Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley (LCR Suzuki) absolutely dominated the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar events at the second annual “Sidecar Revival” at Cadwell Park over the weekend of 22nd and 23rd June. They topped the timesheets in every session, claiming pole position and a hat trick of wins, breaking the lap record each time, and now head the standings by sixty five points. They were also presented with the Steve Norbury Trophy as winners of Sunday's opening F2 Sidecar race.
In a break from what has been a largely disappointing year so far in terms of the weather (a stark contrast to the relentless heat-wave of 2018), Cadwell Park stayed dry throughout the weekend, and Saturday was arguably the sunniest day of the summer so far. A fantastic turnout of sidecars of all eras, along with a selection of solo classes and paddock entertainment ensured that the huge throngs of spectators did not leave disappointed. Twenty four teams lined up in the F2 category – one or two of the series regulars were missing due to other unavoidable commitments, and others were still making good repairs to themselves(!) and machinery following the T.T. Races on the Isle of Man.
Qualifying saw Founds / Walmsley go one tenth under the lap record, which had been set almost a decade ago by Simon Neary / Paul Knapton back in 2010, although they would have to wait until race conditions to officially take this mantle. Lining up alongside them would be their old adversaries Lee Crawford / Scot Hardie (LCR Suzuki), who were 0.8s off the pace of the pole sitters, but over two seconds clear of the third fastest team – Sean Hegarty / James Neave (Baker Honda).
John Lowther / Ben Binns (LCR Honda) were fourth; Binns deputising for Sarah Stokoe who was injured at the T.T. Races in an incident at Tower Bends with Binns' regular F.S.R.A. driver Mike Jackson. Gordon Shand / Tony Belsey (Shand Suzuki) had their best performance at this level so far in 2019, qualifying fifth, ahead of Conrad Harrison / Andy Winkle (Bellas Honda); Steve and Matty Ramsden (LCR Honda). Three F2 Cup teams rounded out the top ten – Nick Dukes / William Moralee (Baker Honda); Rob Atkinson / Simon Dawson (Bellas Suzuki); and reigning F.S.R.A. / Lane Building Services Pre-Injection Champions John Shipley jnr / Milo Ward (LCR Suzuki).
Race one got underway in the early evening on Saturday, and whilst Founds / Walmsley took the advantage at the front from the start, Crawford / Hardie were in contention with them in the early laps, both teams pushing to the limits with the leaders setting the fastest lap on the fourth circulation in a time of 1:37.270, officially breaking the record. The chasing pack was led by Lowther / Binns, with Hegarty / Neave keenly contesting the final podium slot. Harrison / Winkle were early retirements, pulling in after just two laps. Making a charge through the field were Daryl Gibson / Ashley Moore, who had started at the back of the grid following problems in practice which saw their team work hard to make repairs during the day to enable them to race.
Atkinson / Dawson were proving their brace of wins at the previous round at Donington Park were no fluke, and were running at the head of the F2 Cup field, and inside the overall top ten, with Dukes / Moralee heading up the challenge in the “race within a race”. The LCR Suzuki outfits of Simon Robinson / Mick Fairhurst and Michael Kirkup / Arlo Brown were having an entertaining battle for the remaining F2 Cup podium slots, with Brian Ilaria / Olly Lace (DDM Suzuki) poised to take advantage of any mistakes.
Unfortunately race one saw something of a catalogue of non-finishes. Joining Harrison / Winkle on the sidelines in the early stages were Dean and Ben Dickinson (Shelbourne Suzuki) and the wild card pairing of Rob Fisher / Rick Long (Baker Thundercat). Unfortunately Crawford / Hardie joined the list of retirements on lap three, as they hounded Founds / Walmsley through the Chicane the outfit went offline and pitched Hardie from the machine, thankfully without injury, gifting a healthy lead to the reigning champions over Lowther / Binns, with Hegarty / Neave completing out the top three. These positions remained unchanged at the chequered flag, with Founds / Walmsley winning by over half a minute. In fourth came Shand / Belsey, just ahead of the Ramsdens, with Atkinson / Dawson rounding out the top six and taking the F2 Cup victory, less than one second ahead of Gibson / Moore with their spirited ride through the field landing them a seventh place finish.
Dukes / Moralee took second in the F2 Cup, and eighth overall. However, it was “all action” on the final lap in the battle for the podium between Kirkup / Brown and Robinson / Fairhurst, with a series of maneouvres going on. However, a coming together between the machines at The Hairpin saw both machines on the grass, and a huge chunk of time lost, which handed third in the Cup to Ilaria / Lace, with Shipley jnr / Ward taking fourth in class and tenth overall.
Sunday remained dry, but less sunny and warm – and with two F2 races on the agenda, opposed to the usual one at British Championship events there was plenty to look forward to. Atkinson / Dawson had earned a pole position start in Sunday's opening encounter, with the top six finishers in race one being reversed on the grid in race two. However, there was disappointment for them, as having suffered a wheel bearing problem in the warm up, they made good the repairs, but missed the gate closing in the holding bay as they ran out of time. Starting as the sole pairing on the front row were the Ramsdens, who got the initial holeshot from Hegarty / Neave and Lowther / Binns. However, by the time the front runners had gone through the dip on Park Straight, Founds / Walmsley were once again at the head of the field and going about establishing an enviable lead.
Hegarty / Neave settled into a somewhat lonely second place for much of the race, with Founds / Walmsley stretching their advantage, breaking the lap record once again – lowering it to 1:37.223 on lap nine. Lowther / Binns were circulating third, maintaining a consistent gap over the outfits of Gibson / Moore; the Ramsdens and Shand / Belsey, who were all in close company until the latter pairing were forced into retirement at two thirds distance. Crawford / Hardie, having started at the very back of the grid were quickly inside the top ten, and by three quarter distance had relegated Lowther / Binns from the final step of the podium, and whilst they were making some in-roads into Hegarty / Neave it looked like they would struggle to make any further progress.
In the F2 Cup, with Atkinson / Dawson being non-starters, Robinson / Fairhurst were keen to make amends for their fifth place finish in the previous race and were running at the front in this section. Ilaria / Lace were in a safe second, with Shipley jnr / Ward fending Kirkup / Brown off to complete the podium at the chequered flag.
While Founds / Walmsley cantered to their second convincing win of the weekend, there was drama in the final two laps as Hegarty / Neave appeared to be visibly slowing with a mechanical problem. This allowed Crawford / Hardie to close and pass them on the final lap. Hegarty / Neave were able to keep the machine going and took third, with Lowther / Binns; Gibson / Moore; the Ramsdens; Harrison / Winkle; Robinson / Fairhurst; Ilaria / Lace; and Shipley jnr / Ward completing the top ten.
The final race of the weekend saw another “reverse top six” on the grid. Lowther / Binns led the way from Gibson / Moore and Hegarty / Neave, although it was not long until sixth place starters Founds / Walmsley took charge at the front once again. Crawford / Hardie were rather “over-eager” to get away from their fifth place gridslot, and dropped several places as the back wheel spun up on the run up to Coppice. It was not long until they re-composed and made their way up to second place, although Founds / Walmsley had already pulled out a lead of several seconds. Crawford / Hardie pulled up at the Chicane on lap five, with concerns over the integrity of the wheel-arch. Having quickly made a check, finding nothing amiss, they re-joined back in seventh place, just ahead of the first of the F2 Cup teams.
In the Cup, Atkinson / Dawson had been forced to start from the back of the grid, and they set about chasing down Robinson / Fairhurst, who were leading in the sub-class. Unfortunately the Dickinsons were retirements on lap three, having had a frustrating weekend in all three outings. Ilaria / Lace returned to the paddock at half distance, as did Hegarty / Neave a lap later with a terminal mechanical issue.
While Crawford / Hardie had an excellent comeback ride to second following their earlier stop, there was absolutely no answer to the dominance of Founds / Walmsley, who shattered the lap record further, to 1:36.448, taking almost a full second off Neary / Knapton's former best, which some had thought would never be beaten! Lowther / Binns took third – consistent finishing over the weekend moving them to a clear third place in the overall points standings, only eleven behind Crawford / Hardie. Gibson / Moore had their best finish of the weekend with fourth, the Ramsdens were fifth and Harrison / Winkle sixth. F2 Cup teams completed the top ten, with Atkinson / Dawson taking the win, from Robinson / Fairhurst; Kirkup / Brown and Shipley jnr / Ward.
Thanks go to Roger Body of RKB-F1; Mike Dommett and all at B.M.C.R.C. for organising a superb weekend of sidecar (and solo) action, at what has undoubtedly been one of the best sidecar-orientated meetings for many years. As always, the F.S.R.A. would like show their appreciation to the A.C.U. and all series sponsors: A.R.C. Binchester; A.V. Craine & Son; Hegarty Plant; Lockside Engineering; Pagid Racing; Rowtec Ltd; Whitby Cottages and Yorkshire Engine Supplies.
There is now a five week break until the next round of the series, which is at Anglesey (Coastal) on the 3rd and 4th August. During that time, many of the F.S.R.A. competitors and their teams will be making the visit to the Isle of Man for the Southern 100 Road Races. On behalf of the F.S.R.A. may I wish them a safe and enjoyable trip.