It was a weekend of contrasting fortunes for Team A.R.C. at the third round of the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship at Donington Park. While John and Jake Lowther had their most successful weekend to date; their team mates Lee Crawford and Patrick Farrance had a meeting which was largely disappointing.
Lee and Patrick suffered a catalogue of problems, which began before they had even set off to the circuit on Friday afternoon. A hairline crack in the fuel tank was discovered whilst loading the machine, so repairs had to be made at short notice (thanks to Tony Baker). The Saturday morning qualifying session was somewhat challenging - despite a trouble-free weekend at Oliver's Mount last time out - an intermittent electrical fault had seemingly returned, causing the outfit to "cut out" on several occasions. Coupled with a chronic understeer problem, Lee and Patrick were pleasantly surprised to find that they had still managed to qualify in third position, albeit a full two seconds off the scintillating pace of pole sitters Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley. Steve / Matty Ramsden were to join them on the front row, while a strong showing from Lee and Patrick's team-mates - John and Jake Lowther - saw Team A.R.C. lock out the second row, despite John nursing a shoulder injury.
The fault with Lee and Patrick's outfit was diagnosed to a loss of battery voltage, which was traced back to the generator - which had sheared a bolt internally and pulled the copper core to pieces! A change to the front suspension was also made, going to a softer spring. Both machines were made ready for the opening race, which was held rather late on in the day which had stayed dry, if a little overcast - despite the predictions of heavy rain.
Both Team A.R.C. machines made a decent start - John and Jake slotted into second place at the expense of the Ramsdens; however Lee and Patrick's problems started almost immediately. They quickly fell down the order, and retired to pitlane at the end of lap two - electrical problems once again ruling them out of contention. Meanwhile, John and Jake were having a storming ride, easing out a margin of more than twelve seconds over the Ramsdens by the chequered flag. Once again, Founds / Walmsley were dominant in taking a winning margin of eleven seconds over the chasing teams. Sean Reeves / Adam Christie took fourth, with Sean Hegarty / James Neave fifth, both teams opening their points accounts for the season. 2016 F.S.R.A. Cup winners Gary / Daryl Gibson completed the top six, only a tenth behind Hegarty / Neave.Lee and Patrick struggled to identify the exact cause of the issue, despite working until the "generator curfew" at 11.15pm.
On Sunday morning, after discussions with electronics expert Steve Hirst, the root of the problem was traced to the Regulator / Rectifier which was possibly damaged at the same time as the generator expired on the previous day. Thank you to Brian Ilaria for lending his spare to enable the team to participate in the remainder of the event.
The warm up session was encouraging, with both outfits running at a steady pace - saving themselves and the machinery for the race, which was once again held towards the end of the day. While Founds / Walmsley used their pole position to full effect, both Team A.R.C. outfits relegated the Ramsdens to fourth, with Lee and Patrick heading the chase to the runaway championship leaders. However, the handling of the outfit was once again causing concern, with understeer on right handers being a major hindrance. An excursion into the gravel trap on lap three saw their chances of a podium finish fade as they dropped down the order, rejoining in the lower reaches of the top fifteen. Meanwhile, normal service at the front had resumed for Founds / Walmsley, pulling away from the pack, breaking yet another lap record in the process. In a repeat of Saturday, John and Jake eased away from the Ramsdens, as the line up of the previous day's podium was replicated, with Founds / Walmsley taking an eleven second win. John and Jake five were seconds ahead of the third placed Ramsdens at the chequered flag.
Lee and Patrick fought their way up to fifth place, but with the understeer problems, their lap times were around two seconds away from their usual pace. The last three laps saw them exchange positions with Reeves / Christie - which turned out to be the most entertaining part of the race. Exiting The Esses on the final lap saw a charge from Lee and Patrick as both outfits headed for the line, but a margin of only 0.048 saw Reeves and Christie hang onto fourth place. Hegarty / Neave completed the top six, just over five seconds in arrears of Lee and Patrick.
The results leave Lee and Patrick languishing down the championship table in fifth position; however John and Jake have been propelled to equal second with the Ramsdens (in the event of a tie at the season's end, the final positions are determined by the best placings in races - this would see the Lowthers take second on the account of their three runners-up finishes to the Ramsdens two at this moment in time). However, with nearly forty points advantage, it will require something special to catch Founds / Walmsley.
Thanks to all sponsors and supporters for their invaluable assistance: Katy's Home Tanning; P.G. Legal; KC Computer Repairs; Walker Tyres; Motul; Pagid Rennsport; Dean Banks Engine Management; Happy Dog Image Solutions; PMH Promotions; Tony Baker; Dynobike (Malton); Dirk Wharton Photography; Elite Meat and A.R.C. Newton Aycliffe / Binchester.
There is now an eleven week break from the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British Championship, which resumes at Anglesey on the 29th and 30th July. Jake will be the sole Team A.R.C. representative competing at the Isle of Man T.T. this year, alongside Alan Founds, who last year took a rostrum finish at the event. The team wish them, and all other competitors a safe and successful event.