 - Archer/Thomas (Hannafin Kawasaki)
Under new regulations for 2017, a reverse grid applies to the top ten finishers from the opening race, so Shrewsbury’s Rupert Archer/Steve Thomas found themselves on pole position for the second encounter on their Hannafin Suzuki.
It was something resembling the charge of the Light Brigade into Paddock Hill Bend when the lights went out. Four abreast the leaders plummeted down the hill and up to Druids. heading that bunch was the Northumbrian pairing of Phil Bell/Tony Belsey, who in a very short space of time eked out a considerable lead.
Archer/Thomas had the Hannafin Suzuki nailed to the stop and did a fair job keeping the pack at bay. A cracking start by the Reeves brothers saw them up to third on lap three, and closing down the leaders. Stevens/Charlwood, Walker/Hawes and Kershaw/Clark were also frantically making progress through the field to join the fray at the front. By half distance, the old order was back in control, with the exception of strong resistance from Bell/Belsey who were locked in a scrap with Ben Holland and Stuart Ramsey. They eventually overcame Bell, and slotted once again into fifth place.
Chris Walker and Ashley Hawes meanwhile had their hands full with Steve Kershaw and eventually succumbed, but claimed another strong fourth place finish.
In the post-race interview, Tim Reeves was in very high spirits and applauded the new reverse grid format as a roaring success. He was laughing all over his face as he said “The first lap was absolutely mega, there were outfits all over the place and everyone was riding like there was a million quid on it.”
In the 600cc Cup, another victory for Alan Founds/Tom Peters gave them maximum points on Brian Gray’s long Yamaha.
1 – Reeves/Reeves
2 – Stevens/Charlwood
3 – Kershaw/Clark
4 – Walker/Hawes
5 – Holland/Ramsey
6 – Bell/Belsey
7 – Bryan/McBride (Santander Salt Kawasaki)
8 – MacClaurin/Hope
9 – Horspole/Connell (Sleaford Quality Foods/Baker Plant Suzuki)
10 – Archer/Thomas
Reeves 50, Stevens 40, Kershaw 32, Walker 26, Holland 22, Bell 18, MacClaurin 17, Bryan 14, Archer 12 Jones 10, Horspole 9, Cable 8.