Words - Mark Dennis
Photographs - Dirk Wharton
The third round of the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British Formula 2 Sidecar championship took place this past weekend at Donington Park, hosted by the North Gloucester Road Racing Club. With a changeable weather forecast everyone was hoping for a dry session and when qualifying took place half way through the day on Saturday the weather remained a little blustery, the track was dry and the overhead conditions cloudy.
Qualifying commenced at 1316 with twenty eight sidecars listed in the programme, track position would be at a premium. However, there were three teams that unfortunately did not make qualifying due to technical issues in the earlier warm up session. Those being the pairings of Wilby/Lowther and Dukes/Moralee competing in the F2 Cup and Hegarty/Neave in the Super F2.
The early pace setters after five minutes of the fifteen minute session were the current leading championship team of Peter Founds/Jevan Walmsley on their Rowtec/Trustlands Construction sponsored LCR Suzuki with a time of 1:16.291 followed by the Lowther brothers John and Jake on the Team ARC LCR Honda, slotting in to third place were the father and son pairing of Steve and Matty Ramsden of Ramsden racing on their Honda powered LCR.
In the F2 Cup the leading duo were Team Powerhouse, Brian Ilaria/Jody James on their DDM Suzuki followed by Womble Racing's Stuart Anderson/Philip Gravel on their DMR Honda and in third place Richard Lumley/Ray Whitnell on their Lumley outfit separated by just 0.2s. The F2 Cup was hotting up and halfway through the qualifying session, the leading contenders were now Mike Jackson/Callum Crowe on their Windle Suzuki 0.3s ahead of Paul Riley/Shaun Parker of FCN Racing on their MR Equipe who in turn were 0.7s ahead of Ralph Remnant and Samantha Tilley on their Lumley Kawasaki.
In the super class it was Founds/Walmsley with a blistering pace of 1:14.898 with the Ramsdens holding second and Lee Crawford/Patrick Farrance on their Team ARC sponsored LCR Suzuki usurping their team mates the Lowther brothers into third place. With just a minute remaining of qualifying remaining Founds/Walmsley dipped inside the lap record by just 0.003s with a time of 1:14.667s which at the time was held by Simon Neary and Dipash Chauhan which they set on the 1.979 mile circuit in April of 2011 and lowered it again to take pole position on what would be the last lap of qualifying to record a time of 1:14.570 which was an unofficial lap record as this has to be achieved under race conditions. In second position remained the Ramsdens, Crawford/Farrance in third, Lowther/Lowther holding fourth place ahead of wild card entrants Dean Lindley/Robert Bell, and in sixth place the returning team of Sean Reeves/Adam Christie on their DDM Suzuki. In the F2 Cup from the Isle of Man and the first time at Donington an impressive showing for Mike Jackson/Callum Crowe, the next F2 Cup placing went to that of Paul Riley/Shaun Parker (Fine Cut Develepments), and qualifying third in class were Stuart Anderson/Phil Gravel, in fourth Remnant/Tilley, fifth Ilaria/James and sixth in class Lumley/Whitnell.
Race one took place in the early evening, in bright sunshine over ten laps and it was the number seventy two outfit and pole setters Founds/Walmsley leading the way. John and Jake Lowther had moved up to second place with the Ramsdens holding station in third, moving up to fourth position after the first lap were Reeves/Christie, in fifth were wild card entrant Lindley/Bell, sixth place was Gordon Shand/Phil Hyde, in seventh reunited after missing the last round Gary and Daryl Gibson on their newly painted Shelbourne Suzuki and in eight place and the first of the F2 Cup runners Anderson/Gravel, in ninth place overall and second in class Jackson/Crowe and in tenth place Howard Baker/Mike Killingsworth of BK Racing on their Shelbourne Honda.
At the end of lap two Lindley/Bell had slotted into fourth place ahead of Reeves/Christie, Anderson/Gravel had moved ahead of the Gibsons into seventh place, Sean Hegarty/James Neave on their Baker Honda had moved up to thirteenth position from the back of the grid and were making their way through the field. This lap saw the retirement of Crawford/Farrance due to technical/handling issues which was to plague them all weekend.
At the end of lap three it was Founds/Walmsley who had a three second advantage over Lowther/Lowther - who in turn were just 0.8s ahead of the Ramsdens. Reeves/Christie had moved back up to fourth position with Lindley/Bell relegated to fifth and Shand/Hyde completing the top six. In the F2 Cup it was still Anderson/Gravel holding station, running seventh overall, with Jackson/Crowe second in class and in ninth position just 1.5s back on the F2 cup leaders. In third place in the F2 class were Ilaria/James followed closelyby ten outfits chasing them down all in the F2 Cup category.
With four of ten laps completed the Gibsons had moved into seventh place, Wallis/Hardie of Team Petpals had moved up to ninth and Hegarty/Neave now completed the top ten. Another father and son team, Dean and Ben Dickinson on their Shelbourne Suzuki had moved ahead of the current F2 Cup championship leaders Nicky Dukes/William Moralee to slot in to seventeenth position overall and seventh in class. At half race distance the Gibsons had moved ahead of Shand/Hyde in sixth and in the process, recorded their fastest time of the race. The pairing of Hegarty/Neave had made further progress to eigth place. We had a new F2 Cup leader, following the retirement of Anderson/Gravel - it was now Jackson/Crowe leading the F2 cup teams with Ilaria/James moving up to second and Riley/Parker slotted in to third place with just 2.5s separating the top three runners in the F2 Cup.
At the end of lap ten it was Founds/Walmsley recording their fourth win out of five, 11.5 s ahead of second place, and equalling their best ever placing in the British Championship John and Jake Lowther, with Steve and Matty Ramsden securing the final podium place. In the F2 Cup Michael Jackson and Callum Crowe took their maiden win, followed by another second placing for Brian Ilaria and Jody James and a first podium this season in class for Paul Riley and Shaun Parker.
Before the FSRA race began on the Sunday, in the N.G. club race there was a start line incident involving Paul Riley/Shaun Parker and Peter Alton/Keith Brotherton. From everyone at the F.S.R.A. we send best wishes to Keith for a speedy recovery and give thanks to the marshals, medics and N.G. staff that attended the incident.
Race two got underway just after 1610 on Sunday afternoon in sunny conditions. Twenty three sidecars took to the grid and after lap two of twelve would be reduced to twenty two with the retirement of wild card entrants Lindley/Bell. It was Founds/Walmsley leading the way with Crawford/Farrance just one second behind, and their team mates Lowther/Lowther in third with all three teams down to laptimes of 1:15s. In the F2 Cup, it was Anderson/Gravel leading the class from Jackson/Crowe and Ilaria/James in third.
At quarter race distance Founds/Walmsley led the way by three seconds to the Lowther Brothers and Steve and Matty Ramsden in third. The pairing of Crawford/Farrance had dropped back to fifth place following an excursion into the gravel trap, holding off the Gibsons in sixth and chasing down Reeves/Christie in fourth place.
At the end of lap five of twelve Founds/Walmsley extended their lead to 5.673s putting in a lap time of 1:14.849, while the Lowther brothers were just 0.271s ahead of the Ramsdens in third. There was a new class leader in the F2 cup, with race one winners Jackson/Crowe (9th) going ahead of Anderson/Gravel (10th) who was just 0.3s ahead of Ilaria/James.
At half race distance Founds/Walmsley`s lead had gone out to eight seconds, shaving another tenth of their lap time to 1:14.782. The pairing of Crawford/Farrance in fifth had taken 1.5s out of fourth placed Reeves/Christie and the gap was down to 2.5s. In the F2 Cup, Jackson/Crowe had extended their lead over Anderson/Gravel by registering their fastest lap of the race: 1:18.408s some two seconds quicker than their closest rivals. The pairing of Ilaria/James were still in third but just 0.068s behind the second place pairing of Anderson/Gravel.
With seven laps completed, Ilaria/James moved up to second in class, registering their fastest lap - 1:18.167 and were now chasing down Jackson/Crowe.With eight completed laps the gap between Reeves/Christie and Crawford/Farrance was down to just 1.227s for fourth place. Jackson/Crowe recorded their fastest lap so far at 1:18.300 and currently held a 4.390s lead over Ilaria/James. Could Lumley/Whitnell hold third just 0.843s ahead of Remnant/Tilley?
At the end of lap ten the lap record was broken. Founds/Walmsley recorded a lap time of 1:14.636s and with it had increased their lead to 11.893s. The team of Crawford/Farrance were now just 0.341s behind the fourth place pairing of Reeves/Christie. The combination of Ralph Remnant/Samantha Tilley had moved into the final podium position in the F2 cup. So after twelve completed laps Reeves/Christie held off Crawford/Farrance by 0.048s to take fourth position and get their campaign up and running.
A new lap record, and double win for Founds/Walmsley in the Super F2 Class, and in winning the second sidecar race, they were awarded the Bill Boddice trophy which was presented by nine times TT winner Mick Boddice. It was also double win for Jackson/Crowe in the F2 Cup, finishing in seventh position overall.
Congratulations to all teams for putting on two fantastic races.
Current championship standings
There will now be an eleven week break until the next round 29th/30th July on the coastal circuit of Anglesey whilst teams head off to the Isle of Man for the TT races and the Southern 100 so on behalf of the FSRA I would like to send good luck to all teams taking part.