Peter Linden, Hugh Brasher and Cormac Conroy moved ahead of the French MotoBel team to claim equal top spot in the European Classic championship, after a fine third place finish in Saturday's Spa Francorchamps 4 hrs race. The championship leaders, the MotoBel Guzzi team, failed to finish after expiring with engine problems on lap 10 of the 77 lap night race.
The top of the championship has now become a British duel between Sweatshop Phase One and the fast improving Alf's motorcycles entry of Mick Godfrey and Patrick Banfield, who finished second at Spa on their P&M Kawasaki. Richard Peckett and Peter McNab must surely be having a chuckle at this.!
So, its a second and a third place apiece, now with equal points, going into the final round at Aragon in October. What a prospect.!
At Spa, it was perfectly obvious that the standard of entry and depth of interest was increasing enormously. The 4 hrs entry list was massively over subscribed with entries being limited to 85, for the 70 places on the grid, from the 120 that applied. Back at Mettet in June there were 4 world champions in the field - there were even more this time. For the teams, the addition of a Bolliger Kawasaki, with Marcel Kellenberger and Michael Galinski, must give the ECS even more credibility. And technically things are moving on very rapidly, maybe even too rapidly; several HID lights, 4 piston calipers and remote reservoir shock absorbers were spotted - all of which are illegal under the regs; oh yes and some under 30 years old riders were also there - strictly against the 30 year old minimum age limit. ! Anyway, that aside, Stephane Merten's 2012 lap record was smashed by over a second, down to 2 mins 43.56 secs, by the Arzner/Merkens Moto Martin, so things are moving forward apace.
The four hour race was held in warm and dry conditions from 20.00 hrs to midnight on Saturday 6th July.
For us, the race was split into six rotas of different lengths, the lengths being determined by the time of dusk, the 45 min maximum period between stops and the maximum single rider riding time rule (any rider could not complete more than 160 minutes of the 240 minute race) - much more complicated than the WEC, I can tell you.!
After a fine start, (as usual from the back with the other non-starter motor entries) Peter took the bike into the top ten by stop one, some 33 minutes into the race. He would normally have made more places , but almost 50% of the first rota was under pace car after a not serious but messy crash on lap one. Cormac built well with a trouble free second rota to claim 4 th spot by 21.10 hrs. Dusk was in and Peter then pushed hard, getting down to 2 min 48 sec laps before pitting to hand to Hugh at about 21.57 hrs, again in 4 th spot. The pace was definitely hotter than in 2012.
Hugh then delivered a fine safe darkness rota, holding off challenges to maintain 4 th position at 22.37 hrs, when he handed over to Linden for his planned double stint (to maximise the use of his night time skills).
Peter pushed as hard as he was able, following a single headlight failure soon after dusk, to close down on Taurus in third. By 23.15 he had done it , third was ours, but Alf, with Mick on board was almost 2 minutes in front in second. The chase, with only 45 mins remaining, was not likely to be successful, so no 'push' was given. At 23.25 hrs it became apparent that Alf's rear lights had failed; they tried to call Mick in , but he wasn't watching the board - after 12 laps he pitted (who knows how riders minds actually work?) and replacement lights were fitted in a speedy 25 seconds, enabling them to hold second, but with a reduced margin of 37 secs.
At Midnight, the German Kaiser/Steinmacher Nico Bakker team won the race, with Alf second, Phase One third and Taurus fourth.
A magnificent race. !
Other British interest;
Sam Neate/Nige Manning-Morton finished in a very creditable 9th position on their unfaired Honda, prepared by the Neates
Steve Boam and Steve Clark, who finished 10th on their Harris Suzuki after a problem with a fractured oil filler.
Phil Sharpe, with Team Bimbo was 18th.
Niz Khan was 19th on his 'Eighty angry horses' Kawasaki, with Gerard Jolivet
Phil Davenport and Wayne Gow were 37th on their P&M Suzuki.
Steve Dobbie/Mark George and Paul Wilby were not classified, but completed 68 laps.
Robert Chambers/Aidy Brenham and Peter Boast completed 46 laps on their Harris Magnum, but were not classified.
John Neate/Steven Neate expired after 11 laps and were not classified.
Bolliger Kawasaki suffered engine failure ( seizure) after 10 laps and were not classified.
Sweatshop Phase One are out next at Oschersleben between 15th-18th August, for the 4 hrs race which is being held again in conjunction with the WEC during German Speedweek. As well as the 4hrs, there are some classic sprint races in which both Peter and Cormac will be competing.
A big thank you to all team and sponsors.
See you at Oschersleben.
Championship positions plus photographs to follow!