Words - Tim Langham
Photographs - Ste McNorton
The 2019 A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British F2 Sidecar Championship has now reached it's half-way point, and there was another convincing double win for the defending title holders Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley (LCR Suzuki) at Anglesey Circuit. Their chances of landing an unprecedented fourth consecutive British Championship look even more likely as they take a 106 point lead to Croft Circuit in a little under a fortnight's time. Meanwhile, in the F2 Cup, Simon Robinson / Mick Fairhurst (LCR Suzuki) also extended their lead with a double win over nearest rivals Rob Atkinson / Mark Middleton (Bellas Suzuki).
For a variety of reasons, entries were lower than anticipated. Initially the championship was over-subscribed with thirty five teams signed up for the year, but only twenty outfits made the journey to North Wales. There was drama at the close of opening free practice, with problems for Team A.R.C.'s Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki) and similarly mounted Michael Kirkup / Arlo Brown. Sadly, neither team were able to resolve their issues at the circuit, and both made the long journey back to their bases in the North East of England late Saturday morning.
Qualifying got underway on time in the early afternoon, and Founds / Walmsley made no mistake landing their fourth pole position start in as many events this season so far. Only one second in arrears were John Lowther / Tom Christie (LCR Honda), following up their successful maiden event together last weekend at Oliver's Mount, where they had taken two second places. Forming the second row were the established pairings of Conrad Harrison / Andy Winkle (Bellas Honda) and Sean Hegarty / James Neave (Baker Honda). An excellent performance from Robinson / Fairhurst and John Shipley jnr / Gary Wheeler (LCR Suzuki) saw two F2 Cup teams lock out row three. The top ten qualifiers were completed by Brian Ilaria / Olly Lace (DDM Suzuki); Atkinson / Middleton (Bellas Suzuki); Giles and Jen Stainton (LCR Suzuki) and John Shipley snr / Woodward (LCR Suzuki).
Race one saw a slightly slow start for the pole sitters, with fellow front row residents Lowther / Christie taking advantage to lead on the opening lap, from Harrison / Winkle and Hegarty / Neave. Founds / Walmsley were in fourth, hounding the third place team. Harrison / Winkle were demoted to fourth on lap three, with Lowther / Christie opening a gap of just under two seconds at the front, with Founds / Walmsley finding their way into second on lap four.
In the F2 Cup, Robinson / Fairhurst were proving their performances in practice and qualifying were no fluke, and had settled into a safe fifth place, with Harrison / Winkle in their sights. They were opening up a modest gap over the chasing pack, which was being headed by Shipley jnr / Wheeler, although they were overhauled firstly by Atkinson / Middleton and then Ilaria / Lace. The Staintons were making steady progress through the field after a somewhat lethargic start.
Lap four saw the first of three retirements, with the Manx pairing of Craig Melvin / Stuart Christian (LCR Suzuki) consigned to the sidelines for the weekend. Meanwhile, Founds / Walmsley were increasing their pace, setting a fastest lap of 1:13.556 chasing down Lowther / Christie, although the latter pairing were lapping consistently fast – indeed setting John's fastest time to date around Anglesey, and extending the lead over Hegarty / Neave who were settled into a safe third place.
By half distance Founds / Walmsley had taken command at the front, and began to stretch an advantage. Lap eight sadly saw a retirement for Hegarty / Neave, promoting Harrison / Winkle into the final podium slot. A lap later, Richard Hackney / Dave Ryder (CES Suzuki) also joined the list of retirements. Robinson / Fairhurst set the fastest F2 Cup lap of the race (1:15.583), securing them a safe fourth place overall, around fifteen seconds clear of Atkinson / Middleton, who were coming under pressure from Ilaria / Lace as the race drew to a close; holding on to take second in the F2 Cup and fifth overall.
Founds / Walmsley made no mistake, easing their pace on the final couple of laps to take the win by seven and a half seconds from Lowther / Christie, with Harrison / Winkle completing the podium. The overall top six was completed by the podium finishers in the F2 Cup – Robinson / Fairhurst took a fine fourth place, with Atkinson / Middleton – Mark having his first outing for eighteen months, having been away with his R.A.F. Commitments – just holding off Ilaria / Lace.
Wet weather had slightly impacted on proceedings in the early part of Sunday, and there were still damp patches on the track as race two formed on the grid, with the top six from race one “reversed”. It was not the best of opening laps for pole sitters Ilaria / Lace, who dropped six places; although it was “all action” into turn one, with three outfits side by side vying for position. Lowther / Christie blasted through from fifth to lead at the start of lap two, from Atkinson / Middleton; Robinson / Fairhurst; Harrison / Winkle; Founds / Walmsley and Shipley jnr / Wheeler. Meanwhile, Hegarty / Neave, who had started from the very back of the grid had already made their way through to ninth and were clearly on the charge.
While lap times were becoming comparable with those of the previous day, there was little threat to Simon Neary / Dips Chauhan's nine years standing record time. By lap five, Founds / Walmsley had moved into second and were in close company with Lowther / Christie, who seemingly were beginning to experience a problem, and their lap times began to slide. Meanwhile, Hegarty / Neave had moved onto the battle for the final podium place, which was being keenly contested by Harrison / Winkle and the leading F2 Cup team of Robinson / Fairhurst. By half distance, Hegarty / Neave had passed both machines to move into a clear third, and on lap eleven inherited second as Lowther / Christie retired to pitlane, joining Charlie Morphet / Paul Halliburton (LCR Suzuki) and David Schofield / Guy Pawsey on the non-finishers list.
Founds / Walmsley eased their pace and coasted to their eighth win of the season, by a margin of 11.5 seconds over Hegarty / Neave, with Harrison / Winkle fending off a determined Robinson / Fairhurst for third. Fifth overall and second in the F2 Cup were Atkinson / Middleton, while Ilaria / Lace repeated their Saturday result, completing the F2 Cup podium and taking sixth in the Super F2 category.
The F.S.R.A. wish to thank all at the Wirral 100 club for hosting a well-run and enjoyable event, and also express their thanks for the ongoing support of the A.C.U. and the series sponsors: A.R.C. Binchester; A.V. Craine & Son; Hegarty Plant; Lockside Engineering; Pagid Racing; Rowtec Ltd; Whitby Cottages and Yorkshire Engine Supplies. The next round of the series is at Croft Circuit for the “Battle of Britain” meeting, which features racing for cars and motorcycles over the weekend of the 17th and 18th August.