The 2023 A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship – Round 7 – Knockhill – Saturday 2nd & Sunday 3rd September


Supported by :- A.V. Craine & Sons; Hegarty Plant Ltd.; Pagid Racing;

Whitby Cottages; Rowtec Engineering Maintenance & Tingle Windows

Words – Tim Langham (F.S.R.A. Press Officer) / Photographs – Simon Heath

The season finale at Knockhill, dubbed as a “Scottish Sidecar Festival” saw a huge turnout of over sixty sidecar outfits across several classes, which included the British F1 Sidecars and Scottish Championship Sidecars, along with the British F2 teams. The meeting was planned to include a race for the prestigious “Jock Taylor Trophy”, with the fastest teams from each category invited to take part – but unfortunately due to significant time constraints due to red flags on Sunday, this race was unable to be run as a stand-alone event, and this trophy was awarded to the winner of Sunday’s “Rowe British F1 Sidecar Championship” race.

While the Super F2 Championship winners Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley (LCR Honda), and runners-up Steve & Matty Ramsden (LCR Honda); and also the F2 Cup Champions Brian Ilaria / Arlo Brown (DDM Suzuki) had all secured enough points a fortnight beforehand at Cadwell Park, all eyes were on who would land the remaining top three places in both classes.

It was straight into fifteen minutes of qualifying on Saturday morning with decent track conditions. A full day of testing and practice had taken place on the Friday, with most teams taking advantage of this. The entry had been bolstered by four wild-card teams: lap record holders Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie (CES Suzuki); former multi-champions John Holden / Ashley Hawes (LCR Yamaha) and Carl Fenwick / Phil Knapton (Shelbourne Yamaha) – all in contention for top six placings throughout the session – plus Alun Thomas / Adam Nix (Ireson Honda) who would be making their debut at a British Championship event.

The initial pace was set by Founds / Walmsley, although they were quickly displaced on the second flying lap by Crawford / Hardie – these two teams exchanging the fastest times in the first half of the session, before the wild-cards stamped their authority on the ninth circulation to go a full second clear at the top of the leaderboard, this being their fastest of the session, and while Founds / Walmsley improved, the champions had to settle for second, 0.7s in arrears.

Holden / Hawes had been lying third, but were displaced by Daryl Gibson / Rhys Gibbons (CES Suzuki) and the Ramsdens, while first time visitors to Knockhill, Fenwick / Knapton were an impressive sixth. Ilaria / Brown quite familiarly topped the F2 Cup leaderboard, placing seventh overall, with Sean Hegarty / James Neave in eighth – who would be looking for improvement in the races in the battle for third in the championship with Gibson / Gibbons. Cup team James Saunders / Sarah Stokoe (Baker Honda) were second in class and ninth overall, ahead of Gary Horspole / Kenny Cole (Baker Suzuki) who completed the top ten.

The nineteen teams from qualifying were joined for race one by Cup team Bob Dawson / Matt Sims (LCR Honda) who had been present throughout Friday’s practice, but had been forced out of qualifying with an electrical issue, meaning a full grid lined up at 1.30pm for the first sidecar race of the weekend.

Unfortunately, the race fell victim to not one, but two red flag incidents. In the first start, Crawford / Hardie had opened an enviable 12s lead over Founds / Walmsley by lap eight. Meanwhile, Gibson / Gibbons were running in a strong third place, ahead of Holden / Hawes; Hegarty / Neave – who had made some progress through the pack – Fenwick / Knapton; Horspole / Cole; the Ramsdens; Ilaria / Brown and Wayne Lockey / Ben Binns completing the top ten – the final Cup podium places were being disputed by Dave Schofield / Josh Smith (Bellas Yamaha) and Dawson / Sims who were running eleventh and twelfth on the road.

However, in the midfield F2 Cup battle, the outfit of Chris Schofield / Tom Dawkins (Baker Honda) was rapidly brought to a halt on the exit of The Hairpin, with the machine on fire, which was brought under control by the marshals, thankfully the crew – whilst somewhat shaken – escaped injury.

A re-start to be staged over ten laps was declared, but unfortunately this fell victim to a further red flag incident on the opening lap with a collision between several outfits at Duffus Dip as the teams in the pack battled for track position. With time moving on and much of the programme to get through, the option of a third re-start over a shorter distance was not viable, and the decision was made declare the first running a result. A fourth place finish in the Cup category was enough to guarantee Saunders / Stokoe the runners-up spot in the Championship, with Schofield / Smith sealing third. Meanwhile, all eyes on Sunday would be on Hegarty / Neave and Gibson / Gibbons, with the former holding a slender five point advantage over the youngsters in the race for third in the overall Super F2 Championship.

Once again, Sunday was a beautiful late summer’s day with ideal racing conditions, but unfortunately a large number of red-flagged solo races stretched medical resources hugely, and saw the meeting running almost four hours behind schedule. A reduced programme of races was announced for the remainder of the afternoon, with the final F2 championship race of the year getting underway at 4.50pm over a shortened distance of fifteen laps.

The “reverse top-six” grid saw Fenwick / Knapton and Hegarty / Neave sharing the front row, with Holden / Hawes and Gibson / Gibbons directly behind them. Unfortunately, both of the Schofield brothers were non-starters due to terminal damage sustained to their outfits in the incidents on the previous day, joined on the sidelines by Morphet / Reilly who were also unable to take the start.

A determined start from the front row saw Hegarty / Neave lead the pack on lap one, while pole sitters Fenwick / Knapton lost several places, as did Holden / Hawes. Making the biggest gain were Crawford / Hardie who moved into third at The Hairpin, before outdragging Gibson / Gibbons to take second as the outfits passed the line to start the second lap. Founds / Walmsley were running fifth just behind the Ramsdens, while further down the order Rob Atkinson / Glenn Dawson (Bellas Honda) who were non-finishers on Saturday had moved inside the top fifteen having been forced to start at the back of the grid.

On lap two, Crawford / Hardie took the lead from Hegarty / Neave at McIntyre’s, and had already opened a lead of 1.3s as they firmly established themselves at the front, putting in several consecutive fastest laps as they stretched away. Meanwhile Gibson / Gibbons had closed the gap to second as Founds / Walmsley had got the better of the Ramsdens. Next up came Holden / Hawes, who had taken sixth at the expense of fellow wild-cards Fenwick / Knapton. Horspole / Cole held a two second buffer over a close battle for ninth between Lockey / Binns and the leading F2 Cup teams of Ilaria / Brown; Dawson / Sims; Saunders / Stokoe and Bruce Moore / Amy Dodd (Ireson Honda).

Hegarty / Neave dropped to fourth on lap three, with Gibson / Gibbons and Founds / Walmsley finding a way past – however they did not lose focus and continued with determination, being only 0.1s in arrears of Gibson / Gibbons in what was now the battle for third, as Founds / Walmsley took second on the fourth lap. The following laps saw Crawford / Hardie stretch their lead out at approximately one second a lap over Founds / Walmsley, who had opened up a margin of two seconds over the battle for third, which was without doubt the closest action on circuit.

Unfortunately an engine failure ended Moore / Dodd’s race on lap five – they were to be the only non-finishers in this outing.

Having shadowed Gibson / Gibbons for much of the race, Hegarty / Neave made their move and took third on lap eleven, and were able to open a modest gap on the subsequent laps. Further down the order, Ilaria / Brown were running in a strong eighth position, in a close battle with Lockey / Binns. However, the Cup Champions were given a five second time penalty for “exceeding track limits” which dropped them to eleventh on corrected time, behind Horspole / Cole and Atkinson / Dawson.

Crawford / Hardie made no mistake, having dominated the weekend – but of course did not take championship points having been wild-card entrants, the maximum points going to runners-up Founds / Walmsley. Hegarty / Neave held onto third from Gibson / Gibbons, with these teams finishing third and fourth respectively in the Super F2 title chase. Holden / Hawes were fifth, ahead of the Ramsdens; Fenwick / Knapton; Lockey / Binns; Atkinson / Dawson and Horspole / Cole.

Despite their penalty, Ilaria / Brown were the Cup victors in eleventh, although there was slight disappointment as they missed out on fifth place in the Super F2 Championship by a single point. Saunders / Stokoe were second in class with Dawson / Sims the final podium finishers. Andrew Bingham / Dave Ryder had endured a difficult season adjusting to a new machine, but were rewarded for their endeavours with their best result of 2023, placing fourth in the Cup.

A notable mention goes to the Ramsdens and Lockey / Binns, who not only competed in, but completed every race in the championship this year – an excellent achievement, which no doubt will especially please Lockey / Binns, with their team having endured particularly cruel luck in 2022 with mechanical problems.

On behalf of the F.S.R.A., I would like to express thanks to our loyal series sponsors, for their support throughout the 2023 season: The A.C.U.; A.V. Craine & Son; Hegarty Plant Ltd; Pagid Racing (Breitenbach Rennsport); Rowtec Engineering Maintenance; Tingle Windows and Whitby Cottages.

Finally, the F.S.R.A. would like to thank Knockhill Circuit / Club for hosting, and to all their dedicated officials, marshals, medics and all the other volunteers involved in running the event – and particularly dealing with the incidents on Sunday. The annual visit to Scotland is very much enjoyed by all our teams, with exciting racing guaranteed, and the series hopes to make their fourth consecutive visit in 2024.

With the British Championship now at an end, it is time to turn attentions to the end of season AG.M. and Annual Dinner and Dance, which will once again be held at the Radisson Blu East Midlands Airport Hotel on Saturday 18th November – tickets and details will be made available by the F.S.R.A. Secretary, Lynn Schofield very soon. Thanks to all competitors, teams and the hard-working committee for making the 2023 series a success once again, despite the current economic situation.

Final Super F2 Championship Points Table

Final F2 Cup Championship Table