Photo Credit - Dirk Wharton
The A.C.U./F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship entered the second half of its season at Cadwell Park last weekend - a favourite venue for competitors and spectators alike. The Lincolnshire circuit is one which has been a happy hunting ground for Team A.R.C. - with three British Championship podium places (including a win in 2015), numerous club wins and the Auto 66 Club F2 sidecar lap record - it was clear that the Newton Aycliffe based team would be considered amongst the favourites for honours at this meeting.
Having had a frustrating meeting at Oliver's Mount on the previous weekend (despite taking a fine second place in the opening race), the option to take part in the Friday practice day at Cadwell Park was one which was welcomed by driver, Lee Crawford. Thanks go to Adam Christie who stepped in to fulfil passengering duties in the test, as regular ballast Patrick Farrance had work commitments, and was unable to get to the circuit until Friday evening. Changes made during the week seemed to have been fruitful from the data and feedback obtained in the opening session - and with the heavens opening in the second one just as the outfits took to the circuit - it was elected to park up for the day, with nothing further to prove or investigate.
Saturday morning dawned more brightly, with free practice taking place on a slightly damp track, which was rapidly drying out as the ten minute session went on. Times were obviously down on what would normally be expected, with Lee and Patrick heading the timesheet until the final circuit, when championship leaders Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley took advantage of the drying line to pip Team A.R.C. to top the list. However, with practice counting for little, the qualifying session was eagerly anticipated, particularly as the track was now fully dry. That being said, conditions were a little tricky, particularly from the Gooseneck down to Mansfield, where there had been two separate solo incidents, culminating in a significant amount of fuel and oil being deposited on the racing line.
Photo Credit - Dirk Wharton
Founds / Walmsley continued their good run of form, immediately racing to the top of the times in the early laps. However, heading the chasing pack were the impressive youngsters Lewis Blackstock / Paddy Rosney, who briefly went fastest, but had to eventually settle for second. Team A.R.C. had, by their standards, a disappointing session, only completing three laps and pulling back into the paddock with a major handling issue. It was to Lee and Patrick's credit that they still managed to qualify in fourth place, sharing the second row of the grid with welcome returnees to the series - Sean Reeves / Andy Winkle. A full strip down and inspection of the back end of the machine took place upon returning to the paddock, with one or two adjustments made.
With the aforementioned solo incidents having caused delays of over two hours, B.M.C.R.C. had no option than to significantly reschedule the programme - all club races were increased to a single nine running, instead of two shorter outings. This meant the F.S.R.A. race, originally intended to be at the end of the first "run through", was now held at the end of the day. Despite being after 6pm when the machines set off on the warm up lap, there was warm sunshine and a healthy crowd of spectators still in attendance for the feature race of the day.
Lee and Patrick made a decent getaway, along with those around them - particularly Steve / Matty Ramsden, who had a few mechanical issues in qualifying and had found themselves in sixth on the grid - the Ramsdens got alongside Team A.R.C. into Coppice, but Lee and Patrick ensured they closed the door at Charlies, as the pack thundered down Park Straight. Settling into fourth spot, they hounded Reeves / Winkle for the opening laps, before making a bold outbraking manoeuvre into Coppice at the start of lap four which paid off handsomely. Edging away from Reeves / Winkle (who unfortunately retired on lap six with a terminal engine problem), Team A.R.C. had little time to make in-roads into the leading duo of outfits, but took heed of signals from pitlane to maintain a three second margin over the fourth placed Ramsdens at the chequered flag. A win for Founds / Walmsley saw them further extend their championship lead, with Blackstock / Rosney proving their qualifying position was no fluke with an excellent second place, finishing only a second in arrears.
Photo Credit - Dirk Wharton
Having had no issues or changes to make, it was elected not to take part in the warm up on Sunday morning, instead waiting patiently for the race, once again held in pleasant sunshine. In a repeat of the start of race one, the Ramsden machine got alongside Lee and Patrick, but the place was immediately regained at Coppice - Dave Wallis / Harry Payne were also in the wheeltracks hoping to capitalise on a mistake, but they were to be denied, as Team A.R.C. moved into third place at Charlies. Founds / Walmsley had once again capitalised on their pole position, and were easing a gap from Blackstock / Rosney. Lee and Patrick quickly got into a rhythm and set about reducing the deficit, and by lap three were on the tail of the second place machine, increasing the gap over the Ramsdens. A good run from Gooseneck on lap four saw the Team A.R.C. outfit outbrake Blackstock / Rosney into Mansfield, holding the position - the chase to Founds / Walmsley then began. Although the gap started to come down, and a modest cushion was built over Blackstock / Rosney, it seemed the tyres began to go off around lap nine, and it was evident that catching, let alone passing the leaders would be nigh on impossible. With less than a second between the second and third placed pairings at the start of the final lap, all was set for a thrilling finish, especially with some of the tail-enders coming into play. Team A.R.C. took full advantage of the pit signals, and rode fantastically to defend the place, finishing a mere 0.552 in front of Blackstock / Rosney, in what had been an entertaining race (albeit a relatively lonely one for Founds / Walmsley, who made it a double win).
With two rounds remaining of this years championship, all eyes are now on the runners-up position in the chase, which is being tightly contested by Team A.R.C. and Ramsden Racing - although mathematically possible that either of the aforementioned teams could win the title, it would require some horrendous luck for Team Founds to have their enviable lead overturned. The series moves next to Lee and Patrick's home circuit - Croft - on the 27th and 28th August for the
penultimate round, where they will be hoping to further improve on this weekend's results, and further consolidate their position in the championship.
Lee and Patrick would like to express their thanks for the ongoing help and assistance of: 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. Thanks also go to all team members for their assistance and support at Cadwell Park, and for their patience and expertise over the last few weeks, which have at times been challenging.
Photo Credit - Ellie Pryce