Words – Tim Langham (F.S.R.A. Press Officer) / Photographs – Dirk Wharton
Two months on from the last event of the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship, Mallory Park played host to the third round of this year’s series. Initially, this was expected to be round five, but with Covid restrictions seeing the postponement of the Knockhill round until September, and with Anglesey cancelled altogether last month, this has seen the calendar reduced to seven meetings in total.
Saturday was dry and humid throughout – at least determining there would be no gambling on tyre choice – as had been the case at Donington Park in May. A full grid of twenty four registered teams lined up for qualifying, with several “wild cards” choosing to decline the offer of a place as a reserve in the build up to the meeting.
Championship leaders Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki) quickly set the initial pace, and were lapping in the high 55s margin. However, four-time champions Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley (LCR Honda) were in determined form and topped the leaderboard half way through the session, proving their switch to Honda power from Suzuki after several successful years was certainly not a mistake! Also in the mix were the charging F2 Cup pairing of Harry Payne / Mark Wilkes (GP Yamaha), who briefly relegated Crawford / Hardie to third, putting in a time of just 0.026s in arrears of Founds / Walmsley with eight minutes remaining. However, as qualifying drew to a close, Crawford / Hardie went fastest, with a time of 55.196s to take their third pole position placing in as many events, just 0.139s their advantage over Founds / Walmsley, with Payne / Wilkes only another 0.1s back in third.
Alan Founds / Jake Lowther (LCR Yamaha) were fourth fastest, having run an engine in during morning practice, and they were over a second clear of Rob Atkinson / Mark Middleton (Bellas Suzuki), who were to start fifth overall and the second fastest of the F2 Cup campaigners. Conrad Harrison / Andy Winkle (Bellas Honda) completed the top six, whilst the third fastest of the F2 Cup teams – Brian Ilaria / Matthew Sims (DDM Suzuki) completed qualifying in eleventh overall.
Race one got underway just before 2.30pm, with both front row starters making an excellent getaway, running side by side into Gerards – Founds / Walmsley were unable to make the inside line work to their benefit, yielding to the pole sitters Crawford / Hardie. Similarly, both Payne / Wilkes and Founds / Lowther made clean starts from the second row, and the four outfits at the head of the field were making a break from the remaining pack.
In the opening laps, there was little to separate any of the aforementioned four teams. Crawford / Hardie appeared strongest in the first sector, stretching a gap from the entry of Gerards to The Esses. However the other three pairings were particularly impressive through Devil’s Elbow and were able to make huge gains with increased exit speed onto the start and finish straight. Lap three in particular saw Founds / Walmsley; Founds / Lowther and most impressively Payne / Wilkes set their fastest laps of the race. Indeed, Payne / Wilkes set a new F2 Cup lap record in a time of 55.196s – taking almost a full second off Tony Elmer / Darren Marshall’s sixteen-year standing time!
Crawford / Hardie reacted with their fastest lap of Mallory Park to date on lap four, and indeed what was to be the quickest time of the weekend – 55.068s – in a bid to try to make a break from the three outfits hounding them. However, there was no respite for the leaders, although it was Payne / Wilkes who were making the biggest headway, moving through to second, less than 0.2s at the end of lap seven, with Founds / Walmsley in close company, while Founds / Lowther had lost a little momentum, and were running fourth, around three seconds further back.
Harrison / Winkle had settled into a safe fifth place, and were easing away from Atkinson / Middleton who had Wayne Lockey / Mark Sayers (LCR Honda) in close company on the road. John Lowther / Matthew Rostron (LCR Yamaha) were enduring another frustrating outing, having been plagued with overheating problems this season, and were suffering similar issues in the race. Gary Horspole / Kenny Cole (Shelbourne Honda) were having another strong showing on their older carburretted motors, running inside the top ten, whilst Roger & Bradley Stockton (LCR Suzuki) were heading the charge for the final F2 Cup podium slot from Chris Schofield / Shane Colbrook (Baker Honda); Bruce Moore / Amy Dodd (Ireson Honda) and David Schofield / Guy Pawsey (Windle Suzuki).
Unfortunately, Ilaria / Sims had an unpleasant looking incident on the approach to Edwina’s on the seventh lap, which saw the machine upside down. Thankfully upon visiting the medical centre, whilst shaken, both were relatively unscathed. This brought out the red flag, and a six lap restart declared.
Founds / Walmsley took the initiative from Crawford / Hardie this time around, with Founds / Lowther slotting into third. Payne / Wilkes were again running strongly in fourth. On lap two, Founds / Lowther had taken the lead, from Founds / Walmsley, with Crawford / Hardie third. At The Hairpin, Crawford / Hardie made a move through to second, but their back wheel was struck by another machine, and they were forced out wide and had a struggle to get their outfit back on circuit as they looked to recover. Unfortunately, they were deemed to be in a dangerous position, and the red flags were brought out again, with Founds / Lowther leading from Payne / Wilkes and Founds / Walmsley.
There then followed a veil of confusion for some time, and with no option of another re-run due to time constraints, and the result of a combined aggregate being declared invalid due to incorrect grid positions in the re-start, the results were taken from the first “red flagged” outing. The Super F2 top three were: Crawford / Hardie; Payne / Wilkes and Founds / Walmsley, whilst the F2 Cup podium consisted of Payne / Wilkes; Atkinson / Middleton and The Stocktons.
As ever, race two on Sunday saw the top six finishers in race one line up in “reverse order”, with Atkinson / Middleton on pole. A clean start for the capacity grid saw fourth placed starters Founds / Walmsley quickly take control at the front from Harrison / Winkle. Crawford / Hardie moved to third, with Founds / Lowther and Payne / Wilkes both snapping at their heels at the end of lap one.
Founds / Walmsley were setting a fast pace as they established a lead of about 1.5s from Crawford / Hardie, setting the fastest lap of the race on their fourth circulation in a time of 55.085s. Founds / Lowther were in turn a similar distance behind the second placed team as they fought doggedly with Payne / Wilkes.
However, there was drama on lap six, as Founds / Walmsley crossed the line with a lead of around three seconds over team-mates Founds / Lowther. It appeared Crawford / Hardie were out of contention – however – an issue with the clutch as they exited The Hairpin saw the machine stall, refusing to fire up on the starter motor. Hardie managed to push the outfit back into life, and dropping to the back of the field, losing around thirty five seconds they set off in an attempt to salvage some points.
Race two became something of a battle of attrition as much as anything else. Charlie Morphet / Paul Halliburton (LCR Suzuki) entered the paddock after the warm up lap, whilst series returnees Dean & Ben Dickinson (Baker Suzuki) were forced out after lap one. Lockey / Sayers retired on lap five, while lap six saw Shaun & Ben Chandler (Baker Honda) return to pitlane, and also the frustration continued for Lowther / Rostron on the same lap as they continued to face their gremlins. Harrison / Winkle were also consigned to the list of non-finishers on lap seven, with Andy ejected from the platform at Edwina’s. Steve & Matty Ramsden suffered a blown engine on lap ten whilst running fifth, and Atkinson / Middleton who had also been running strongly went out at the same time with overheating issues.
Founds / Walmsley continued to lead the race in a controlled manner, whilst Founds / Lowther were battling closely with Payne / Wilkes all the way to the chequered flag, the teams finishing in this order, with just 0.137s between second and third in a close, clean and fair battle which had kept the crowd well-entertained.
A remarkable surge through the field saw Crawford / Hardie up into the top six, eventually passing Horspole / Cole on lap thirteen to move into fourth and take home a well-deserved thirteen points to keep their championship aspirations on a steady course. On their newly acquired ex-Sean Hegarty outfit, Schofield / Colbrook took a fine sixth place overall, and second in the F2 Cup, whilst The Stocktons were seventh, and took yet another third place in the F2 Cup – their fifth such position in as many starts!
The F.S.R.A. would, as always like to acknowledge 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.
The next round of the championship is scheduled for the weekend of the 7th and 8th August at Cadwell Park, for the “International Sidecar Revival”. 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