Words – Tim Langham (F.S.R.A. Press Officer) / Photographs – Ste McNorton
Two victories for reigning champions, Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki) closed the gap at the top of the standings to a mere four points behind early season pace-setters Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley (LCR Honda). Founds – who had Jake Lowther deputising for Walmsley – had to settle for a brace of runners-up placings in what were two excellent encounters. Meanwhile, Rob Atkinson / Mark Middleton continued their 100% record in the F2 Cup, scoring maximum points with two victories in class.
Temperatures soared on Saturday, being the hottest day of the year so far, and this was reflected with the red hot pace of the front running crews. In free practice Founds / Lowther immediately went under the existing lap record, while Crawford / Hardie matched their own twelve month standing benchmark time. John Holden / Jason Pitt (LCR Yamaha) were third fastest ahead of father and son Steve & Matty Ramsden (LCR Honda). Atkinson / Middleton were fifth overall and fastest of the F2 Cup teams. Less than a second separated sixth to tenth – Manx pairing Mike Jackson / Jake Roberts (DMR Suzuki) pipped Gary Gibson / Tom Christie (CES Suzuki) to sixth at the close of the session, while Roger & Bradley Stockton (LCR Suzuki) were eighth (second in class), Wayne Lockey / Ben Binns (LCR Honda) ninth, with Brian Ilaria / Arlo Brown (DDM Suzuki) rounding out the overall top ten, and the third quickest of the Cup runners.
Qualifying saw speeds increase further, with Founds / Lowther taking a hugely convincing pole position, shaving over a second off the lap record, pushing Crawford / Hardie down to second, an ominous 0.8s in arrears, despite both teams exchanging fastest laps in the early part of the session. In a replication of the earlier practice session, Holden / Pitt and the Ramsdens secured third and fourth fastest times respectively. Lapping more than 2.5s faster than in the morning session, Gibson / Christie continued their impressive development of the all-new CES outfit to place fifth, 0.7s faster than the leading F2 Cup machine of Atkinson / Middleton, who were just 0.3s ahead of Cup rivals Ilaria / Brown who took an impressive seventh. The top ten was completed by Jackson / Roberts; the Stocktons and Lockey / Binns.
Race one got underway in the early afternoon, with pole sitters Founds / Lowther making no mistake, leading Crawford / Hardie into Redgate, with all teams seemingly getting through cleanly. The Ramsdens got the jump to pass Holden / Pitt, who were hot on their heels and eager to make progress, however, this was not to be as the race was red flagged half way through lap two. Unfortunately Richard Hackney and stand-in passenger Tom Knight (CES Suzuki) had an incident at Craner Curves, and with medical assistance required, teams did their best to find some shade out of the blazing sun as they awaited further instructions. Richard was taken to Nottingham Hospital with fractures to his ankle, while Tom was able to return to the paddock later in the afternoon – the F.S.R.A. wish Richard well, and hope to see him back in the paddock soon.
A re-started race to run over seven laps got underway following a short delay, with the front four teams on the grid replicating the exact movements they had performed some forty minutes earlier! Founds / Lowther and Crawford / Hardie began to make a break from the chasing pack, and while the earlier practice and qualifying times had suggested a huge advantage for the Team Founds crew, in race conditions Crawford / Hardie were on level terms, and pushing hard to take charge at the head of the field.
Jackson / Roberts were in a three way battle for fifth, with Gibson / Christie and Atkinson / Middleton, in a train of outfits which was soon to be joined by Lockey / Binns who made their way through from row five. Meanwhile, Gary Horspole / Kenny Cole (Baker Suzuki) were making progress through the field from their initial starting position of eleventh, mixing with the F2 Cup podium runners Ilaria / Brown and Chris Schofield / Shane Colbrook (Baker Honda).
A change at the front saw Crawford / Hardie snatch the lead from Founds / Lowther at Roberts Chicane at the end of lap two. Meanwhile, there was early disappointment for Holden / Pitt who retired to pitlane, they were joined on the sidelines shortly after by the Stocktons and David Schofield / Josh Smith (Windle Suzuki) – the latter team suffering from an overheating issue, along with being somewhat undergeared, which had proved frustrating with a lack of top end speed.
The Ramsdens were settled into a safe third position, and whilst the battle at the front raged to the chequered flag, things were a little closer further down the field. Jackson / Roberts eased away from Gibson / Christie who were closely disputing fifth place with Lockey / Binns. A lonely seventh, but more importantly leading the Cup as the race headed towards a close were Atkinson / Middleton.
Crawford / Hardie held on to take an excellent win by a mere 0.1s from Founds / Lowther in what had been a scintillating head to head. Team Founds did, however, have the consolation of setting the fastest lap, thus their time of 1:12.623 was an official new record (both teams had comfortably beaten the previous best on several laps). The Ramsdens took the final podium slot, nineteen seconds in arrears of the leaders, but seven clear of Jackson / Roberts. Gibson / Christie defended fifth place from Lockey / Binns, as Atkinson / Middleton finished seventh, topping the Cup podium. Horspole / Cole took eighth, while Ilaria / Brown and Paul Riley / Jody James (MRE Suzuki) completed not only the overall top ten, but also the F2 Cup podium.
Sunday was a slightly cooler and windier day, although the heavily touted rainstorms did not materialise. A longer twelve lap outing was on the cards, and while there were several non-starters, including Schofield / Smith, and obviously Hackney / Knight, there was the inclusion of Manx brothers Ryan & Callum Crowe aboard a brand new LCR Honda – due to missing Saturday’s qualifying, they took their place at the back of the grid, whilst as usual the top six finishers from race one lined up in reverse order.
Lockey / Binns started from pole alongside Gibson / Christie, and whilst all got away from the line cleanly, it was Crawford / Hardie who led into Redgate, whilst Founds / Lowther slipped into second going into Hollywood at the expense of the Ramsdens.
There was frustration for a number of teams. Riley / James were early retirees with their E.C.U. disconnecting, thus cutting the engine, with the problem immediately diagnosed back in the paddock. Holden / Pitt suffered the same issue which had sidelined them on the previous day, while Horspole / Cole pulled into pitlane on lap five with an overheating outfit. The Stocktons had also endured a disappointing weekend, with a non-finish, as did fellow Cup team Tom & Thomas Quaye (MRE Suzuki). Retiring on the penultimate lap were John Lowther / Sarah Stokoe (LCR Honda), who were making a return to the championship, having used this event to solely acquaint themselves with a machine which has been kindly loaned by fellow competitor John Shipley.
Crawford / Hardie managed the race well, putting a margin of around one second between themselves and Founds / Lowther – the chasing team once again going under their newly achieved lap record. Crawford / Hardie were delighted to not only take maximum points, but also retain the “Bill Boddice Trophy” as race two winners. Founds / Lowther crossed the line 1.2s behind, with the Ramsdens taking their second rostrum finish of the weekend in third. Jackson / Roberts were fourth, with fellow Manxmen the Crowe brothers progressing through the field to finish fifth.
Gibson / Christie were sixth, with Atkinson / Middleton crossing the line just two seconds behind, to make it four Cup wins from as many starts this season. Ilaria / Brown were eighth – again taking second in class – to keep the pressure on the championship leaders. Lockey / Binns were ninth, ahead of third placed Cup runners Schofield / Colbrook and Tony Baker / Leon Fitzpatrick.
Thanks as ever go to the A.C.U., along with 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. and to all their dedicated staff, officials, marshals, medics and all the other volunteers involved in running the event, and for continuing to invite our series to several of their meetings.
There now follows a break of six weeks to accommodate the Isle of Man T.T. Races – the F.S.R.A. wish all competitors attending the best of luck for a safe and successful fortnight. Round three of the series will be at the scenic Anglesey Circuit, over the weekend of the 25th and 26th June. In the meantime, please keep up to date with F.S.R.A. news, including race reports and latest championship standings on the website – www.fsra.org.uk