Words – Tim Langham
Photographs – Dirk Wharton & Jenny Wells
Lee Crawford and Scott Hardie of Team A.R.C. have had an absolutely faultless start to their 2021 racing campaign, topping the timesheets in all qualifying sessions, and being first to pass the chequered flag in dominant fashion in their nine races to date. They hold an impressive 28 point advantage at the top of the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship following the second round at Donington Park.
There was a late start for pre-season testing owing to regulations and restrictions regarding the ongoing global pandemic. With overnight stays not permitted at any events prior to the opening round of the British F2 Championship, the only suitable event was a club meeting at Darley Moor, which was contested on Sunday 4th April. Qualifying just 0.1s clear of the up and coming F600 team of George Holden / Oscar Lawrence, Team A.R.C. made no mistake winning both races – the first by a margin of 7.5s, and the second by almost 40s, with useful testing data acquired.
A fortnight later the long trip south for the Anglo-Scots pairing took them to Brands Hatch, which was to be their first outing on the “Indy” configuration of the Kent circuit. Friday practice went without issue in unseasonably warm sunshine, and they went on to top the Saturday free practice, before taking pole position with a qualifying time of 50.778s – 0.1s under the Birchall Brothers twelve-year standing record, but as always, records are only classed as official if set in race condtions.
Lee and Scott took a convincing lights to flag victory in the opening race, pulling out a gap of approximately one second a lap, before easing their pace in the latter stages to come home 10.6s clear of Sean Hegarty / James Neave. Race two saw Team A.R.C. achieve their second win of the weekend, again over Hegarty / Neave, despite having to come from a starting position of sixth owing to the “reverse grid” format for the top six finishers in race one. Despite setting the fastest lap in both races, the official record evaded Team A.R.C. in race trim, although they do have the consolation of holding the longer Brands Hatch G.P. circuit record, which they set last October.
Team A.R.C. had a four week lay off before travelling to Donington Park for the second round of the British Championship – an event with a full grid of thirty crews including several “wild-card” teams, including multi World Champion Tim Reeves, with Kevin Rousseau; and the 2019 RKB-F1 Champion Todd Ellis, partnered by Phil Hyde to name just two top pairings who would be vying for the wins, and the prestigious “Bill Boddice Trophy” on a weekend which promised unpredictable weather.
This meeting was to prove extremely fruitful, but did not go without one or two eventful moments for the team. In opening practice, held on a drying track, Lee and Scott opted for a mixture of wets with a rear slick – yielding a surprise second position in the final standings, as both driver and passenger had to fight the outfit all the way round, with a huge spin at Hollywood early in the session being a particular concern!
As teams assembled for qualifying, all on slick tyres, it was evident the skies were quickly darkening, and the temperature dropping. Rain began to fall steadily as the session got underway. However, forward thinking from Team A.R.C. had seen their crew take a full set of wet tyres to pitlane, and a very fast pitstop following the “out-lap” saw the team return to the circuit with ten minutes remaining, and Lee and Scott quickly put the hammer down, going nearly seven seconds clear at the top of the standings. Whilst the track was drying in the latter stages and coming back to those on slicks, pole position was secured by over 3.6s from Ellis / Hyde.
A light shower of rain ten minutes before the race did little to ease nerves, but certainly there was no disputing the decision to run with slick tyres, which was to pay dividends. Team A.R.C. took an immaculate victory, controlling the race as soon as the start lights went out. By the seventh circulation, they had a lead of fifteen seconds, having broken the lap record no less than three times, improving to a time of 1.13.673 – 0.5s under the previous benchmark. Lee and Scott eased their pace in the dying stages to take a winning margin of 6.5s over runners-up Alan Founds / Jake Lowther, to land the “Bill Boddice Trophy”.
The final race of the weekend saw Team A.R.C. start in sixth, and they eased through the field to take charge at the end of lap four, quickly establishing a lead. However, an incident involving three outfits further down the order brought out the red flags at the beginning of lap seven, and a result was declared, with Lee and Scott taking another victory, this time over Harry Payne / Emmannuelle Clement.
A short turnaround saw the first visit of the year to Oliver’s Mount (Scarborough) on the following weekend. 2021 looks like being a year of few opportunities for sidecar teams to race on the road circuits, with the T.T. and Southern 100 both postponed for a further year due to the pandemic. A full grid of sidecars were in attendance, and Team A.R.C. were looking to build on their performance at the previous season’s “Gold Cup” meeting, where they took a clean sweep of wins, and put in a laptime of 1.54.225 to become the third fastest team ever around the North Yorkshire parkland track.
Qualifying quickest, with a time of 1.54.959 – an advantage of over 6.3s clear of the next best, set a precedence for the weekend, with domination in all three races. Team A.R.C.’s winning advantage was just short of 27s in race one over Steve and Matty Ramsden. In race two, Lee and Scott were second into Mere Hairpin behind the Ramsdens, but were able to pass them on the approach to Mount Hairpin to take control. As they charged to the win, opening a margin of over sixteen seconds, Team A.R.C. became only the second sidecar team to lap under the 1.54.000 barrier, with a time of 1.53.792 – which was to prove their best of the weekend. Again in race three, the Ramsdens got the holeshot, but Lee and Scott found a way through on lap two to take the win by 7 seconds in a shortened four lap outing.
Lee and Scott are always quick to pay tribute to their hard-working support team who assist both at race meetings, and with machine preparation. The ongoing help of all those providing sponsorship in many forms is of course of utmost importance to the team, and thanks go to (in no particular order): A.R.C. Newton Aycliffe / Binchester; Saunders Complete Waste Management; Marin Motorsport; Pagid; P.G. Legal; K.C. Computer Repairs; Leeds Parcel Company; B.D.S. Motorcycles; Miller Composite Moulds; Exhaust Mania; M.H. Engineering; S.J.H. Bodyworks; A.F. Engineering; Christie Engineering Services; Hegarty Plant Ltd; Walker Tyres and MOTUL UK.
The main focus as the season goes forward will be to continue to achieve results to build on and consolidate the enviable position the team holds in the British F2 Sidecar Championship. The next outing indeed will be round three of the series, due to be held at Anglesey Circuit over the weekend of the 26th and 27th June (subject to Covid restrictions being lifted in Wales by this time). Wherever possible, events at Oliver’s Mount will be contested, along with selected rounds of the Molson British F1 Sidecar Championship held alongside the B.S.B. series.