Photo Credit - Dirk Wharton
Following a seven week break to accommodate the Isle of Man TT, the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship campaign resumed at Anglesey Circuit, North Wales on the 25th and 26th June. On the back of a hat-trick of podium finishes at Oliver's Mount the previous weekend, Newton Aycliffe-based Team A.R.C. arrived full of optimism in the hope of closing the gap to the championship leaders.
Joining driver Lee Crawford once again was Patrick Farrance, fresh from securing third place in the second sidecar race at the TT with Tim Reeves. It had been a number of years since Patrick had competed at Anglesey, and with Lee having only completed a handful of laps around the 1.55 mile Coastal Circuit eleven months previously, the opening practice session was used mainly for familiarisation purposes. Sharing the track with the Wirral 100 club sidecars, plus the F.S.R.A. Pre-Injection machines made for a busy session, which was treated with slight trepidation owing to the varying speed of machinery and riding styles of those taking part.
Qualifying took place later in the morning, again in dry but breezy conditions. With entries slightly down on those usually expected, it was a relatively lonely session for most teams as they circulated for fifteen minutes. With no issues, other than frustratingly struggling for straight line speed, Lee and Patrick qualified in a very respectable third position behind circuit specialists Steve / Matty Ramsden, and championship leaders Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley. The impressive youngsters Lewis Blackstock / Paddy Rosney shared the second row with Team A.R.C., rounding out the top four.
A few changes were made to the outfit, so permission was sought to test in the Wirral 100 club sidecar race, and four laps were completed from the back of the grid. With improvements made, the twenty lap (31 mile) race was eagerly anticipated, getting underway in almost perfect conditions. Team A.R.C. were quickly relegated to fourth by Blackstock / Rosney as the outfits peeled into the first left-hander at Turn 1,the layout of the grid offering the tighter inside line to the even-numbered qualifiers. However, Lee and Patrick returned the favour almost immediately at Church, on the entry to the fast back straight. Blackstock / Rosney lost a further position to "Wild Cards" and former series regulars, John / Jake Lowther, although they quickly re-took the place, and set off in pursuit of Team A.R.C.
At the front the Ramsden's were using their circuit knowledge to good effect, holding off the challenge of Founds / Walmsley robustly, with both outfits looking similarly fast in a straight line, something which was hampering the progress of Lee and Patrick as they made in-roads into the outfits they were chasing down in the braking areas, but ulitmately lost out on top end speed. Sheer hard work and determination finally broke the tow which Blackstock / Rosney had been enjoying, and by lap eight, it looked like Team A.R.C. were settled in a safe third position, as they opened up a two second gap. However, drama was to unfold shortly after, as Lee and Patrick were promoted to second position, at the expense of Founds / Walmsley, who suffered a technical problem (apparently a blockage in a filter) which led to their retirement at half distance. With the prospect of significantly closing the gap to the championship leaders, the assembled pit crew looked on with trepidation, as the outfit appeared to be labouring somewhat. These fears were proven to be correct, when on lap thirteen, Team A.R.C. run out of luck, as Lee pulled the bike into pitlane, believing there to be a terminal mechanical failure - the race over for the day. (Which was eventually won by the Ramsden's, with a 28 second margin over Blackstock / Rosney, with the Lowther's a further ten seconds back in third after an enthralling race-long tussle with Dave Wallis / Tony Belsey).
Photo Credit - Dirk Wharton
Sunday promised to be an altogether more unpleasant day weather-wise, and this certainly proved to be the case. With repairs to the outfit complete the previous evening, a warm up in damp conditions took place. Running on slick tyres due to weather conditions changing by the minute, Team A.R.C. used the session purely to assess that the outfit was running correctly. With all in order, there then followed a rather drawn out period of time waiting for the final race of the weekend, as weather conditions, oil / fuel spillages and red flag incidents ensured the Wirral 100 club officials and marshals were kept busy. Persistent rain had been falling for several hours before the race got underway just before 3pm, and all crews were on full wet tyres, with visibility poor, and patches of standing water on parts of the circuit.
The Ramsden's once again took the initiative from their pole position starting spot, with Founds / Walmsley and Blackstock / Rosney both getting away in their wheeltracks. Lee entered the first corner showing plenty of respect, having been involved in a melee with several outfits in similar conditions in 2015, which had caused his retirement. However, at the following right hander, he firstly passed Blackstock / Rosney, before diving up the inside of Founds / Walmsley, and set about chasing down the Ramsden's - catching them proved no problem, however, with the amount of standing water causing spray, things weren't easy. With an ever-increasing gap over third placed Founds / Walmsley, Lee and Patrick hounded the Ramsden's for lap after lap, proving good entertainment for the spectators who had decided to brave the elements.
Photo Credit - Dirk Wharton
By lap ten, the leading machines were beginning to get amongst the backmarkers; with a gap varying between 0.3 and 0.5 seconds at the end of each lap, one mistake would see the race play into the hands of either the Ramsden's or Team A.R.C. Unfortunately, this was to be the case - in the closing stages of the penultimate lap, the Ramsden's collided with a backmarker, forcing them to retire and the red flags to come out, bringing proceedings to a close. With the results rolled back to the previous lap, Lee and Patrick were declared the winners, finishing thirty seconds ahead of Founds / Walmsley, with Blackstock / Rosney completing the podium. While Team A.R.C. were happy to have taken the victory, they did feel it was a shame that the race was prematurely ended and they weren't able to do battle with the Ramsden's all the way to the chequered flag, in what would have undoubtedly been a fantastic last lap.
With the top three championship contenders each having suffered a "dnf" and a podium placing over the weekend, there is clearly a lot to play for as the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship moves into the second half of the season, although it is clear that Founds / Walmsley still have a powerful stranglehold at the top of the table. The next event is on the 30th & 31st July at Cadwell Park, where Lee and Patrick took a win and a second place in 2015, so they will be hoping for similar results this year.
Lee and Patrick would both like to offer their appreciation to: P.G. Legal; A.F. Engineering & Design Services Ltd.; Dean Banks Engine Management; KC Computers; Castle Integration; Pagid Racing; AM Leathers/Gary Partridge; Dynobike (Malton); Bio-Sport; Christie Engineering Services and ARC Binchester / Newton Aycliffe for all of their assistance so far this year. Thanks also go to all the pitcrew and team members who attended Anglesey for their hard work and commitment.
Photo Credit - Mark Dennis