Lee Crawford and Scott Hardie, of Team A.R.C., took a clean sweep of F2 wins at Knockhill on the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd September, landing them the inaugural "Marin Cup" title. However, they had no answer to the dominance of top British F1 team, Steve Kershaw / Stuart Clark, who were the overall winners in all four races, taking the prestigious "Jock Taylor Trophy" on home soil.
It was the first visit to Knockhill for Lee, although Glenrothes-based Scott can consider the venue to be his "home circuit". The meeting was being run in reverse-direction, meaning a total of seven left handers was to make it a challenging event for all sidecar competitors. An optional familiarisation session was held on Friday evening, which went without incident under sunny skies.
Free practice was unfortunately stopped midway through on Saturday morning. Marin Cup series leader going into the weekend, Mick Bell, with his cousin Carl alongside him, had an incident which put them out of proceedings for the duration of the event. We wish them both well for a speedy recovery.
Timed qualifying saw the F1 machine of Kershaw / Clark top the timesheets, a position they failed to relinquish for the duration of the meeting! Lee and Scott quickly slotted into second, and improved their laptimes over the session to 57.8s, over 2.5 seconds clear of third placed Gordon Shand / Tony Belsey, who were only 0.2 seconds in front of the hugely impressive Daryl Gibson / Tom Christie - Daryl still sporting a novice vest! Seventeen machines featured in the session, with a variety of F1, F2, F600, short 750 and classic machines making for an interesting event - a formula which has seen a resurgence in the Scottish sidecar scene this year in welcoming teams of all classes and abilities.
Kershaw / Clark opened their account of race wins in the first encounter, lapping all up to the third placed finishers, showing they meant business! Lee and Scott had a lonely ride, easing off in the latter stages to give the backmarkers plenty of space. They finished 37 seconds in arrears of the race winners, but 20 seconds clear of Gibson / Christie, who had passed Shand / Belsey at half distance - the Scot-Anglo pairing finishing fourth, with Dave Lillie / Ben Chandler and Giles / Jen Stainton completing the top six. Lee and Scott were pleased to have further improved their lap time, taking 0.7 seconds off from the earlier outing.
It was clear that, particularly while the weather remained dry, there was no chance of an F2 mounting a realistic challenge to Kershaw / Clark, so consistent point scoring would be the priority for the remaining three races. The second round of races on Saturday afternoon had been reduced to eight laps, owing to a number of stoppages earlier in the programme.
Kershaw / Clark scored two wins from two starts, while Lee and Scott made it a brace of F2 class victories, crossing the line 19 seconds shy of the flying F1, again shaving time off their previous best. Shand / Belsey eased out Gibson / Christie this time around by only 0.01 seconds in a race-long duel which was by far the most entertaining sidecar action of the day. Lillie / Chandler repeated their fifth place, while Stu Anderson / Kerry Hughes rounded out the top six.
Rumours of rain on Sunday proved unfounded, as once again racing got started under sunny skies. While Lee and Scott initially got their nose in front at the start, the F1 of Kershaw / Clark used it's superior power to ease ahead into the hairpin, and stretch out a margin of 38 seconds over Team A.R.C. at the end of the tenth lap. Lee and Scott, knowing a second place finish would land them the Marin Cup rode with this in mind, finishing 10 seconds clear of Gibson / Christie, who passed and pulled away from Shand / Belsey who finished fourth, ahead of Anderson / Hughes and the Staintons.
The final outing of the weekend was the feature race, with the winners to receive the Jock Taylor Trophy, in memory of the most successful Scottish sidecar racer of all time. The F1 took the win, by 35 seconds, to mark an all-round excellent performance from Kershaw / Clark. Lee and Scott were especially happy in lowering their lap time to 56.945s (what is believed to be an F2 lap record with this configuration of circuit, although data is not currently available). They in turn finished 11 seconds ahead of Gibson / Christie - Daryl having acquired his final signature to graduate to "Clubman" licence. Shand / Belsey; Anderson / Hughes and Lillie / Chandler completed the top six.
The podium presentation was made immediately after the race, by members of the Taylor family. A further awards ceremony was conducted at the close of racing in the clubhouse, where Lee and Scott were presented with the Marin Cup - an excellent achievement given they had not taken part at the opening event at Knockhill in April. Indeed, in all of the races they entered, they were the first placed F2 machine.
As always, Team A.R.C. would like to thank the following for their much appreciated assistance: P.G. Legal; KC Computer Repairs; Walker Tyres; Motul; Pagid Rennsport; Dean Banks Engine Management; Happy Dog Image Solutions; PMH Promotions; Tony Baker; Dirk Wharton Photography; Elite Meat; Pete Alton (O.T.C. Dyno Centre) and A.R.C. Newton Aycliffe / Binchester. Furthermore, the team would like to recognise the efforts of the Scottish Sidecar Club, particularly Gavin Browne and Boris Stroud for rejuvinating the class north of the border, making these enjoyable events to participate in.
Unfortunately, Team A.R.C. will be unable to compete in the next event at East Fortune, owing to a clash with the International Gold Cup Road Races at Oliver's Mount on the 23rd and 24th September. However, Lee and Scott will be in action at the final East Fortune meeting, which includes the "Ian Bell Memorial Trophy", on the 7th and 8th October. Before these events, though, the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Championship resumes at Mallory Park, this coming weekend (9th and 10th October), and reaches it's conclusion at Cadwell Park on the following weekend. Lee and Scott are hoping to continue their good run of form and reliability at these events, in what is shaping up to be a busy end to the 2017 season.