Drier weather and sunnier skies signals spring and the start of Bemsee’s 2020 season. Despite months of what seems like constant rain, Brands Hatch provided a relative oasis on 7-8 March, as a mostly dry and bright(ish) weekend played host to the opening Bemsee round of 2020.
Reactive Parts.com MRO Powerbikes and MSS Performance Clubman 1000 Three winners from three races signalled the start of what is set to be another enthralling. Reactive Parts.com MRO Powerbike Championship, with Anthony Johnson, Bob Collins, and Peter Baker all tasting victory.
2018 champion Johnson started the weekend strongly, qualifying on pole by six tenths of a second, before going on to win race one by a comfortable six and half seconds.
Despite starting from the head of the front row ‘AJ’ completed the first circulation in fourth, almost a second down on early race leader Phillip Baker. A series of passes in the next two laps, however, promoted him to the race lead at the end of lap four. Showcasing the dominance that landed him on pole, he steadily pulled away on his Technical Lifting Services BMW S1000RR to take victory.
Mark Bridger qualified fourth quickest but dropped to seventh on lap one, yet he, too, was able to cut through the field in front to finish second, while Collins’ race-long podium battle ended with him on the bottom step of the podium. Three seconds covered positions fourth to 10th. Luke Dixon, as the final point-scorer, claimed the MSS Performance Clubman win.
A wet start to Sunday meant a drying track for the second 14-lap race around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit, conditions Johnson never got comfortable with, as he came home in 11th.
At the front, Collins, Bridger, and Peter Baker were duking it out, before a red flag brought an end to proceedings a lap early. Collins was the victor, with Baker second after a yellow flag infringement dropped Bridger to third. Ryan Warrington’s excellent fifth made him the Clubman class winner.
In the final race the venerable Peter Baker claimed his first win of the season, to paddockwide recognition. The Dodfrey Engineering Kawasaki rider turns 61 this year.
After hitting the front on lap four, he pulled away to win by nearly eight seconds, with Max Morgan second and Bridger third. Johnson and Collins finished fourth and fifth. Ninth for Warrington gave him another Clubman win.
In the four Rookie 1000 class races, Kenny Fretwell took a hat-trick of wins, with the other victory going to Tony Fountain.
Team Respro MRO600 and Clubman 600 and BMCRC Rookie 600
A Chris Burrage double kicked off this year’s MRO600 championship, with reigning champion Michael Mills and Dawid Krawiecki also picking up wins. Mills - running the number one plate aboard his A51 Racing Yamaha R6 - qualified fastest and led the opening racing laps of 2020, but it wasn’t long before Burrage was past and pulling away at the front.
On his familiar Seton Tuning Yamaha, he won by four seconds ahead of Mills and Krawiecki, making it an all-Yamaha podium.
Charlie Stone’s eighth place gave him the Clubman win, just in front of fellow Clubman and 2019 Rookie 600 champion Cedric Bloch.
As Burrage made it two-from-two, it was a repeat podium in the second race, as he was again joined by Mills and Krawiecki on the rostrum. Bloch got the better of Stone for eighth to snatch the Clubman honours by two tenths of a second.
A wet opener on Sunday didn’t phase the front three that dominated Saturday’s races, and it was the same trio on the podium again as the race was brought to a premature end as Lee Ellis crashed out.
Burrage led for the first half of the race before Krawiecki passed him and pulled a three second gap. Mills raced to a lonely third place but added another podium finish to his weekend’s haul. Block finished fifth to take another Clubman win.
Dry asphalt for the final race gave Mills another opportunity to get his first win of 2020, and he did it in style after leading from start to finish. He pulled out an advantage of 1.3 seconds on the opening lap, stretching it to seven and a half seconds by the time he took the chequered flag.
Behind, Burrage and Harry Fowle battled all the way to the line, the gap between them three tenths of a second as they completed the podium. Krawiecki’s early podium fight waned and he finished sixth, behind Bloch and Stone, who’s fourth and fifth gave them another one-two in the Clubman class.
In the Rookie 600 class Jason Mariette took three wins, with a best finish of seventh. Phillip Storrow took the other class victory.
ACU Team Green Junior Cup and Senior 300
After missing out on last year’s championship at the final round, Lewis Jones got his 2020 ACU Team Green Junior Cup assault off to a nearly perfect start, qualifying on pole and winning two races outright. He missed out on two overall race wins on Sunday, but was still the highest place junior rider, finishing second to Joe Thomas.
Jones set pole by over a second and won race one after leading every lap. Cameron Brown and Mikey Hardie were tied together in second and third, with six hundredths of a second the difference between them at the chequered flag. Thomas finished fifth to win the Senior 300 class race.
Jones and Thomas won their respective subclasses again in race two, with Jones the overall victor and Thomas second. Brown was back on the podium in third, the result never really in doubt as all three held position for much of the race.
The damp start to Sunday steadied the pace in race three, but it was again Thomas, Jones, and Brown who filled the podium positions, this time with Senior 300 runner Thomas taking the spoils, before a dry race four ended the same way. However, with Brown just a tenth behind fellow Junior Cup rider at the chequered flag, his first win is just around the corner.
Properly Protected MRO Minitwins
David Twyford and Dan Harris took a brace of victories apiece as the ProperlyProtected MRO Minitwins got their 2020 season underway. Twyford qualified quickest, and was joined on the front row by Paul Witherington and Harris.
The final classification showed Twyford took victory by just half a second, as just one and a half seconds covered the top-six, but despite the pressure from behind he led every lap of the 10-lap opener.
Matt Wetherell claimed second, holding off John Reynolds (not that one), while Craig Henstock finished an impressive 10th to take the Rookie win.
It was a similarly tight podium in race two, and again Twyford was the victor, this time after stalking Wetherell for the bulk of the laps. The eventual runner-up led until the final lap but couldn't stop Twyford doubling his win tally.
Russell Taylor completed the podium and Henstock took another Rookie win in 13th. In contrast to the close racing of Saturday, Sunday’s wet start saw Harris check-out at the front and win by nearly 17 seconds, dominating the rest of the field on his HP Racing SV650.
Behind, however, a six-way podium battle ended with Wetherell taking another runner-up finish, as he crossed the line ahead of Paul Witherington. Alex Mann best conquered the tricky conditions to win the Rookie class in 10th.
Harris was again victorious in the final outing, as this time Witherington and Wetherell duked it out for the runner-up spot. It ended with Witherington claiming second, but Wetherell was denied a clean sweep of podium finishes after being slapped with a 10-second jump start penalty. Demoted to fifth, it gave Reynolds another trophy. Another 10th gave Mann the Rookie victory.
RKB-F1 and F2 sidecars
Despite a pole position for the F1 outfit of Andy Peach and Ken Edwards, all four of the RKB-F1 and F2 sidecar races were won by a 600cc machine.
Race one saw the F2 pairing of John Holden and Lee Cain do battle with the pole-sitters, the lead chopping and changing. However, with Peach and Edwards retiring two laps from the end, it ended with Holden and Cain taking the flag a quarter of a minute up on Harry Payne and Olly Lace, and Tim Reeves and Jodie James, making it an all-F2 podium.
The F1 class victory went to George Holden and Oscar Lawrence in sixth. The Holden and Cain duo doubled up in race two, as Peach and Edwards grabbed second and the 1000cc victory. Payne and Lace completed the podium as runners-up in the F2 class.
Peach and Edwards were pipped to the victory in Sunday’s wet race, this time by the F2 runners of Reeves and James, with third going to Holden and Cain.
After three relatively processional races, the fourth and final race of the weekend came to life, with the podium covered by less than two seconds. Reeves and James looked to have done enough after pulling away at the front, but as the race wore on their lead was eroded. Add in a mistake and all of a sudden the pressure was on.
They dropped to third, and then to fifth, as all the time Alan Schofield and Matthew Rostrom went the other way through the field, climbing from seventh to take the win. Matthew Dix and Shaun Parker finished second, with third and the F1 win going to Peach and Edwards.
DFDS Yamaha Past Masters
Peter Branton looked set to dominate the weekend’s DFDS Yamaha Past Masters action, after qualifying on pole by a second and storming to victory in both of Saturday’s races.
However, mechanical gremlins reared their heads on Sunday, forcing the former champion to miss the day’s first race and retire on the first lap of the weekend’s fourth race, leaving Scott Carson to take two wins.
Scott Grant enjoyed a successful weekend, taking a quartet of runner-up finishes. He finished second, twice, to Branton on Saturday, beating Peter Moore to the position on each occasion.
He was second again in Sunday’s wet opener, unable to match Carson’s pace at the front. Andrew Burscough completed the podium. Carson bagged his second win of the weekend in the final race, as Grant again claimed second with Moore back on the podium in third.
EDIasia Formula 400
It was a cleansweep and dominant start to the year in the EDIasia Formula 400 class for Chris Burrage, as he converted pole position into four race wins over the weekend.
The Seton Tuning Kawasaki-mounted rider beat last year’s runner-up Andy Gill in race one by six seconds. Gill himself was a further 10 seconds up the road from a tight battle for the final spot on the podium.
Mathew Scott and Dan Ruth were locked together throughout the 10-lap race, swapping position readily. In the end it was Scot who got the better of Ruth, the run to the line deciding the result by 17 thousandths of a second. Carl Johnstone finished seventh and took the Sub-64bhp class win.
Burrage and Gill were again running one and two in the second race, but Gill retired at the halfway stage. That left Ruth to take second and Scott to collect third. The Sub-64bhp win went to Geoff Mook in sixth aboard a Yamaha TZR250.
Burrage’s domination looked to be challenged on Sunday, as Gill hit the front on lap three, only to retire a lap later. Ruth picked up the baton dropped by Gill and pushed Burrage all the way, but the double race-winner added a third to his weekend’s tally.
Ruth was second on his Yamaha FZR400RR SP, Scott third, while the Sub-64bhp class spoils went to Sam Digby-Baker in seventh.
The final race saw Burrage and Gill again locked together at the front, with Gill taking his turn at leading the way. Burrage would go on to win, but Gill chased him until the final lap.
Starting with a deficit of three tenths, he pushed hard to bridge the gap but a mistake cost him time and he settled for second. Scott finished third as Ruth crashed out early, as Mook took the Sub-64bhp win in eighth.
Chilton Motors BMZRC 250
Pole position and four wins gave Peter Woodall the perfect start to his Chilton Motors BMZRC 250 championship campaign at Brands Hatch.
Each of Woodall’s wins came ahead of Andrew Wales, with both of Saturday’s victories decided by just a tenth of a second. Chris Kent took a brace of third place finishes from the day’s races.
Woodall’s wins came in slightly more comfortable fashion on Sunday, although not by much. He bettered Wales by two and a half seconds in the end in the first race, while John Ashmead took a distant third. The winning margin was one and a half seconds in the final outing, with Ashmead again third, nearly 20 seconds down on the leading duo.
G-Force Motorcycles Blue Haze GP
The opening round of the G-Force Motorcycles Blue Haze GP saw Phil Atkinson convert pole into two wins on Saturday, but his absence from Sunday’s action allowed Mark Whiting and Rik Ballerini to score a victory apiece.
Race one and Atkinson led from start-to-finish, pulling out a near-13 second advantage, while behind Phil Ellis progressed from fourth to second in the opening stages before easing away from the group behind, where a battle raged for the final podium spot.
John Hogg edged it, as less than half a second separated him from Ballerini and Liam McCarter. Scott Grant’s seventh gave him the GPF production class win. Atkinson’s second victory was another start-to-finish affair, while four riders battled it out for second place. Starting the last lap just one second covered the quartet, but an eventful last go around the Brands Indy circuit ended with Ballerini runner-up, two seconds up on Ellis and McCarter, with Whiting nearly two seconds back again, just ahead of GPF winner Grant. Race three was a wet 8-lapper, with Whiting untouchable at the front, as he took a commanding win. Ellis was second, half a second up on Grant who climbed the overall podium in third, taking the GPF win in the process.
A thrilling final race was decided by two tenths of a second in the end. Despite Ballerini leading the majority of the race, it was never a sure thing, as Whiting pushed him all the way, with Grant giving chase in third, the order it would finish.
Steve Jordan Motorcycle BMCRC Thunderbike Sport
After setting the fastest time in qualifying by 1.3 seconds, Jak Sim stormed to four race victories in the opening round the BMCRC Thunderbike Sport championship. He led every lap of every race.
Elliot Fricker was twice second on Saturday, with Edward Watson and Cedric Bloch taking a bronze medal finish each.
Watson improved to second on Sunday morning, finishing ahead of Richard Harris in the third race of the weekend. He was then third in the final outing, with Bloch second.
Steve Jordan Motorcycles Thunderbike Extreme and Ultra
The popular Thunderbike Extreme and Thunderbike Sport classes were again inundated with entries, with riders each taking part in four of six races over the course of the weekend.
On the combined qualifying times Ritchie Thornton was at the top onboard his Ultra class Team 71 Kawasaki ZX-7R, and won his first race ahead of Andrew Saunders and Jak Sim, the pair first and second in the Extreme class.
Sim and Saunders reversed positions in their second outing, Sim winning by three seconds as Saunders fended off David May for the runner-up spot.
The second Ultra outing of the weekend saw Team Ruby Racing’s Jamie Thomas win on his Suzuki GSX-R1000. It was an all Suzuki podium, with Mark Wilby second and James Fearn third.
Saunders and Sim renewed their tussle in the next combined outing, chopping and changing position at the front. Saunders claimed victory by two tenths of a second. Third went to the Ultra class winner, Wilby.
After missing out by the narrowest of margins in Saturday’s second race, Sim stormed to victory on a drying track on Sunday morning, leaving Saunders to take a lonely second place, with May coming out on top in his battle with Derek Cripps for third.
Thornton, after the success of race one, finally returned to winning form in the final Ultra class race, winning comfortably from Matt Hinnells and Jamie Thomas.