Words – Tim Langham Photographs – Paul Deighton
Croft Circuit served up some first class racing over the weekend of the 5th and 6th September, with a full grid of sidecars ranging from classic to F600, with a number of the top teams in the U.K. in attendance.
Qualifying saw Team A.R.C.’s Lee Crawford & Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki) ease out a margin of over three seconds over fellow F2 team Lewis Blackstock & Paddy Rosney (LCR Honda) at the top of the timesheet. World Championship runners Rupert Archer & Ben Chandler (LCR Yamaha) were a further half second in arrears, ahead of Conrad Harrison & Andy Winkle (Bellas Honda).
Todd Ellis & Jevan Walmsley had paired up for this event – the current RKB-F1 championship winning driver and A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 championship winning passenger were competing aboard Gary Bryan’s F2 Baker Honda outfit, setting the fifth fastest time. They were set to share the third row of the grid with Bryan, who along with Charlie Richardson, were sixth, racing the F600 LCR Honda machine usually campaigned by Ellis & Richardson at British Championship level.
Further down the order were a number of front exit classic sidecars, the fastest of which was the father and son pairing of Adrian & Bob Dawson, just ahead of Tony Thirkell & Trevor Johnson. Both teams aboard MRE BMW outfits.
Race one got underway in reasonably pleasant conditions. Crawford & Hardie looked set for a routine win as they led by over three seconds from Harrison & Winkle at the end of the opening lap. However, they were forced out at Tower on lap two with an ignition problem.
Blackstock & Rosney moved into the lead shortly after, and unfortunately they too were sidelined at half distance, having just set the fastest lap. A mechanical failure was to blame, putting a premature end to their weekend.
This left an enthralling three-way scrap between the F600 outfits of Bryan & Richardson and Archer & Chandler with the F2 of Ellis & Walmsley to go all the way to the chequered flag.
While it looked like Bryan & Richardson were set to take the opening honours, a bold move in The Complex from Ellis & Walmsley saw the F2 team take a slender win, with Archer & Chandler completing the podium.
F.S.R.A. regulars Harrison & Winkle, Michael Kirkup & Arlo Brown (LCR Suzuki) and Richard Hackney & Dave Ryder (CES Suzuki) rounded out the top six.
The classic honours were taken by Thirkell & Johnson, who passed the Dawsons on lap three, with the twin-engined Weslake of Andy Nourish & Rob Child placing third.
Crawford & Hardie dominated race two, breaking the lap record on lap three with a time of 1:27.604. They eased their pace in the latter stages to come home 4.7 seconds clear of Ellis & Walmsley, with Bryan & Richardson taking third. Archer & Chandler were unable to put up a fight this time around, forced into an early retirement with a clutch problem.
Harrison & Winkle had a lonely ride to fourth place, seven seconds clear of Steve & Matty Ramsden (LCR Honda), while Kirkup & Brown were a further five seconds back in sixth place. In the classic section, the Dawsons were forced out on the warm up lap with a front wheel bearing failure, leaving Thirkell & Johnson to ease to their second win of the day from David Lissaman & Mark Leeton (JPR BMW) and Nourish & Child.
Less settled weather was promised on Sunday, and this was duly delivered! The opening sidecar race got underway on a greasy track, with rain worsening from half distance. Despite the handicap of the conditions, lap times at the front were hugely impressive, and while Crawford & Hardie led throughout, they were pushed all the way to the chequered flag by the charging Ellis & Walmsley.
There was a significant 35 second gap to Harrison & Winkle, who came home third, ahead of the long outfits of Archer & Chandler and Bryan & Richardson – who crossed the line a mere 0.1 second apart, with the Ramsdens taking sixth, having pulled clear of Kirkup & Brown after passing them at half distance.
Sadly, the Dawsons and Nourish & Child suffered mechanical failures to put them out of contention for the remainder of the weekend, with Thirkell & Johnson and Lissaman & Leeton the sole finishers in the classics.
A twenty minute deluge of heavy rain shortly after race one saw a number of teams make the decision to end their weekend early – with several of the F2 campaigners having only a short period to prepare their machines for the Gold Cup meeting at Oliver’s Mount which gets underway this Friday (11th September).
In the final race of the weekend, and on a wet track, Ellis & Walmsley took a dominant win over Archer & Chandler, with Bryan & Richardson taking third. John & James Saunders (Shelbourne Suzuki) took fourth from the F600 team of Michael Bell & Graeme Banfield (LCR Yamaha) – Banfield had been making his passengering debut over this weekend, and impressed throughout. Michael Boak & Jack Laidlow (Baker Honda) were sixth, with the first classic outfit of Thirkell & Johnson placing seventh, ahead of Dave Tibbles & Raitch Greenwood (FJ Yamaha), Lissaman & Leeton, and the finishing order completed by Steve Brooks & Sharon Reeves (ALM Honda).
Long-time sidecar supporter and former competitor, Wyn Wiltshire once again donated £100 in the annual “Pot Of Gold” prize draw, in which all sidecar teams were entered. The lucky recipients were Chris Schofield & Adam Nix.
Thanks as always to Wyn for his generosity in making this gesture, which is always gratefully received by the winners!
The F.S.R.A. appreciates the efforts of all competitors and teams who supported this unique event – there was some excellent car and motorcycle races also held at this meeting, and despite being held with the absence of spectators, there was still a great atmosphere in the paddock.
Thanks to all officials, marshals and other volunteers from the D.D.M.C. and N.E.M.C.R.C. for all their efforts in running a hugely successful and enjoyable event.