September has proved to be the busiest month of the year for Team A.R.C., during which time they have competed on four consecutive weekends. Lee Crawford and Scott Hardie won the inaugural "Marin Cup" (Scottish Sidecar Championship), with four F2 wins at the Jock Taylor Trophy meeting at Knockhill at the start of the month. They then completed their A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Championship campaign with events at Mallory Park and Cadwell Park respectively. Finally, they rounded off in style with a brace of wins at Oliver's Mount, in a meeting which sadly concluded early owing to incidents in solo events. Team mates John and Jake Lowther competed only at Scarborough, themselves taking two podium positions to continue their impressive form at the seaside circuit.
The British Championship has been a sporadic affair all year for Lee and Scott, who were set to endure more of the same at Mallory Park. John and Jake had chosen to cease their campaign in the F.S.R.A. series, despite sitting in a clear third position in the standings prior to this event, instead deciding to focus on racing their F1 machine in the RKB-F1 series held alongside B.S.B. meetings.
Practice and qualifying was held on Saturday, with Lee and Scott placing second to championship leaders Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley. Only 0.083 back in third were Steve / Matty Ramsden, with Conrad Harrison / Andy Winkle; Sean Hegarty / James Neave and Howard Baker / Mike Killingsworth making up the top six. At the conclusion of the day's events, "taxi rides" were held, which Team A.R.C. were pleased to assist with, raising in excess of £800 in total, which was donated to the "KeepSmiley4Riley" fund.
Two eighteen lap races were in prospect for Sunday, the first of which being just prior to the lunch break. As the teams assembled in the holding bay, the rain began to fall steadily. A "wet race" was called, however, at that moment in time it was nowhere near wet enough to warrant a change from slick tyres.
Hegarty / Neave pulled in on the warm up lap, as did Giles / Jen Stainton, joining them on the sidelines as the race got underway. Lee and Scott made the best start, easing ahead of Founds / Walmsley as the outfits peeled into Gerards. Baker / Killingsworth edged ahead of the Ramsdens, then took advantage of a mistake by Harrison / Winkle, who spun at the Hairpin to move into third. The order at the front was unchanged, as the gap between each machine grew as the weather changed - the rain stopping on lap eight, before resuming around five laps later. Harrison / Winkle moved back up to fourth, but were unable to make further progress by the chequered flag. Lee and Scott eased off in the closing stages, allowing Founds / Walmsley to close the gap to 7.1 seconds, setting the fastest time of the race on the final lap. Such was the dominance of Lee and Scott, they lapped all up to the fifth placed finishers, Sean Reeves / Tom Christie.
Race two was a disappointing affair. Unfortunately the first start was almost immediately red flagged, as Andy Wilby / Paul Lowther were hit from behind by another machine at Edwina's on lap one. We wish Paul a speedy recovery from the leg fractures he sustained. After a short delay, the race was re-started, with the Ramsdens making a blistering start from the second row. However, Founds / Walmsley and Lee and Scott both found a way through on lap two, and began to pull away from the pack, which was now being headed by Harrison / Winkle.
Mechanical gremlins which have plagued Lee and Scott at a number of points this season once again reared their ugly head, and it was clear the machine was slowing as Harrison / Winkle set the fastest lap of the weekend chasing them down. With the motor seemingly "tightening up", Lee and Scott retired on lap nine. However, the result was declared prematurely after just twelve laps due to an oil spill on the exit of Gerards. A win for Founds / Walmsley saw them retain their championship title - worthy winners, to whom all at Team A.R.C. send their congratulations. Harrison / Winkle were second, moving them into a commanding third place in the championship standings, with Hegarty / Neave taking the final podium spot.
A fast turnaround during the week, including spending a day with Pete Alton at O.T.C. Dyno saw Lee and Scott at Cadwell Park for the third and final visit of the F.S.R.A. F2's this season. The team took advantage of the test sessions on Friday afternoon, albeit in changable conditions, during which time they were able to set the bike up with plenty of laps.
Unusually, instead of free practice and a single qualifying session, Saturday saw both sessions timed, with the best time from either outing counting towards the grid positions for the F.S.R.A. races. The first session was combined with the club sidecars, and started in damp - but not wet - conditions. Lee and Scott immediately topped the timesheets, getting two laps in, when unfortunately the session was stopped due to an incident involving one of the F1 club outfits. While the circuit was cleared, the weather worsened, with a downpour soaking the track. As a result, when it came to re-start, times did not improve, and Lee and Scott found themselves 4.5 seconds clear of the field. The second qualifying session was held solely for the British F2 teams, and whilst still wet, all teams ran on treaded tyres, with times slightly improved from the morning outing. Lee and Scott were again quickest, but pulled in early - while all other teams set their fastest times on the final lap (proving the circuit was at it's quickest then). Team A.R.C. headed Founds / Walmsley - denying the British Champions a clean sweep of pole position starts in 2017. The Ramsdens were third, just ahead of wild cards Tim Reeves / Mark Wilkes, with Hegarty / Neave fifth, and Harrison / Winkle rounding out the top six.
A shortened ten lap race was held on Saturday evening on what was still a damp track. The Ramsdens made an exceptional getaway, but were soon overhauled by Founds / Walmsley and Lee and Scott who took the lead on lap three, with the outfits trading places several times. Reeves / Wilkes made it a three-way battle for the lead, in an enthralling contest, these machines pulling clear of the chasing pack.
Unfortunately, on lap seven, Lee and Scott were involved in a racing incident with Reeves / Wilkes, which ended their race at Charlies. Founds / Walmsley went on to take the win from the Ramsdens, with Harrison / Winkle coming home third. Reeves / Wilkes had taken the chequered flag just behind the leaders, but were later removed from the result due to a technical issue which arose in Parc Ferme.
Overnight repairs to the machine were made, and Lee and Scott were able to take part in the eighteen lap race, held on a sunny Sunday morning. The Ramsdens made a lightning start once again, but were quickly forced to retire with a clutch problem, in what became a race of attrition, with five non-finishers. Harrison / Winkle led in the early stages, before Lee and Scott took a turn at the front. However, it soon became "business as usual" as Founds / Walmsley began to edge away. Their job was made easier at half distance, as Lee and Scott were struggling with drive, as their chain skipped the rear sprocket. Harrison / Winkle and Hegarty / Neave had a race-long duel, the latter taking third, as they caught Team A.R.C. in the closing stages, although Lee and Scott were able to hang on for a well-deserved second place. These points were enough to take them to fourth in the overall championship standings, in a campaign which has been hampered by reliability issues and some bad luck, so overall, a respectable place in a season faced with a degree of adversity!
Both Team A.R.C. F2 machines were in action on the following weekend at the International Gold Cup Road Races at Oliver's Mount, Scarborough, having already enjoyed considerable success there earlier in the year. Free practice saw Reeves / Wilkes top the sheets, which was no surprise as the pre-race favourites asserted their authority immediately. Lee and Scott were third, just behind Harrison / Winkle, with the Ramsdens fourth, and John and Jake fifth. Qualifying saw a marked improvement for both pairings - while Reeves / Wilkes still headed the charge, Lee and Scott were only 0.1 seconds in arrears, while John and Jake lined up third, ahead of the Ramsdens; Greg Lambert / Julie Canipa and Gary / Daryl Gibson. Harrison / Winkle failed to post a time, with their machine dropping onto three cylinders on the out lap, meaning they would start from the back of the grid.
The opening race saw Lee and Scott make a blistering start, peeling into Mere Hairpin ahead of Reeves / Wilkes, a position they did not relinquish, despite being hounded for most of the race by the multi British and World Champion - the closest being on the final lap at Mountside Hairpin, where the outfits were side by side, with Lee and Scott gaining better drive as they headed towards The Jumps. John and Jake had a relatively lonely ride in third, easing away from the pack, crossing the line fourteen seconds behind Reeves / Wilkes and seven ahead of Harrison / Winkle, who had an excellent charge through the field. The Ramsdens were fifth, clearly suffering some sort of machine problems, being off their usual pace, with Lambert / Canipa sixth.
Race two was held late in the day, as daylight faded. Unfortunately Reeves / Wilkes were non-starters, pulling off the line after the warm up lap with a punctured front tyre. Lee and Scott took a "lights to flag" victory, also setting the fastest lap of the race - which was especially pleasing as in a repeat of the previous weekend, they were suffering with the chain skipping the rear sprocket. Harrison / Winkle got the better of John and Jake, pulling a gap of just over 2.8 seconds over the brothers at the chequered flag. The Ramsdens; Lambert / Canipa and the Gibsons completed the top six.
Sadly, the Sunday race programme was abandoned early in the schedule, due to two separate solo incidents, which saw a number of spectators injured. We wish all those involved a full and fast recovery.
As always, there has been a big effort from the support team and sponsors, without whom this success would not be achievable. Thanks to them all (in no particular order): Katy's Home Tanning; P.G. Legal; KC Computer Repairs; Pete Alton (O.T.C. Dyno) Walker Tyres; Motul; Pagid Rennsport; Dean Banks Engine Management; Happy Dog Image Solutions; PMH Promotions; Tony Baker; Dirk Wharton Photography; Elite Meat; Avenue Fisheries (Scunthorpe) and A.R.C. Newton Aycliffe / Binchester.
The season is now rapidly approaching it's conclusion. John and Jake are concentrating fully on their F1 outfit, and will be competing in the remaining RKB-F1 events (Assen and Brands Hatch). Lee and Scott will be in action at the "Ian Bell Memorial" meeting at East Fortune on the 7th and 8th October, and finally both pairings will be at the annual "Sidecar Bash" at Cadwell Park with the Auto 66 Club on the 28th and 29th October.