Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thundersport Mallory: Weekend race review

Action from the Superstock 600 class

By Steve Day
Image by Steve Gough

After two years without a winner, the famous Race of the Year returned to Mallory Park this weekend with Thundersport GB as a heat wave failed to disturb the biggest event on the circuit?s calendar.

On Saturday with two qualifying sessions to set their grid positions, there was a mass scramble to collect pole position after a rain hit first 25 minutes was followed by a damp second period with a drying circuit rewarding the bravest of the brave.

With Lowes and Ellison both hitting the top spot at various points of qualifying, it was clear that the first to gamble on dry tyres could prove successful and with just minutes left, the experienced John Ingram snatched pole position away from Luke Stapleford on the line, whilst Christian Iddon improved his time in the final seconds, to lift himself up to third ahead of Lowes and Ellison.

On the second row, Billy McConnell looked a danger in sixth, whilst Joel Morris had a solid qualifying to take seventh ahead of Paul Young, Field, Robertson, Littler and Crowe.

As Sunday arrived, the temperature started to rise and all eyes were on favourites Sam Lowes and James Ellison, who on Friday in similar conditions, looked tough to catch. However once the lights went out, the pair of them struggled away from the line as the team mates were swallowed into turn one amongst a full grid on hungry riders.

It looked like being a classic with the two World Supersport boys having to work hard to keep chase on the leading three but unfortunately, the race was short lived after pole sitter John Ingram lost control of his BMW on the exit of Gerrard?s, taking Iddon with him, resulting in red flags to stop the event.

Once re-started, Lowes and Ellison were hardly going to make the same mistake twice and after pouncing on early leader Luke Stapleford, the two PTR riders headed the pack to tackle a shortened 18 lap race.

With Ellison leading and Lowes not far behind, the duo struggled to shake off Stapleford in the early stages as McConnell looked to tag onto the Profile Logistics Kawasaki rider in fourth, but on lap seven, any chances of a three or four way battle for the lead were shattered after Stapleford was forced to retire and leave McConnell in a very lonely third.

Lowes didn?t leave it too long to make his move and after delivering the fastest lap of the race with a 51.527, he maintained enough of an advantage at the front to frustrate Ellison and eventually take the illustrious crown that has previously been won by legends such as Surtees, Hailwood, Agostini and Sheene.

McConnell took third spot ahead of team mate Paul Young for the Oxford TAG Triumph team, whilst Joel Morris collected fifth ahead of Phil Crowe, who would have no doubt been far quicker were it not for a heavy fall in Q1.
Both Sam and James admitted that they were dealt a good hand to get a second shot at the start after the race was stopped, but both were highly concerned at the health of both riders involved, with Iddon walking away unhurt but Ingram sustaining a dislocated shoulder in what was as bigger crash you?re likely to see.

The Race of the Year wasn?t the only event of the weekend though as Thundersport GB?s Championship filled the rest of the timetable on Saturday and Sunday.

In the Aprilia Superteens, series leader Tom Oliver shared the victories with newcomer Joe Francis, whilst Ben Luxton returned to form to collect four solid podiums. Oliver?s retirement from the final race of the day was his first of the season to leave Francis closing in at the rate of 18 points for the weekend, whilst there were other visits to the podium for Ross Twyman, Bradley Jones and Harry Coomber.

Twelve-year-old Ryan Vickers, who qualified in a career best fourth, struggled to get the 125cc machine away from the line though, and with other bike issues, an eighth place finish was the best he could manage.
In the LMB Streetfighters, Barry Utting, Keith Smith and Tony Hughes started the weekend with the usual victories in the ?A?, ?B? and ?C? classes on Saturday, but with different weather conditions on Sunday, came different results , and after Utting?s weekend came to a premature end in race three, we saw new winners.
?A? class newcomer Chris Dixon did the double ahead of series leader Keith Smith, whilst Mick Riddle returned to the class after being away on duty, to collect the ?B? wins in Utting?s absence.

In the ?C? class meanwhile, Brad Davey took the opening win on Sunday, only to be knocked down to second again in the fourth race, with Hughes making it three from four. After injuring himself at the friendly circuit during pre-season testing, James Webb, brother of Moto GP star Danny, came back with a bang this weekend in the MAL Formula 600 class, with three impressive wins against some strong opposition.

Climbing through the field in the wet on Saturday, Webb saw off Field, Oliver and eventually passed series leader McNeill to take the first win of the weekend before blitzing the solid looking Field in both races on Sunday to collect 75 points.

Field?s strong performances were rewarded with the new Championship lead after McNeill struggled to cope with his hand injuries in the hot conditions, and Chris Mort and Craig Sproston kept themselves in the championship hunt overall with podiums on Sunday.

Despite a fantastic race win for Adam Palfreman in the first race on Sunday, Alto Digital Thundersport GP2 Championship leader Connor Tagg found a new level in races two, three and four to obliterate his opponents and extend his overall advantage.

Adam Palfreman, his brother Dave, their new team mate Curtis Rothwell and Ian Popplewell all tried their best to keep with the Aprilia 450 rider but it was to no avail as the Reading rider looked in the form of his life.
Rothwell and Dave Palfreman?s efforts didn?t go un-noticed though as they racked up a few wins ahead of Popplewell in the Minitwin Cup and with the Nitro GP3 class also out with the GP2 crew, Aaron Hay wasn?t at all phased by competitors Winfield, Raybon, Robinson and Butler, as the Cowling rider won four from four.
With Ricardo Ballerini out due to injury, we looked like we may have another casualty in the GP2 class in race four after Josh Daley took a nasty tumble, luckily for Josh though, he only suffered heavy bruising and should be back for Snetterton.

Bikesport News Superstock 600 series leader Nick Anderson got his weekend off to the perfect start with a fine win on Saturday ahead of Dan Chappell and Matthew Shellcock but only picked up 16 points on Sunday as fellow former Superteen Joe Collier, seemed to enjoy the uber hot conditions to do the double on TV day.
Cool Cow rider Tommy Mountain made a podium visit and racked up enough points to lift himself up to fourth overall and Scotsman Paul Wishart took full advantage of Anderson?s DNF in race three to remain in second overall, 21 points behind Nick.

With the exception of race two where series leader Andy Lawson won from Adam Shelton, Mallory Park veteran Steve Tomes won three races in style as the Bridgestone Thundersport 500?s took to the Leicestershire circuit.
Shelton and Tomes have proved that they could well have been serious title contenders had they attended every round so far and with Harrison and McCabe struggling to rack up the wins, it?s difficult to believe anyone will overhaul Andy Lawson between now and the end of the season.

Jake Dixon shared the wins with Connor Tagg in the Aprilia RRV450 Challenge at Mallory to take the lead of the championship overall after James Folkard failed to visit the top two steps this weekend.
Dixon?s recent run of form will have Folkard worried heading into Snetterton as he?s now found the podium in every single event bar the second race of the season at Donington Park and to make matters more concerning for the Minards Pavlou rider, Tagg?s supreme efforts on Sunday has left us with a tasty three way battle for the title.

Phil Canessa and Sam Cox were the best of the rest with Canessa collecting his highest ever finish in the opening encounter and the pair both visiting the rostrum to lift themselves right up into the fight for the top five.

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