The 32nd ACU/FSRA British F2 Sidecar Championship began back in April. 24 teams had registered, most were ready for the opening races at Oulton Park. Last year's top two, Alan Founds and John Holden had other targets for the season, so unsurprisingly the 'smart money' was on the other teams in last year's top six. It was Pete Founds, now with Jevan Walmsley in the chair, who took a double victory, with Ian and Carl Bell, along with Lee Crawford and Patrick Farrance each taking a second and a third placing. Steve and Mattie Ramsden scored two fourths, while Conrad Harrison and Lee Patterson, along with Dwight Beare and Ben Binns, each took a fifth and a sixth position. It was the Manx residents, Beare and Binns, who took the F2 Cup honours with two class wins and therefore a maximum 50 points.
A fortnight later at Donington, the Founds/Walmsley duo again scored a double victory and so had amassed 100 points in the Championship. Crawford and Ramsden each took a runner-up placing but it was the Bells with two third places who moved onto 68 points and second place in the table. In the Cup, Beare and Binns had a double 'no score' and while Lewis Blackstock and Paddy Rosney took the honours in race one, a third retirement from four races left them on 25 Cup points to Beare's 50. Meanwhile Gary and Darryl Gibson had one class win but three second places and led the Cup on 85.
All these points totals and race results faded into insignificance within a few weeks as the TT made the sidecar world pay a terrible price, with Dwight Beare losing his life in the first race and a week later, Ian Bell in race two. Dwight had made an immediate impact in the sidecar paddocks both in the IOM where he settled and on the UK tracks, all of which he had mastered in 2015 in his first season in England. Ian, a North-East legend, three times British Champion, TT winner, numerous wins at the Southern 100, an incredible 70 wins at Olivers Mount........the sidecar world was devastated.
Dwighty and Ben - Photo courtesy of Dirk Wharton
The championship's third round was at Anglesey. There are always less entries at the first meeting after the TT, wear and tear on the engines etc, but this was different. Just 14 entries. But two different winners put some life into the championship. The Crawford/Farrance and Ramsdens teams each took a win to a single second place for Founds, but both Crawford and Ramsden suffered a retirement along with their win, so the points gap was barely altered. Blackstock and Rosney scored a second and third and took the Cup class wins but the Gibsons were third each time and so the points read 117 to 75. Blackstock needed the Gibsons to score a 'nil point'!
Just the 14 entries again for Cadwell a month later and normal service was resumed in so far as Founds and Walmsley took their third double win. Crawford and Blackstock each took a second and third with Ramsden's two fourths just ahead of Dave Wallis and Harry Payne keeping the crowd entertained.
The points read Founds 170, Crawford 117, Ramsden 110, which meant Founds could win the title next time out. In the Cup, Blackstock's 50 took him to 115 but the Gibsons' 40 put them on 157.
A work injury and illness cut the entry at Croft to 12, when it rains it sometimes pours......Founds and Walmsley took their fourth double win and so the British title, not by much in either race but Crawford and Ramsden despite their efforts did at least pretty much sew up their second and third places. Founds and Walmsley's 8 wins from 10 races was a tremendous performance. Very rarely has this championship in 32 runnings been won before the final round......and it was passenger Walmsley's first full year in the championship!
Pete and Bevan - from John Mushet
With a six week gap to the final scheduled round at Brands and the running of the inaugural Ian Bell Memorial Race at East Fortune on the same day, entries were not only slow to come in but lacked sufficiently in number, for the Bemsee organisation and the FSRA to decide very sensibly to cancel the final round. And so the 1-2-3 after Croft became the final order, Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley the new champions from Lee Crawford and Patrick Farrance second with Steve and Mattie Ramsden third. Gary and Darryl Gibson won the F2 Cup from Lewis Blackstock and Paddy Rosney second and Nick Dukes/William Moralee third.
The 2017 season will need an injection of drive and enthusiasm but with the altered engine specification there is every hope that the longest running sidecar championship in the UK will once more flourish. The FSRA would like to thank the host clubs, namely Wirral 100, North Gloucester, BMCRC and NEMCRC and also the championship's sponsors, obviously the ACU, but also Yorkshire Engine Supplies, A.V.Craine & Sons, Lockside Engineering and Breitenbach Rennsport Pagid Brake Pads.