Lee Crawford and Jake Lowther, representing Team A.R.C. had their most successful weekend of racing at Oliver's Mount, Scarborough to date; on April 22nd and 23rd. The pair both set their personal best lap times, and took a brace of wins - the first time either of them had tasted victory at the picturesque seaside public road circuit.
Although Lee and Jake had competed together before, it was nine months previous at Cadwell Park in a Derby Phoenix club meeting, so the opening practice was treated as a familiarisation session. Despite the promise of a sunny and dry weekend, a brief - but sharp - shower prior to practice ensured that the circuit was greasy in most places, particularly under the trees at Quarry Hill, and at the exit of Mount Hairpin. Most teams opted for slick tyres, with the likelihood of destroying full wet tyres too big a chance to take! As a result, lap times were modest, with Lee and Jake slotting into third place on the leaderboard, with Manx visitors Dave Molyneux / Dan Sayle on their immaculate DMR Yamaha setting the fastest time, from in-form Oliver's Mount regulars Steve / Matty Ramsden. Three other familiar combinations completed the top six - Greg Lambert / Julie Canipa; Conrad Harrison / Andy Winkle and Dave Wallis / Scott Hardie.
With no further threat of rain in prospect, the circuit dried out under a sunny sky as the morning progressed, perhaps aided by a rather bracing sea breeze! Qualifying got underway at midday, and immediately Molyneux / Sayle looked like they meant business, taking the lead on the road and setting the fastest lap. However, they were forced out with a terminal mechanical failure on the next lap, which brought the session to a premature end as the red flag was shown due to a spillage of fluids on the approach to Farm Bends. An early lunch was called while the road was cleared, with an efficient job done by the Auto 66 Club's marshals.
The sidecar qualifying was re-run immediately after the break. All teams took the out lap with trepidation, being the first competitors on circuit following the prior incident. Times were certainly improved from the morning session, but the circuit was still not at it's best for optimum speeds. Lee and Jake took advantage of a clear road in front of them by ensuring they were the first machine on circuit, this paid dividends, landing them their first "pole position" at Oliver's Mount, by a margin of nearly 2.5 seconds from Harrison / Winkle. Lambert / Canipa; Wallis / Hardie and returnees Dean Lindley / Rob Bell occupied the next grid-slots. The Ramsdens had, by their standards, a disappointing outing, placing sixth. They had been caught in traffic, and touched a kerb, which caused their wheelarch to detach - forcing them to limp back to the paddock after their third lap.
A rather depleted grid lined up for race one - unfortunately Molyneux / Sayle had no means of repairing their machine and took no further part in the event. Nine outfits lined up for the start, with Lee and Jake making an excellent start, but so too did the Ramsdens, who slotted into third position behind Harrison / Winkle, from their lowly grid placing. Lee and Jake began to open a gap to Harrison / Winkle, who were fending the Ramsdens off valiantly, with the rest of the pack falling away slightly. However, at the end of the second lap, Harrison / Winkle outbraked themselves into Farm Bends and missed the chicane, waiting patiently to rejoin, gifting second place fairly to the Ramsdens, who now charged in pursuit of Team A.R.C. While Lee and Jake set a laptime of 1.57.9 on lap two - their fastest of the race - the following lap saw the Ramsdens go quicker still, and shortly after they took the lead. Determined to recapture the position, Lee and Jake shadowed them, retaking the top spot on lap four at Mount Hairpin, after the Ramsdens again made contact with a kerb, causing the wheelarch to move from it's mounting, thus ending their race. Lee and Jake had a lonely ride from thereon, taking their maiden Oliver's Mount win by a margin of fourteen seconds from Harrison / Winkle, with Lindley / Bell a further twelve seconds back.
Despite a number of stoppages and delays (which left officials with no choice but to shorten some of the solo races), the entire programme was run on Saturday, with the second sidecar race forming up only a little over an hour after the first one had finished. A new format for 2017 at Oliver's Mount is in place, with qualifying counting only for grid positions in the first race of the weekend - later legs have starting places determined by finishing positions in the previous outing. As a result, the Ramsdens found themselves towards the back of the field, while Lee and Jake once again enjoyed pole position. Even before the race got underway, Wallis / Hardie fell victim to mechanical problems with a dragging clutch, forcing them to retire to the paddock on the warm-up lap.
While the Ramsdens made an exceptional start, they still had to pass the teams of Lambert / Canipa; Lindley / Bell and Harrison / Winkle - all of whom know their way around Scarborough, and the lines to defend! One by one, the Ramsdens passed them, although by the time they had moved up to second place, Lee and Jake had a lead of approximately six seconds, having once again improved their lap time - to 1.57.6 on lap two. However, at the end of lap three, it all went wrong for Team A.R.C. - an issue with the handlebar mounting forcing them to slow dramatically, gifting the lead to the Ramsdens. Lee and Jake dropped to fifth place by the end of the race, crossing the line just ahead of circuit debutants Kevin Thornton / Dave Dean.
Inspection of the machine in the paddock revealed that the left hand handlebar had almost sheared off. The team would like to thank Greg Lambert for repairing the problem on Saturday evening to allow them to participate on Sunday.
Sunday dawned dry and sunny, with an incident-free warm up session. The opening encounter saw Lee and Jake start back in fifth place, but an excellent start led them to slot into second place - behind the Ramsdens - at Mere Hairpin on the opening lap. The race developed into a fascinating duel, with Lee and Jake hounding the Ramsdens for the opening laps. Dropping back a little were Harrison / Winkle, who were coming under pressure from Lindley / Bell, the latter pair circulating as the fastest team on circuit.
Unfortunately, on lap three, Harrison / Winkle had a slide coming out of Mountside Hairpin, and Lindley / Bell had no chance of taking evasive action, hitting the back of the outfit in front of them. While all four riders did not suffer injury, the outfit of Lindley / Bell was damaged sufficiently to prevent them from being able to take any further part in the event.
A four lap re-run was held, with only six starters. With little traffic to contend with, Lee and Jake made their trademark lightning start, and squeezed up the inside of the Ramsdens at Mere Hairpin to take the lead. Once again, Team A.R.C. improved their best lap - this time to 1.56.0 - placing them inside the top ten fastest sidecar teams ever around the circuit. The Ramsdens tried everything they could to pass Lee and Jake, but crossed the line 0.48 seconds in arrears. Sixteen seconds back, an even closer battle for third place went down to the wire, with Lambert / Canipa taking the place, a mere 0.23 seconds in front of Wallis / Hardie.
The final sidecar race of the weekend was the low point of the weekend for Team A.R.C., who had once again got the better of the Ramsdens at the start, and began to establish a modest lead. However, coming down the front straight over the jumps, the machine began to run on three cylinders, forcing a retirement to the paddock. Fearing a dropped valve, later examination of the outfit revealed that an ignition amplifier had expired. The Ramsdens comfortably won, with a gap of nearly twenty seconds over Wallis / Hardie, with Harrison / Winkle third - who had incurred the wrath of the timekeepers with a ten second penalty having been adjudged to have jumped the start, despite being the last machine into Mere Hairpin on lap one!
As always, Team A.R.C. would like to recognise the efforts and assistance of sponsors and supporters: 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.
It has been a busy month for Team A.R.C., with four consecutive weekends of racing. There is now a short interval until the next event, which will be the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Championship round at Donington Park on the 13th and 14th May. Both outfits will be in action, with Jake back alongside his regular driver, his brother John. Patrick Farrance will once again be joining up with Lee as all teams will be looking to make in-roads into the early season pace-setters, Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley.