The 2021 A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship (Incorporating The F2 Cup)
Round Two – Donington Park – N.G.R.R.C. – Saturday 15th & Sunday 16th May
Words – Tim Langham / Photographs – Dirk Wharton
There were spectacular double wins in both the Super F2 and F2 Cup classes at the second round of the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship. Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki) continued their dominant form, taking pole, two wins and the Super F2 lap record, and were presented with the prestigious “Bill Boddice Trophy” for their performance in race one. Meanwhile, Harry Payne / Emmanunnelle Clement (GPF2 Yamaha) were runaway winners in the F2 Cup, taking the class lap record – which had stood for exactly a decade!
Whilst the threat of torrential rain had been a potential concern ahead of this event at Donington Park, the weather was in fact changeable throughout, with track conditions challenging – leading to some exciting, racing for the capacity grid of thirty teams in attendance.
The Saturday free practice was something of a lottery, on a drying track, and proved more favourable for those running slick tyres. Alan Founds / Jake Lowther (LCR Yamaha) set the fastest time, whilst Crawford / Hardie survived a fast spin at Hollywood as their combination of wets and slicks proved a bit of a handful.
Qualifying proved to be a different story in terms of tyre choice – drizzle turned to steady rain as the outfits assembled, and were duly flagged onto the circuit. All machines were fitted with slick tyres, and with spray and mist hanging in the air, it was obvious this was the incorrect choice. As the pack of outfits flew past the startline at the end of the “out lap”, Crawford / Hardie peeled into pit lane, their crew having taken a set of wets, and they immediately set about an impromptu pit-stop.
On circuit, lap times were starting to come in, and setting the initial pace was the reigning world champion Tim Reeves with Kevin Rousseau (LCR Yamaha), who were wild-card entrants, with Founds / Lowther and another wild-card pairing Todd Ellis / Phil Hyde (Baker Honda) all contesting the top three keenly. Also in the thick of the action were four-times British F2 Champions Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley (LCR Rowtec) who were having their first outing on a new machine; Sean Hegarty / James Neave (Baker Honda); Payne / Clement and yet another wild-card entry – Lewis Blackstock / Patrick Rosney (LCR Honda).
An impressive two and a half minutes later, Crawford / Hardie were back on circuit, and their first flying lap was almost six seconds faster than the next best. Whilst their margin at the end of the session was narrowed to 3.6 seconds on a drying track, they held on to take their second consecutive British Championship pole position. Ellis / Hyde leapfrogged Reeves / Rousseau in the dying stages, to secure a front row start, while the top six was completed by Founds / Lowther; Founds / Walmsley and Blackstock / Rosney. Seventh overall, and first of the F2 Cup runners were Payne / Clement, with Brian Ilaria / Matt Simms (DDM Suzuki) second in class and Chris Schofield / Shane Colbroke (Ireson Honda) third.
Race one was held mid-afternoon on Saturday, and again while there had been a slight drizzle shortly before the outfits were under orders, most crews were on slicks. Crawford / Hardie made their pole advantage count, and led the field into Redgate, with Founds / Lowther looking to the inside line, but Ellis / Hyde and Reeves / Rousseau filled out the top three as the pack streamed through the Craner Curves on the opening lap.
A brake problem halted the progress of wild-card team Dean Lindley / Arlo Brown (DMR Suzuki), as they retired on lap one. At the front, Crawford / Hardie had already stretched a lead of almost three seconds over the group of Reeves / Rousseau; Ellis / Hyde; / Founds / Lowther; Blackstock / Rosney; Founds / Walmsley; Payne / Clement and Hegarty / Neave, all of whom were looking to stake a claim for a podium place.
Close racing was taking place all the way down the field, and a four way battle was shaping up in the lower reaches of the top ten between John Lowther / Matthew Rostron (LCR Yamaha); Conrad Harrison / Andy Winkle (Bellas Honda); Steve and Matty Ramsden (LCR Honda) and the F2 Cup runners Rob Atkinson / Mark Middleton (Bellas Suzuki), with these teams all exchanging places on several occasions each lap.
While Crawford / Hardie continued to open an enviable buffer at the front, the battle for the remaining podium places unfortunately lost Reeves / Rousseau and Founds / Walmsley around half distance, with both teams suffering mechanical issues. They were joined on the retirements list by Nev Jones / James Saunders (LCR Suzuki); Richard Hackney / Dave Ryder (CES Suzuki); Paul Riley / Jody James (MRE Suzuki) and the Ramsdens – the latter crew suffering an overheating problem with their outfit being undergeared and revving highly whilst in a train of outfits.
Founds / Lowther were making a charge, and moved through to second at the expense of Ellis / Hyde, with Blackstock / Rosney around a second back, looking to capitalise on any mistake. Crawford / Hardie had eased to a lead of almost fifteen seconds at the front, having broken the lap record no less than three times, and slowed their pace to come home 6.5 seconds clear of second placed Founds / Lowther at the chequered flag, with Ellis / Hyde; Blackstock / Rosney; Hegarty / Neave and Payne / Clement rounding out the top six.
In the F2 Cup, the win went to Payne / Clement, coming home around forty seconds in front of second placed Atkinson / Middleton. The father and son pairing of Roger and Bradley Stockton (LCR Suzuki) took third – their second podium in as many meetings. Mick Alton / Keith Brotherton (LCR Suzuki) were fourth, while Ilaria / Sims were fifth after losing ground with a spin on the final lap, with Bruce Moore / Amy Dodd (Ireson Honda) taking sixth.
Race two saw a “reverse grid” for the top six from race one, meaning Payne / Clement started from pole, with Hegarty / Neave alongside them. There was a clean start from all teams, getting round Redgate without issue, although there was immediate disappointment for Lowther / Rostron who feared they may have suffered a dropped valve at the start, and they retired to the paddock.
Blackstock / Rosney were pushing both front row starters, and took the initiative at the end of lap one. Founds / Lowther were up to fourth, with Crawford / Hardie and Ellis / Hyde in exceptionally close company. There was little under two seconds covering the top six crews who were locked in intense competition. Founds / Walmsley, having been non-finishers in race one were making a strong charge from the back of the grid, and were closing in on the top ten rapidly, whilst wild-cards Maria Costello / Vicky Cooke (LCR Kawasaki) retired to pitlane at the end of the opening lap.
Crawford / Hardie were on the move, and at the start of lap three had moved to fourth right in the wheel tracks of Founds / Lowther and Payne / Clement, with Blackstock / Rosney continuing to lead the way. Ellis / Hyde were in close company with Hegarty / Neave in fifth and sixth, but positions were changing frantically, and by lap four, Crawford / Hardie had hit the front and were beginning to ease away from Blackstock / Rosney who were coming under pressure from third placed Payne / Clement who shortly after took second on the road, breaking Dave Atkinson / Phil Knapton’s ten year old F2 Cup lap record in the process.
Further down the order, Atkinson / Middleton were circulating in a lonely second place in the F2 Cup, but were running in close company on the road with Harrison / Winkle, and Founds / Walmsley, who had now moved within striking distance of the top six. Once again, in a strong third in class were the Stocktons, who themselves were involved in a close race for track position with the Super F2 teams of Wayne Lockey / Mark Sayers (LCR Honda), the Ramsdens, Howard Baker / Mike Killingsworth (Shelbourne Honda) and fellow F2 Cup team Ilaria and Sims.
Unfortunately the outfit of Schofield / Colbrooke suffered a spin on lap five at Redgate, and was stuck in the middle of the circuit, with several outfits taking evasive action to avoid them. Hackney / Ryder were able to avoid hitting the stricken machine, but were in turn clipped by Lindley / Brown who had nowhere to go. With outfits in the gravel, and some damage to machinery (thankfully all competitors were relatively unscathed), there was no option other than to put out the red flag as the leaders completed their sixth lap.
As the race had gone over fifty percent of the starting distance, and with the meeting already running behind schedule following earlier delays, there was little chance of a re-run, so the result was declared. Crawford / Hardie once again took the win to continue their unbeaten start to 2021. Second overall and the first F2 Cup team were Payne / Clement. This was an outstanding result for both given this was their first event competing together, and indeed Emmanunnelle’s first ride on an F2 outfit! Ellis / Hyde moved ahead of Blackstock / Rosney to claim the final podium slot, with Hegarty / Neave fifth and the top six completed by Founds / Walmsley, who had made good progress through the field.
Atkinson / Middleton and the Stocktons filled out the F2 Cup podium in a repeat of Saturday’s result, while Ilaria / Sims; Schofield / Colbrooke and Alton / Brotherton completed the top six.
The F.S.R.A. would, as always like to offer our continued appreciation to the A.C.U. for their assistance and awarding the official “British Championship” title. Thanks also to our series sponsors: A.R.C. (Binchester / Newton Aycliffe); A.V. Craine & Son; Hegarty Plant Ltd; Leeds Parcel Company; Lockside Engineering; Pagid Racing (Breitenbach Rennsport); Rowtec Engineering Maintenance; and Whitby Cottages.
Finally, the F.S.R.A. would like to thank N.G.R.R.C. for hosting another well-organised and run meeting, extending to their dedicated staff, officials, marshals, medics and all the other volunteers involved in organising and conducting the event.
It is at this time when the organisation would usually be wishing our members competing at the Isle of Man T.T. Races a safe and successful campaign, however the pandemic has firmly put the Manx based events on the back burner – for 2021 at least. There now follows a break of six weeks until the third round of the championship, which will be held at Anglesey Circuit over the weekend of the 26th and 27th June. In the meantime, please keep up to date with F.S.R.A. news, including race reports and up to date championship points on the website – www.fsra.org.uk