The final round of the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British Formula 2 Sidecar Championship took place at Oulton Park, and owing to circuit restrictions this was a one day only meeting with North Gloucester Road Racing on Saturday 6th October. With the top two places in the Super F2 Championship already decided - Peter Founds / Jevan Walmsley and Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie respectively - congratulations to both teams - third place was still for the taking with two teams tied, namely John and Jake Lowther and Steve and Matty Ramsden. Also to be decided was the F2 Cup with Daryl Gibson / Ashley Moore leading Ralph Remnant / Sam Tilley by thirty eight points.
The forecast leading up to Saturday was to be just nine degrees and wet: well the weather forecast did not change whatsoever during the week prior, and after an overnight downpour on Friday into Saturday, the circuit was indeed wet and the ambient temperature cold.
For the twenty eight teams - which included a number of guest (wild card) teams including seventeen time T.T. winner Dave Molyneux, ably assisted by Harry Payne on Dave's newly acquired LCR Yamaha.
It was straight into the fifteen minute qualifying session, and several different tyre choices were made by teams. Whilst the rain had abated, and with the circuit being 4.3km (2.7miles) in length there would be dry, damp and wet patches so it really was a lottery for tyre choice.
With three laps completed, wild cards John Holden / Lee Cain set the fastest time from Gibson / Moore - both on full wets, with Crawford/Hardie in third, their tyre choice being slicks, then in fourth - Team Ramsden; fifth – Mike Jackson / Ben Binns, and sixth - Team Lowther.
After four completed laps, Crawford / Hardie recorded a time of 2:05.860 to go P1, just 0.3s ahead of Holden / Cain, who in turn were 0.4s ahead of the Ramsdens. There was just seven teams who managed to complete five laps before the red flag came out, curtailing the session with three minutes remaining. This was to allow the air ambulance to take off due to an incident that happened in a solo session earlier. Thankfully the injured rider only sustained a broken collarbone and concussion.
Setting the fastest time and their fourth pole position of 2018 were Crawford / Hardie (LCR Suzuki) 2:05.330; second – Holden / Cain (LCR Honda) 2:05.582. Row two of the grid would be Ramsden / Ramsden (LCR Honda) 2:05.937; and Molyneux / Payne (LCR Yamaha) 2:06.600. Just 1/000th of a second behind were Lowther / Lowther (LCR Honda) 2:06.601, who in turn were just one tenth of a second in front of Gibson / Moore (Shelbourne Suzuki) 2:06.701. On row four were Jackson / Binns (DMR Suzuki) 2:08.549; and Founds / Walmsley (DDM Suzuki) 2:08.549 - the latter facing a change of engine after the session, and would take no part in the race due to time constraints. Rounding out the top ten were Sean Hegarty / James Neave (Baker Honda) 2:10.870 and Conrad Harrison / Andy Winkle (Bellas Honda) 2:11.091.
Another sharp shower of rain about forty minutes before race one left teams facing the same quandary as earlier in the morning. A few more took the chance on slick tyres, although some remained faithful to the wet option. The eight lap race got underway just before noon and track conditions were much the same as qualifying with the sporadic rainfall and general damp atmosphere.
As the lights went out a trademark blistering start from Crawford / Hardie saw them lead the charge and by the end of lap one they had opened up a 4.273s gap to Holden / Cain, with the next three teams: the Ramsdens; the Lowthers and Hegarty / Neave in close company - separated by just under 0.7s. In the F2 Cup, it was the pairing of Richard Lumley / Ray Whitnall who were heading champions elect Gibson / Moore, with their closest rivals Remnant / Tilley back in sixth in class.
By the end of lap two Hegarty / Neave had moved up to third. The battle for third position in the championship was hotting up, whilst the Ramsdens were holding fourth place, they were just 0.190s ahead of the Lowthers, who in turn were just 0.058s ahead of Molyneux / Payne. In the F2 Cup Gibson / Moore had overtaken Lumley / Whitnall and chasing them down were Chris Schofield / Derek Taylor and Brian Ilaria / Olly Lace.
By the end of lap three the Lowthers had opened up a three second gap over the Ramsdens, with whom they were battling with in the championship standings. The leaders Crawford / Hardie were now seven seconds clear, and registered a lap time in the 1:51's so it would seem that slicks were the right choice as Holden / Cain were fading by two seconds a lap and were being reeled in by Hegarty / Neave and the Lowthers.
With the next completed lap Crawford / Hardie recorded the fastest lap of the race - 1:50.900 - and this increased the lead to eleven seconds. In the F2 Cup, whilst Gibson / Moore were still leading, both C.Schofield / Taylor and Ilaria / Lace had passed Lumley / Whitnall and were on the charge.
There was drama for the Lowther brothers on lap five as they went off circuit and spun twice on the grass trying to get back on circuit at Old Hall. This allowed the Ramsdens to cross the line in front of the Scunthorpe pairing to the tune of 0.731s, so the battle was well and truly back on. The brothers got their head down, passing the Ramsdens on lap six, which was also the lap Holden / Cain retired to the pits with their wet tyres giving no grip whatsoever. This meant Hegarty / Neave were now into second place albeit seventeen seconds behind the leaders, although they held a seven second advantage over Molyneux / Payne who moved into third. There was also a change in the F2 Cup as C.Schofield / Taylor moved ahead of Gibson / Moore (who were on wets - and it would appear those using treaded tyres were drastically losing grip) just 0.280s behind them were Ilaria / Lace. However Daryl was watching his pit board and knew what he had to do to take the F2 Championship so rode a very mature race.
As the chequered flag came out, once again demonstrating a master-class in how to drive in tricky conditions were Crawford / Hardie, who took the win by 16.922s, winning the Steve Norbury Trophy. Hegarty / Neave placed second, and taking the final podium place were Molyneux / Payne. Finishing fourth, but scoring points for third, the Lowthers wrapped up third position in the championship.
In the F2 Cup C.Schofield / Taylor took their maiden class win from Ilaria / Lace second, and Gibson / Moore third. The latter pair secured the British F2 Cup Championship from Remnant / Tilley - who for the second consecutive year were runners up, and with a late season charge C.Schofield / Taylor finished third.
Many thanks to all the medics, marshals and the host club N.G. for once again hosting the F.S.R.A.
Congratulations to Team Founds Racing - Peter Founds / Jevan Walmsley on their third British Championship title in succession. To Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie on their runners up spot - but for a few D.N.F.`s over the season they could have been much closer, or taken the title - with some of the closest racing seen in many a year between the top two, and they will be looking to go one better in 2019. Finally to John and Jake Lowther in securing their best ever finish in the championship in third.
In the F2 Cup, Daryl Gibson / Ashley Moore achieved their goal of taking the title and I believe this makes Daryl the only person to win the F2 Cup as passenger and now as a driver. Another solid season for Ralph Remnant / Samantha Tilley with many podiums, consistency and reliability assisting them in finishing second again, and finally to Chris Schofield / Derek Taylor, who like the winning pairing were newcomers to the championship this season.
There has been plenty of close and exciting racing over the seventeen races of 2018, all the way through the field, and I would like to give a special mention to Wesley Pettman and Sue Taylor. Whilst they never got onto the podium, on their twenty plus year old Windle with a carbed engine, they finished seventh out of nineteen F2 Cup entrants, attending every round and finishing in the points the majority of the time.
Thanks to everyone who took part in 2018 and gave the public some fantastic racing and lets hope 2019 can be even better.
Please come along, one and all, to the presentation at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Castle Donington 24th November, tickets available from Pat Hamblin (or download forms from the F.S.R.A. website) with the A.G.M. at noon and the presentation / disco with guest speaker Tony Baker in the evening.