Final fourth-place finish for Lauder's Team Kershaw

Atlantic autumn weather blasted through the Portuguese circuit of Estoril and ultimately decided the outcome of the last round of the World Sidecar championship last weekend.

By Ralph Mellon
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 4:25 pm
Steve Kershaw, left, and Ryan Charlwood (picture by Mark Walters)
Steve Kershaw, left, and Ryan Charlwood (picture by Mark Walters)

The wind and heavy rain showers sent some to Treasure Island and left others on the rocks as 15 brave crews – including Kershaw Racing from the Borders – took on three races.

After the last-minute withdrawal of championship status by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM), from the Brands Hatch round two weeks previously, the two scheduled races for this event were given double point status and another single point race added to start the event, writes Robin Wilson.

This meant the five top teams could all mathematically still win the title. But, realistically, it was between Swiss pairing Schlosser/Fries and Anglo-French duo Ellis/Clement.

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The other three crews, Paivarinta/DeHaas, Reeves/Rousseau and Lauder team Kershaw/Charlwood all had an eye on third place and the bronze medals.

For the Quattro Kershaw team, Friday qualifying was a torrid time.

Unable to get the outfit to stop understeering on the greasy surface left them in a lowly 12th place, way behind their rivals Reeves/Rousseau and Ellis/Clement, who were first and second, with impressive wildcard entrants

the Birchalls (former world champions) and newcomers Payne/Wilkes close behind.

Overnight changes to the set-up were a gamble – but doing nothing was worse. Saturday morning’s single point race started wet but, with the wind blowing the showers through, several teams took a chance on dry tyres. Reeves/Rousseau set off sharp, opening a gap to Ellis/Clement, with other crews shuffling back and forth depending on their tyre choice.

The Lauder lads got into a bunch of five crews but passing in the spray was a lottery, so played safe and ended a solid seventh, losing points to Paivarinta/DeHaas, who were fourth.

The Birchalls, on the drying track, came into their own in the second half of the race, taking the win from Streuer/Remme and Ellis/Clement after Reeves/Rousseau broke down.

The big losers were Schlosser/Fries, who could only manage 13th after a puncture, putting pressure on them for race two.

The afternoon double pointer had no such worries on tyre choice, as the rain was torrential.

Again, Reeves/Rousseau took off at the front, at one stage almost 15 seconds ahead but, after half distance, started to fall back, eventually pulling out with a slipping clutch.

This time, as the Birchalls went backwards, Kershaw/Charlwood had the handling sorted and, by lap 10, were up to third. They were then handed second as Ellis/Clement had a spin, putting them down to fifth.

Catching the Payne/Wilkes duo by lap 14, Steve and Ryan tried several times to pass the wildcards and, with Reeves out on lap 16, it suddenly became a duel for the win.

On to the last lap, it looked like the pressure would tell on the leaders but they held firm to take a maiden win. A spin at the chicane by Kershaw meant they were lucky to take second from Schlosser/Fries in third.

That podium was enough to give the gold medals in favour of the Swiss team and fifth gave Ellis/Clement second overall and silver.

As the points were worked out overnight, all eyes turned to the bronze battle, now only between Kershaw/Charlwood and Paivarinta/DeHaas after Reeves/Rousseau’s double ‘did not finish’ (DNF).

Whoever finished ahead of the other would take the glory – simple as that. But, in racing, it’s never that simple.

Again, there was a wet track which might possibly dry and, once more, the tyre gamble would be crucial.

For the third time, Reeves/Rousseau set off swiftly and opened a massive lead. This time, persistence paid off, taking the last win of the year.

The Birchalls again went backwards but, as the track dried, put in fastest lap after fastest lap to finish second, only five seconds off the win, with Schlosser/Fries taking third.

Among all this, Kershaw knew what he had to do and carved forward on lap one from 12th to fourth, right on the heels of Paivarinta, who started dropping back from lap two – letting the Borderers through to third, with one hand on the bronze medal.

The Kershaw pit crew was doing a rain dance but, by lap 11, the track was drying and their wet tyres slowly – and agonisingly – disintegrated.

Paivarinta, almost 10 seconds back in fifth with seven laps to go, sniffed an opportunity and used the faster crews coming through to slipstream his way back on to Kershaw’s rear wheel with a lap to go.

Unable to stop the outfit sliding, Steve and Ryan had to watch the Finn motor past on the last lap and hand the glory back, by a mere two seconds across the line.

So the Scottish warriors were down but not despondent, ending the year fourth overall with a race win and several podiums – and keen for more next year.

Kershw said: “It was not to be. We gave it everything but the wet tyres didn’t hold out on the dry track.

Fourth in the world by six points is disappointing but we’ve already got plans to improve the package for 2022.”

Charlwood added: “What a year it’s been, some of the best racing I’ve ever been involved with. Thanks to all the Kershaw crew, our sponsors and the fans who’ve been there to see it.”