Words – Tim Langham (F.S.R.A. Press Officer / Photos – Bryan Gough)
There was a memorable return for the first British F2 Sidecar Championship races to be held in Scotland for almost two decades. Knockhill served up some first-class racing, with new lap records achieved in both the Super F2 and Cup classes as the final placings were decided at the end of a fascinating season – which whilst disrupted by the “Covid-19” pandemic – was a credible six round series, featuring thirteen points scoring races.
Initially this meeting had been scheduled for the visit north of the border back in April, however, with restrictions still firmly in place, Knockhill kindly agreed to reschedule to this later September date. With the event also featuring a capacity grid of Scottish Championship and K.S.M.C. Sidecars, along with the prestigious “Jock Taylor Memorial Trophy” Sidecar Invitation race, this made for an excellent weekend – with one of the largest entries of sidecars at the circuit for many years.
Whilst the overall A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship had been won by Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki) at Croft a fortnight ago, and similarly the F2 Cup which went the way of Harry Payne / Mark Wilkes (GP Yamaha), both teams continued to support the series to its finale, and were in determined mood to end the season in style.
Two wild-card teams – Murray McKay / William Szanel (Baker Suzuki) and former regulars Tony Baker / Jack Laidlow (Baker Suzuki) – joined the fray as Saturday morning qualifying began.
Crawford / Hardie immediately topped the timesheets – at a circuit which they have repeatedly broken the lap record over the last few years – once again going under the benchmark with a time of 52.889s. John Lowther / Matthew Rostron (LCR Yamaha) were running strongly in the early stages as other teams continued to play “catch-up” learning the tight and technical undulating Fife circuit, although once again Payne / Wilkes were quickly on the front running pace, posting the second fastest time on their fourth circulation.
Unfortunately, as the session neared halfway there was an incident at The Hairpin involving Nev Jones / Mark Gash (LCR Suzuki). Medical assistance was on the scene almost as immediately as the red flags were put out, with both driver and passenger taken to hospital. Positive news has since been received via social media on a daily basis, and we wish both Nev and Mark the very best for full and speedy recoveries.
An additional medical incident involving a member of the public saw resources stretched to their limits, and the organisers had no option other than to postpone proceedings for just over three hours. Understandably, there was no scope to continue the qualifying session, so the grid for race one lined up as follows: 1 – Crawford / Hardie; 2 Payne / Wilkes (Cup-1st); 3 – Lowther / Rostron; 4 – Steve & Matty Ramsden (LCR Honda); 5 – Roger & Bradley Stockton (LCR Suzuki / Cup-2nd); 6 – Rob Atkinson / Mark Middleton (Bellas Suzuki / Cup-3rd); 7 – Gary Horspole / Kenny Cole (Baker Suzuki); 8 – Brian Ilaria / Matthew Sims (DDM Suzuki / Cup-4th); 9 – Richard Hackney / Dave Ryder (CES Suzuki / Cup-5th); 10 – Baker / Laidlow.
Crawford / Hardie and Payne / Wilkes made fast starts, and headed the pack as soon as the lights went out in race one. Lowther / Rostron were struggling perfecting their bike set up and lost some ground in the early stages with their machine going sideways, allowing the Ramsdens to settle into a reasonably comfortable third place on the road. A battle for fifth and sixth between the Stocktons and Atkinson / Middleton was shaping up to be an interesting fight all the way to the chequered flag, with these teams swapping places on numerous occasions in a thoroughly entertaining, close and clean contest.
Ilaria / Sims were having a close encounter on the road with Horspole / Cole – the latter crew having acquired an injected Baker Suzuki outfit, having contested the earlier rounds of the series on their trusty pre-injection Shelbourne Honda.
Knockhill lends itself to unpredictible, close racing, and this was no more evident than in the mid-pack battle between the F2 Cup teams. Chris Schofield / Shane Colbrook (Baker Honda); Bruce Moore / Amy Dodd (Ireson Honda); Hackney / Ryder; Baker / Laidlow and David Schofield / Guy Pawsey (Windle Suzuki) were all disputing the tarmac and places throughout – each lapping only 0.4s within one another.
Crawford / Hardie matched their qualifying time, and in doing so officially set a new lap record in a time of 52.986s on lap six. Similarly, Payne / Wilkes put in the fastest F2 Cup lap in a time of 54.305s on the sixteenth circulation, this too being a new record.
In the closing stages, Lowther / Rostron suffered a spin ruling them out of the running – in a race which had seen an excellent rate of attrition with no other retirements. Crawford / Hardie took the win by 17.8s from Payne / Wilkes (Cup-1st). The Ramsdens took third in an extremely lonely ride, ahead of the Stocktons (Cup-2nd), who were able to secure the runners-up slot in the F2 Cup Championship after a consistent campaign. Fifth were Atkinson / Middleton (Cup-3rd) followed home by: Horspole / Cole; Ilaria / Sims (Cup-4th); Schofield / Colbrook (Cup-5th); Hackney / Ryder (Cup-6th); with Baker / Laidlow completing the top ten.
With the top six finishers from Saturday lining up in reverse order for the start of race two, it was Atkinson / Middleton and Horspole / Cole who headed the charge on lap one. Payne / Wilkes had made a break from the third row and were challenging for the lead, while Crawford / Hardie made heavier work of making progress from the start.
Payne / Wilkes started establishing a healthy lead on lap two, with Crawford / Hardie having to take time to pass the outfits of the Ramsdens; Horspole / Cole and Atkinson / Middleton before breaking through to second on lap four, which had seen the leaders open a margin of around six seconds at the front. Meanwhile, lapping third quickest on circuit were Lowther / Rostron who were up to seventh having had to start at the very back of the grid following their non-finish in the previous race.
Crawford / Hardie went on a charge with clear air, and despite Payne / Wilkes bettering the F2 Cup record in a time of 53.795s on lap five, Crawford / Hardie were closing the leading outfit down at a rate of around 1.3s on each circulation, setting the fastest time of the race on lap seven in a time of 52.515s. (Crawford / Hardie had bettered their race one lap record to a time of 52.352s in the Scottish Sidecar Championship Race on Saturday to set the overall F2 fastest lap of the weekend).
Crawford / Hardie took the lead from Payne / Wilkes at half distance, opening up an enviable lead at around two seconds a lap. While Payne / Wilkes were already almost guaranteed a safe second, this was further enforced when the third placed outfit of the Ramsdens began to lose power, and dropped onto three cylinders, which saw them fall down the field as the laps went by. Atkinson / Middleton moved into third and were looking like coming under pressure from the hard-charging Lowther / Rostron, although this was averted after the latter crew suffered a spin which put them out of the running – again in a race which saw no mechanical “non-finishes” – testimony to the meticulous preparation of machinery right down the British F2 grid.
Such was Crawford / Hardie’s dominance that they lapped all teams up to third place, and managed to open up a 17 second advantage over Payne / Wilkes at the chequered flag. A delighted Atkinson / Middleton were third (Cup-2nd), being their first “Super F2” podium finish together – and this result crucially secured them third in the F2 Cup Championship. Fourth came Horspole / Cole, with the remainder of the top ten being: Ilaria / Sims (Cup-3rd); Hackney / Ryder (Cup-4th); The Ramsdens; The Stocktons (F2 Cup-5th); Baker / Laidlow and Schofield / Colbrook (F2 Cup-6th).
Final Championship Points
A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship
1st – L.Crawford / S.Hardie – 294
2nd – H.Payne / M.Wilkes – 180
3rd – A.Founds / J.Lowther – 114
1st – H.Payne / M.Wilkes – 250
2nd – R.Stockton / B.Stockton – 179
3rd – R.Atkinson / M.Middleton – 168
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.
Finally, on behalf of the F.S.R.A. and our teams, I would like to thank Knockhill Motor Sports Club for hosting a fantastic meeting, and extend this to all their dedicated staff, officials, marshals, medics and all the other volunteers involved in organising and conducting this event. We very much hope we can continue this partnership and bring the series to Scotland on a much more frequent basis.
So the 2021 British F2 Championship has come to a close for another year – arrangements are already in place for the A.G.M. / Dinner-Dance on Saturday 20th November at the Radisson Blu Hotel (East Midlands Airport. Further details of which may be found on the website – www.fsra.org.uk – along with all final championship points tables and archive reports from all the action earlier in the year.