Words – Tim Langham / Photographs – Dirk Wharton; Jenny Wells; Richard Hindmarch.
2021 saw a step towards a return to normality following a truncated 2020 season, which had been one of cancellations and restrictions in the world of motor racing. Lee Crawford and Scott Hardie had a dominant year campaigning their LCR Suzuki F2, which ran faultlessly throughout, and also made their F600 debut on a recently acquired LCR Kawasaki with hugely encouraging results.
Having prepared fully for the new season, with significant development work and investment put into the outfits, along with a dedicated training plan seeing both driver and passenger lose over a combined 7.5 stones in weight, Team A.R.C. were ready for their most serious campaign to date. Their efforts and determination paid off, landing the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship and also the S.A.C.U. Sidecar Championship – a unique feat, being the first time that a sidecar team has won a British and Scottish national sidecar title in the same calendar year.
A full review of Team A.R.C.’s British Championship season is already published on this website here. However, to summarise, Lee and Scott were the only team to start and finish every race – with their lowest finishing position being fourth place at Mallory Park, where they had to recover from the very back of the field after the machine cut out at The Hairpin. In the thirteen races, they took nine convincing victories, and a further three podium places to run away with the title by a margin of 114 points. The team took five pole position starts from a possible six, and set new lap records at Donington Park, Croft and Knockhill – and matched the long-standing Brands Indy record in race conditions, having unofficially beaten the time in qualifying.
With a further postponement this year of the T.T. and Southern 100 meetings owing to the global pandemic, Team A.R.C. were only afforded the opportunity to race at Oliver’s Mount (Scarborough) in terms of “road racing”. At the Spring Cup they cruised to all three victories, and in doing so set a lap time of 1:53.792 – the second fastest team ever around the picturesque North Yorkshire parkland. Sadly, there was to be no further action at Oliver’s Mount in 2021, with the remaining three events cancelled due to safety concerns over a number of buildings in the paddock area. Organisers are hopeful of a return in 2022.
The Scottish Championship events got underway later in the season at Knockhill in mid-June, and initially the plan had been to use them for extra testing. Lee and Scott took all four wins at the opening round on the F2 outfit, then followed this up with a double victory a month later at East Fortune in their competitive debut on the F600 – having previously only done a handful of laps on this machine at a practice day. However, despite accruing maximum points in the championship standings at that point, the team chose to miss the Knockhill “reverse direction” meeting a fortnight later owing to other commitments.
A further outing was made on the F600 machine at the fourth round of the series at East Fortune in August, winning all four races and running consistently at a pace to match their own F2 lap record. With the next round at Knockhill also doubling up as the final round of the British F2 Championship, Team A.R.C. contested the event solely on the smaller machine, where as well as taking the S.A.C.U. races, they also won the prestigious “Jock Taylor Memorial Trophy”. At the championship finale, held at East Fortune, the last outing of the year for the F2 saw the team take four runners up positions to World Championship front runners Steve Kershaw / Ryan Charlwood – both teams setting new lap records for their respective classes, with Team A.R.C. sealing the title.
With the pressure of championship racing over, the decision was made to get some further time on the F600 outfit, and Donington Park and Brands Hatch G.P. meetings were entered in the Molson Group British Sidecar Championship, held alongside B.S.B.
At Donington, wet practice saw a somewhat surprised Team A.R.C. top the leaderboard, although a qualifying position of fifth proved this was no fluke, and the pairing was proving competitive from the outset. Heavy rain prior to the opening race – conditions which tend to favour Lee and Scott – saw the race reduced to eight laps. However, they were forced out of contention on the warm up lap after being hit from behind by another machine, splitting the rear tyre and damaging the wheel. An excellent performance in race two from the very back of the grid saw Lee and Scott running in third place by lap six. However, they were forced to retire at the end of the penultimate lap with an issue relating to the front wheel. In all it had, however, been a productive weekend with a lot of useful data and information accrued.
Qualifying eighth at Brands Hatch, Lee and Scott were confident they would further improve in the races, having not had the luxury of new tyres for the Friday sessions. In race one, they had some epic battles with Scott Lawrie / Shelley Smithies and John Holden / Jason Pitt, coming home seventh, and lapping faster than their best times on the F2 machine. In a red flag-disrupted race two, they finished in a strong third position, where they joined the World Championship contenders of Todd Ellis / Emmanuelle Clement and Steve Kershaw / Ryan Charlwood on the podium.
While the talent on-circuit from Lee and Scott is undoubted, there has also been much hard work from the support team, and their determination and effort has been instrumental in the successes this year. Machine preparation has been key to the on-track success – with no engine failures whatsoever all year.
A huge appreciation goes to all businesses and individuals for their support (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; A.F. Engineering; B.D.S. Motorcycles; Miller Composite Moulds; Exhaust Mania; M.H. Engineering; S.J.H. Bodyworks; Christie Engineering Services; Hegarty Plant Ltd; Aycliffe Autos and MOTUL UK.
Team A.R.C. will not be contesting any further events in 2021, but are already making preparations for the 2022 season. It is hoped that there will be a full road race calendar next year, and the main focus will be on an Isle of Man T.T. debut, and a return to the Southern 100 where Lee and Scott will be hoping to improve on their lap times and podium finish back in 2019. All being well, Oliver’s Mount will have overcome what has been a challenging year, and Team A.R.C. will continue to support their meetings. Additionally, B.S.B. events will be contested on the F600, and some F.S.R.A. British rounds on the F2 machine.