Donington Park is the setting for the second round of this year's A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship over the weekend of the 11th and 12th May. Three weeks have now passed since the opening event at a very chilly – but mainly dry – weekend at Snetterton. The trip to Norfolk was a particularly fruitful one for reigning champions Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley who had a perfect weekend, with pole position, two wins and shaved a massive 1.9 seconds off the lap record. In the F2 Cup, series debutants Michael Kirkup / Arlo Brown topped the timesheets in every session, and took two convincing wins and hold a ten point advantage in this section.
Last season's visit to Donington Park was in August, at the height of the “heatwave”, where arguably the best F2 Sidecar race in recent years was contested, with Founds / Walmsley racing wheel to wheel with Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie. Both teams traded the lead several times each lap, before Crawford was sidelined by a mechanical issue in the closing stages. Hopefully the action will be just as fascinating on this visit to the Leicestershire circuit – with all teams making it to the chequered flag!
Founds / Walmsley have proved almost unbeatable around the 1.979 mile Donington Park “National Circuit” at British F2 Championship level. They have taken pole and both race wins on every visit over the last three years, and also hold the lap record in a time of 1:14.636, which was set on the 14th May 2017. However, Crawford / Hardie will be determined to make significant in-roads into the championship leaders, after they claimed a second place and succumbed to an unfortunate “d.n.f.” at Snetterton. Currently second in the standings, after taking two podium positions at round one are Dave Molyneux / Harry Payne, and they will be looking for a strong showing in readiness for their T.T. assault later in the month. Another Manx pairing also scored well at Snetterton – Mike Jackson / Ben Binns – with third and fifth places, and they will be looking to consolidate their current third place in the points table.
Conrad Harrison / Andy Winkle and John Lowther / Sarah Stokoe have a solid foundation for their respective seasons with consistent performances on both days at Snetterton, and will no doubt figure in the upper reaches of the top six at Donington. Steve and Matty Ramsden – by their standards – had a steady start to their campaign with two points finishes, but will undoubtedly be looking to move up the order in the standings. Daryl Gibson / Ashley Moore had a good fourth place in the opening race in round one, but were excluded from the race two result after Moore briefly vacated the machine as they took the scenic route through the gravel at “Murrays”, so they too will be eager to make amends and add to their tally. Also hoping for a bigger haul of points will be Sean Hegarty / James Neave, who were plagued with mechanical problems at Snetterton, although they had a spirited ride from the back of the grid to finish sixth in race two.
The F2 Cup is looking set to be another fascinating competition this year, with numerous teams running at a similar pace. Topping the points table are the aforementioned Kirkup / Brown, but a brace of second place finishes in the opening event for fellow series newcomers Simon Robinson / Kez Hughes see them as serious contenders in this category. Robinson will have the vastly experienced Mick Fairhurst alongside him at Donington Park. 2018 F.S.R.A. Pre-Injection Sidecar Champions John Shipley jnr / Milo Ward took third and fourth places at Snetterton in only their second competitive outing on their LCR Suzuki, and it would not be a surprise to see them on the podium again at Donington. The likes of Nicky Dukes / William Moralee; Brian Ilaria / Olly Lace; Giles and Jen Stainton; Chris Schofield / Lee Edwards and returnees Rob Atkinson / Mark Middleton are no strangers to the podium in the F2 Cup, so hopefully this will bode well for close and unpredictable racing.
Making their second “Wild Card” appearance of the year are Alan Founds / Jake Lowther. Founds was the 2015 British F2 Sidecar Champion, and he and Lowther took third place at Snetterton in race two from the back of the grid. (A reminder that Wild Card competitors are not credited with championship points, but are entitled to trophies should they finish in the top three).
Saturday will see teams take to the track three times – a free practice, a fifteen minute qualifying session, and a ten lap race. A warm up will be held on Sunday morning, with a longer race to be contested over twelve laps in the afternoon. Sunday's race will see the winners take home the prestigious “Bill Boddice Trophy”, which will be presented by Bill's son, and nine times T.T. winner, Mick Boddice snr.
The existing lap records for Donington Park (National – 1.979 miles) are:
Super F2 - 01:14.636 – Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley – 14/05/17
F2 Cup – 01:15.330 – Dave Atkinson / Phil Knapton – 11/04/11
The next round of the championship will be six weeks after this second round, at the “Cadwell Park Sidecar Revival” meeting hosted by B.M.C.R.C. over the weekend of the 22nd and 23rd June, and looks set to be an event which will appeal to sidecar fans of all classes and eras. However, before then a number of teams will be making their annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Man T.T. Races. On behalf of myself and the F.S.R.A., may I wish them all a safe and successful visit.