Monday, 29 June 2015

All aboard for the Spa 4hrs.

The Team has pulled out all the stops and will enter two bikes at Spa.!

Stéphane Mertens and Ian Simpson will run under the team's normal number four and Peter Lindén and Hugh Brasher will use the specially granted number one plate for the race.

Both bikes are identical and both teams are capable of winning. Sweatshop Phase One has a fantastic record at the iconic Spa circuit, with rostrum places in each of the last three races....but no wins. !
Well, not since that fantastic 24hrs race in 1993 when Steve Manley, Simon Buckmaster and Doug Toland left the rest of the field for dust.!

Its anybodies guess how this race will pan-out, but with two potential race winning teams, the chances of scooping that elusive prize are certainly improved.

Since the team's fine 2nd places at Paul Ricard and at Mettet, several mods have been completed, most notably the ultra fast gear change-over, a new lighter action clutch and new fairing tops without oil cooler slots. Each should show benefits at Spa.

Spa has traditionally been the most popular meeting of the season and we can see no reason for numbers to drop....the grid for the 4 hrs race is certainly as strong, and maybe even stronger than normal. But, will it still be the most popular? It will be difficult to top the fantastic turnout at Paul Ricard and looking forward; the Classic Bol, again at Paul Ricard, but this time as part of the WEC meeting, should be sensational.

The growth in this classic endurance scene is certainly showing no signs of abatement.........

See you at Spa next weekend.   RB

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Mertens Magic at Mettet

Stéphane Mertens and Hugh Brasher got onto a marvellous second step of the rostrum again at Mettet. This time after one of the most dramatic battles of recent years. The Sweatshop team overcame problems in both 2 hrs legs, but could not match Fastré/Hubin, despite their own problems.

A crash in leg one and very difficult conditions in manche two created the uphill struggle, but Mertens dug deep into his reserves and pulled this great result out of the bag.

The end result in both legs was; Fastré/Hubin - Mertens/Brasher and Senechal/Frerad, making the first Suzuki 1-2-3 in this type of racing.  (Harris / P&M / Harris)

The race was held over a relatively cold end of May weekend which saw the team qualify second with a time of 1.11.96 secs (Mertens) against Force's pole of 1.11.05 secs (Fastré). Hugh Brasher qualified with a excellent 1.14.6 sec lap, with Hubin on 1.12.8 secs.

Steve Boam and Steve Clark qualified well in third position with a best from Boam of 1.14.2 secs.

Race One was dry but chilly. Mertens started and entertained with a great dice with Fastré, seeing them both pit after 40 mins, lying first and second, with just a few seconds between them. Brasher continued well, just as Team Force had an unplanned stop, lasting around one lap. After 10 laps of his rota, Hugh Brasher suffered a light fall, costing, with a stop for checks (and a later tank change), some 3 laps. This had handed the lead back to Force at this mid race point.

When Mertens took over, with 38 minutes remaining, the crash and the tank change had placed the team in 5th place. This is when the first dose of Mertens magic was administered.!

Stephane, as he does so well, meticulously calculated his necessary pace to get to second, and in conjunction with Lida in the signal board, he delivered it!  He eventually displaced the Harris Suzuki pairing of Senechal/Frerad, for second, two laps before the flag. What a marvellous display, lap after lap, fastest on track, and the rostrum was his.

Race two started damp and drizzly, got dryer and then wetter ! Mertens started well and led for some of the early race, after Team Force faltered with a starter motor problem, which saw them start from the back of the grid. The Senechal Suzuki also had a look in at the helm in the first 30mins, until Fastre, absolutely on form, came blistering by.!

This time , Hugh Brasher had a trouble free and creditable session, delivering the bike back to Stéphane Mertens at the 80 mins point in second place, after briefly leading around the 50 lap mark on a now dry track.

A one minute stop handing over to Mertens, dropped the team to 5th in this highly competitive leg - and that's when Stéphane displayed his second dose of magic......achieving another great result for the team, this leg snatched from the drizzle. The excellent Contis really do handle all conditions.

Overall, another great rostrum, but another defeat to Team Force who continue to dominate. They really now are the target......and at Spa, Sweatshop Phase One will rise to that challenge....two bikes, Lindén and Brasher, plus Simpson and Mertens. Race On.!!!!    See you there.

Cormac Conroy pushed the BSA to its limits
World Champion Endurance Roger Ruiz still at it!

Pictures courtesy of:
Jacco Dijkhuizen