Photo Courtesy Of Dirk Wharton
Taking a second and third place finish at the opening round of the series at Oulton Park on the 23rd of April, Team A.R.C. headed to Donington Park tied in second place in the championship table with Ian / Carl Bell. Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley had already taken an early initiative with a double win, and Lee and Patrick were intent on closing the gap at the Leicestershire circuit, where Lee (with Sam Christie alongside him) had recently established a new lap record on the full G.P. layout - however, on this occasion the meeting was being held on the shorter "National" track.
Free practice was held alongside the healthy grid of club sidecars, hosted by North Gloucester Road Racing Club, with a steady run round being the order of the day. With plenty of traffic to contend with, lap times were modest - the serious competition began little more than an hour later with timed qualifying.
Lee and Patrick took the opening few laps steadily, scrubbing in tyres, before putting in some quicker times later in the session - circulating for twelve laps, they found themselves second fastest to the Founds / Walmsley combination, half a second off their scorching pace, with five teams qualifying within a second of Team A.R.C., perhaps most impressively the pairing of Dwight Beare / Benjamin Binns who put their machine into a fine third place. Qualifying was slightly frustrating for Lee and Patrick, who complained of a lack of top end speed, despite having good exit speed into the faster sections of the circuit. With a few changes made, it was then a case of trying to find some shade as temperatures were steadily rising as the day wore on.
Photo Courtesy Of Sid Diggins
Usually renowned for rapid getaways, Team A.R.C. had, by their standards a rather lethargic start, while Founds / Walmsley used their pole position to good effect, challenged briefly by Sean Reeves / Dean Kilkenny, while Lee and Patrick fought off the attentions of the Bell and Ramsden father and son pairings. The aforementioned third place qualifiers did not make it to the grid, discovering a top end problem with their motor as they prepared for the race.
Lee and Patrick slotted the outfit into third place at Redgate, and made progress to second at the expense of Reeves / Kilkenny as they headed down the Craner Curves in pursuit of the flying Founds / Walmsley. Despite a valiant effort giving chase, Team A.R.C. arguably narrowed the gap in the early stages, but had no answer to Founds, finishing just over five seconds behind him, but in turn had eased out a gap of six seconds over Bell / Bell, who had been locked in a race-long battle with Ramsden / Ramsden. Team A.R.C., whilst obviously very happy with finishing on the podium in such a competitive field, were slightly disappointed that they were not able to offer a sterner challenge to Founds / Walmsley, with the motor still not seeming to be absolutely "on song".
While there had been several hours of heavy rain on Saturday evening, Sunday promised to be even hotter than the previous day, and on this rare occasion, the forecasters actually were correct! A warm up, combined with the N.G. club sidecars went without incident, with a few changes to the machine tested in preparation for the final race of the weekend, held in temperatures which were unthinkable little more than a week before, when parts of the country had been graced with a couple of inches of snow.
Photo Courtesy Of Dirk Wharton
The outfits lined up once again in the order they had qualified, with the addition of Beare / Binns, who had got their outfit sorted overnight. Before the race had even begun, the heat was taking its toll, with Nick Dukes / William Moralee pulling into pit lane at the end of the sighting lap. Team A.R.C. made a much more characteristic start this time around, although they had to play second fiddle to Founds / Walmsley as the pack peeled into Redgate. Lee and Patrick
shadowed the championship leaders for the opening laps, with Conrad Harrison / Lee Patterson and Ramsden / Ramsden hot on their heels, while further back it was all-action! The outfits of Beare / Binns and Lewis Blackstock / Paddy Rosney had an unfortunate tangle, both machines ending up in the gravel at Redgate, thankfully all o.k., barring a bit of cosmetic damage to the fairings. Joining them in retirement at the same place shortly after were Harrison / Patterson with a mechanical failure, allowing the Team A.R.C. pairing some breathing space as they began to ease an advantage over the Ramsden's, although the chance of taking up a challenge for the lead was all but over, with Founds / Walmsley already having established a commanding position at the front.
Despite only being ten laps, this became something of a race of attrition, and in addition to those already mentioned, other retirements included: Gordon Shand / Phil Hyde; Roy Hanks / Kevin Perry; Howard Baker / Mike Killingsworth; Dave Lillie / Ben Chandler along with non-starters John Lowther / Jake Lowther. Sadly, the final addition to this list were Team A.R.C., only a few hundred yards from the finish the outfit ground to a halt with a terminal failure, and Lee and Patrick had to suffer watching the last minutes of the race from their vantage point at Coppice. The Ramsden's made no mistake in taking second, while the Bell's bounced back to third place after running as low as ninth place in the early laps.
Founds / Walmsley have obviously now taken up a position of dominance at the top of the table, with 100 points, a lead of 32 points over Bell / Bell, with Ramsden / Ramsden in third, 9 points back and a mere three ahead of Team A.R.C. - however the season is not yet at half distance, and it is evident that all teams will be working hard to claw back the advantage held by the leaders. The F.S.R.A. campaign now takes something of a "break" for almost six weeks, as many teams turn their attentions to the Isle Of Man T.T. races - Team A.R.C. are not competing there this year, but send their best wishes to all those who are. The British Championship will resume in earnest on the 25th and 26th June at Anglesey.
As always, the team would like to recognise the help and assistance of: P.G. Legal; A.F. Engineering & Design Services Ltd.; Dean Banks Engine Management; KC Computers; Pagid Racing; AM Leathers/Gary Partridge; Dynobike (Malton); Bio-Sport; Christie Engineering Services and ARC Binchester/Newton Aycliffe. My personal thanks also go to Dirk Wharton and Sid Diggins for their excellent photographs to accompany this piece. Next on the agenda for Team A.R.C. is the N.E.M.C.R.C. championship event this weekend (14/15 May) at East Fortune, where Sam Christie will be joining the team once again, as they look to defend their championship lead which Lee and Patrick established at Croft last month.
Photo Courtesy Of Sid Diggins