Words - JOHN NEWTON
Photographs - JOHN MUSHET & DEREK DONSWORTH
The opening round of this year’s championship took place at Oulton Park mostly in difficult conditions in what was a trying day for the organising Wirral 100 club. Not until late afternoon did the track dry out. 40 outfits took part in the free practice session which included the club entrants, and 27 then had a 15 minute qualifying session for our races. Six laps was the maximum anyone got in and it resulted in a rather surprising grid position order. Last year’s F2 Cup champions Alan Founds and Tom Peters took pole from possibly the favourites for this year’s F2 Cup, Lee Crawford and Luke Capewell. Triple champions both, John Holden and Dan Sayle, and Ian and Carl Bell were languishing in 7th and 8th slots while reigning champions Gary Bryan and Jamie Winn found themselves on row 9 in 18th place.
RACE ONE: Holden and Sayle in their first race together got the dream start, Holden diving between Tom and Thomas Quaye, and Sean Reeves and Mark Wilkes, then going into Old Hall, Conrad Harrison and Lee Patterson conveniently took to the inside following Founds, which enabled Holden to go round the outside and into second place.
Holden took Founds halfway round the lap and opened up a lead of 1.136 seconds after the opening lap. Founds led Crawford and Harrison while the top six was completed by Steve and Mattie Ramsden in fifth and Lewis Blackstock and Paddy Rosnay in an excellent sixth place. Holden increased his lead by exactly 2 seconds on lap two and was an amazing 5.5 seconds clear after three laps. On that third lap, Crawford had made a move to take second from Founds but when that door closed, found himself relegated to fourth by Harrison. Pete Founds and Andy Taylor had taken sixth from Blackstock, while the Bells were now in 8th with Dave Wallis/Steve Wareham and Dave Atkinson/Mike Aylott completing the top ten.
Going down the start/finish straight, Crawford closed on Harrison, eager to regain third spot. From the media centre it looked as if the outfits touched as they went into Old Hall, Crawford hurtled into the Recticel barriers, the impact violently flicking the outfit through 180 degrees amidst a cloud of dust. Waved yellows immediately gave way to a red flag within seconds. It was with much relief that both Lee and Luke subsequently emerged, albeit with what was reported to be a badly broken wrist and possible back injury for Luke, while Lee and the outfit both looked relatively unscathed. The organisers, facing another delay to add to the already late running programme, declared the race as completed but with less than half distance covered, only half-points were to be awarded. So, to Holden-Founds-Harrison the podium places but in 4th-5th-6th, we had the top three in the F2 Cup class! Steve and Mattie Ramsden took their first F2 Cup win from an impressive Pete Founds and Andy ‘Smudge’ Taylor in fifth and Lewis Blackstone and Paddy Rosnay sixth. Bell, Wallis, Atkinson and the Lowthers completed the top ten, John and Jake charging through from 22nd on the grid in just three laps!
RACE TWO: The start to the second race was virtually identical, Founds led into Old Hall with Ramsden and Holden side-by-side for second. Holden got by but Founds led after the opening lap. The commentator claimed that Holden appeared ‘ impetuous’ in trying to get past Founds but he soon did and led by 0.609 seconds on completion of the second lap. (John Holden impetuous? Nay, lad!). If John had ideas about clearing off as in race one, Founds was determined he wouldn’t and was right behind when they came up Deers Leap, just 0.093 secs behind. Ramsden was comfortable in third, with the Bells in a good battle with Sean Reeves/Mark Wilkes for fourth, Pete Founds completing the top six. Harrison was seventh from the charging Lowther, Wallis and Wayne Lockey/Mark Sayers 9th and 10th. The race had been shortened (as all the later races were) to six laps but it was still a bridge too far for the Lowthers who retired on lap 5 and the Bells who relinquished fourth spot on the final circuit. Holden did open a slight gap on Founds and took victory by 1.377 secs, Ramsden claiming third. Reeves, Pete Founds and Harrison completed the top six.
7th to 10th were Lockey, Wallis (Welcome back, Steve Wareham!), Gordon Shand/Phil Hyde and the Quayes. Ramsden again took the F2 Cup honours, this time from Reeves and Pete Founds. In the first race at one stage, 5 of the first nine were Cup contenders and in this second race, 5 of the first 11 were. A good sign for the future. With 27 entered, it’s a tad difficult to mention everybody’s race but of the others, reigning champions Gary Bryan and Jamie Winn rescued their day a little with a second race 13th, young Hanks scored championship points for the 31st consecutive year with 14th, while young Baker with even younger Baker in the chair took the final point. The championship leaders, with the dreaded ‘halves’ destined to be a feature for the whole season, are: Holden 37.5, Alan Founds 30, Ramsden 22.5 and in the F2 Cup, the Ramsdens lead on 37.5 from Reeves on 26.5 way ahead of Pete Founds on 26.