Photo Courtesy Of Dirk Wharton
Lee Crawford and Sam Christie proved untouchable at B.M.C.R.C.'s Donington Park meeting over the weekend of 9th/10th April, with a hat-trick of wins and new club and outright lap records for the Donington Park G.P. circuit, as Team A.R.C. continued their impressive start to the 2016 season.
The main aim of the weekend had been one of familiarisation for the forthcoming A.C.U./F.S.R.A. British F2 Championship meeting at Donington Park in May, as Lee had only once competed at the Leicestershire circuit, and that was almost two years ago, a weekend which had proved to be a steep learning curve, being his first ever outing on what was then a newly acquired machine. It was also an opportunity for Lee to race with Sam Christie, prior to the "Spring National" road races at Oliver's Mount next weekend, where the pair will once again be teaming up to attempt to improve on their impressive debut season at the demanding North Yorkshire parkland circuit.
Conditions for timed qualifying were damp, and with Donington being renowned for being "a bit greasy" at the best of times, Team A.R.C. rode steadily, erring on the side of caution; in what was billed as being a fifteen minute session, but was flagged in under ten, for reasons unknown. However, Lee and Sam were delighted to find they had qualified as the fastest F2 machine, and second overall, just 0.7 behind the pole sitters, RKB-F1 Championship regulars Matt MacLaurin and Ade Hope. One or two competitors had been slightly caught out by the shortened session, including top F.S.R.A. F2 team, Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley, who got only a single flying lap in, finding themselves down in 29th place. However, up front, the likes of Sean Reeves / Andy Winkle and Simon Gilbert / Carl Morgan were looking impressive in qualifying, and it was anticipated they would be a threat in the first of the races, once again held in damp conditions.
Photo Courtesy Of Dirk Wharton
Unfortunately, the opening sidecar race was something of a non-event. Team A.R.C. made a blistering get-away, leading the F1 machine of MacLaurin with Gilbert; Reeves and Gary / Daryl Gibson fighting for the same piece of tarmac into Redgate. However, behind all this, there had been a rather unpleasant coming together between several machines on the startline. Apparently the F1 of Jon Bicknell / Andy Haynes stalled, but just as the lights changed, and while several outfits tried to take evasive action, there were a number impacts, with the F2 machine of John Chandler / Glenn Dawson faring particularly badly; being clipped, and in turn it flipped over. With several competitors requiring medical attention, and two machines upside down, the red flags quickly came out. Team A.R.C. wish all those involved a speedy recovery, and hope to see them participating again in the near future. The second start once again saw Lee and Sam take charge, however, with the race a little over a lap old, there was an incident between two machines towards the back of the pack at Goddards, and the red flags once again came out. With over forty minutes having elapsed in an attempt to run this race, the machines were returned to the paddock, with the promise of an outing later in the day.
It was 5.00pm when the sidecar race was called; with an ambitious programme of 24 races (plus qualifying sessions), it was evident due to the delays and stoppages (in many solo races as well as the aforementioned sidecar event) that there would only be a single outing - this being the case for all classes. A six lap sidecar race was held, thankfully without any major incidents this time around. Team A.R.C. led from the start, and were headed briefly at the beginning of lap two, as Reeves / Winkle showed their nose into Redgate, however Lee / Sam had better drive into Craner Curves and took the position straight back. These two outfits remained in close company throughout, easing out a sixteen second cushion over third placed Gilbert / Morgan. Team A.R.C. took the win by just under a second, although Reeves / Winkle had the consolation of the fastest lap, one tenth faster than their rivals, with both teams registering their best laptimes on the final circuit. Founds / Walmsley fought up to fifth place from the back of the grid, clearly they would have been in contention with the leaders had it not been for their unfortunate qualifying session.
Photo Courtesy Of Dirk Wharton
Sunday morning was altogether brighter and clearer (once the harsh frost had cleared), and it was evident that this would be an altogether different scenario to that of the previous day. Team A.R.C. decided to forfeit the morning warmup, which as it turned out was one packed with drama for those on circuit - Reeves / Winkle had an engine failure, while the F1 machine of David Hirst / Karl Schofield had an incident at Craner Curves; which had the red flags flying once again.
Team A.R.C. took a commanding lead in the opening lap of the first race on Sunday, and were never challenged, winning the race by over twenty seconds from Wayne Lockey / Mark Sayers, with Gilbert / Morgan a further four seconds back in third. The expected challenge of the F1 machines never came, despite the decent track conditions; although it did look for a time that Kevin Cable / Harry Payne might threaten the second place outfit of Lockey / Sayers, until reports of a broken chain ended their race. With a clear track, Lee and Sam pushed on, and were delighted to not only set the fastest lap of the race, but also set a new B.M.C.R.C. lap record in a time of 1.43.116, at a speed of 86.83mph.
The final race of the weekend was held under blue skies, and with a full complement of Reeves, Founds and Lockey back on the grid and the pace, Lee and Sam decided they would give it everything, confident in their knowledge of the circuit and their capabilities. Once again, they were never headed, and eased to a ten second victory over Founds / Walmsley, who had finally got their earlier engine management issues sorted out. Lockey / Sayers were a further eight seconds back in third. However, most impressively, in what is Lee's first ever experience of racing on the Donington G.P. circuit, he and Sam took the outright F2 lap record, with a best lap time of 1.42.296, a speed of 87.53mph. The record for the G.P. circuit previously was held by John Holden / Andy Winkle, and had been set back in 2009 at the Moto6/F.S.R.A. event.
To say both Lee and Sam were surprised and ecstatic in equal measure would be an understatement, and this achievement capped what had been a very successful and enjoyable weekend of racing; as always, they cited the efforts of the pit-team and supporters in assisting them, and of course to those who have sponsored and offered practical help: P.G. Legal; Dean Banks Engine Management; KC Computers; Pagid Racing; AM Leathers/Gary Partridge; Dynobike (Malton); Bio-Sport; Christie Engineering Services and ARC Binchester/Newton Aycliffe. Next up for the team is Oliver's Mount in only four days time, where the entry includes Dave Molyneux / Dan Sayle; Ian Bell / Carl Bell and Conrad Harrison / Lee Patterson to name just three. Lee and Sam competed together for the first time at last year's "Gold Cup" meeting, where, despite machine troubles, they lapped in the prestigious "sub-2 minute club", and they will be looking to build on these foundations over the coming weekend
Photo Courtesy Of John Lockett