Words & Photographs - JOHN MUSHET
For the first time since 2011, the third round of the British ACU/FSRA Formula Two sidecar Championship took place over the weekend of 27th-28th June 2015 at the 1.85 mile Castle Combe circuit in Wiltshire. For many of the sidecar teams this was their first action since competing at the Isle of Man TT earlier in the month. The Grand National meeting, as it was billed, was run by the North Gloucestershire road racing club and was run over two days instead of the usual one day. Twenty three sidecars were on the grid for the two races and over half had been competing on the Isle of Man.
The list of riders read like a who's who of TT champions. With the reigning TT double winners Ben and Tom Birchall, previous winners Rob Fisher, John Holden, Conrad Harrison, Ian Bell and Roy Hanks. Included in the passenger list was multiple winners Rick Long and Dan Sayle and the winner from 2014 Mike Aylott. Also making a stand in appearance as a passenger for Pete Founds was the 2012 World Champion Ashley Hawes.The turnout of every outfit showed just how much effort had gone into the preparation and it looked very impressive when they had the Saturday morning practice. In glorious sunshine and with a large knowledgeable crowd the scene was set for some exciting action on this unusual circuit which has no left hand corners or bends and is very bumpy in certain parts.
Free practice saw the Birchall brothers having a 0.5 second gap over John Holden and Dan Sayle with Ian and Carl Bell another half a second behind in third place. Just over three seconds separated the top ten teams.
An hour and a half later qualifying was just as exciting. John Holden bided his time looking for clear track, made his move and took pole by 0.14 of a seconds from the Birchalls with the Bell's in third followed by Founds and Peters and Founds and Hawes who were the top Cup team. Again the top 15 teams were only separated by 3.5 secs and most had completed 12 laps around the circuit.
Race One: The afternoon race was over 10 laps. From the flag it was a dual between Holden and Sayle and the Birchalls for the leading spot. They exchanged places for the first two laps when the Birchalls took the lead. It was a position they kept to the chequered flag with Holden and Sayle 4.5 seconds behind followed in third by Alan Founds and Tom Peters. All the way down the field there were excellent battles between several of the teams, especially between Tony Baker and Roy Hanks. With a combined age of 140 years they had a real fight especially into the chicane being only inches apart on several of the laps showing how much experience and trust there is between them.
A new lap record was also set by the Birchalls on lap three with a time of 1.16.06.
In the cup competition the win was taken by Pete Founds and Ashley Hawes with Sean Reeves and Mark Wilkes in second and the excellent father and son team of Steve and Matt Ramsden in third.
A testament to all the teams' preparation and riding skills is that every team finished the race something that can't be said very often in the world of modern motor sport.
Race Two: Sunday's overcast and rainy conditions stopped a lot of the sidecars coming out for the morning warm up. Fortunately the track dried for the 12 lap afternoon race. Again from the start Ben and Tom Birchall, John Holden and Dan Sayle, Ian and Carl Bell and Pete Founds and Ashley Hawes and Alan and Tom Peters were in the mix. Halfway round the first lap Holden made a mistake and ended up on the grass and rejoined the race in tenth place. The lead changed hands several times between the Birchalls and Founds and Hawes. The Bells remained in a great third place with Holden and Sayle making their way through the field into fourth place. At the flag the Birchalls took first spot with Founds and Hawes in second place and only 0.52 seconds behind the winners. The Bells remained in third 1.5 seconds behind with Holden and Sayle taking fourth place a further two seconds behind. The dual between the top two teams also produced a new lap record for Pete Founds and Ashley Hawes at 1.15.80.
In the cup competition the winners were Founds and Hawes, second was Reeves and Wilkes and third was Lee Crawford and Ashley Moore.
Nineteen teams finished the race and being slightly longer than race one this was again a great achievement for the FSRA teams.
So going into the next round at the Anglesey circuit on 25th and 26th July 2015 the leading Championship points are as follows:-
1. Holden and Sayle 123.5.
2. Founds and Peters 108
3. Pete Founds and Hawes 83.5
4. Ian and Carl Bell 62.5
5. Reeves and Wilkes 53.5
6. Steve and Matt Ramsden 49.5
In the cup competition.
1. Founds and Hawes 121
2. Ramsden and Ramsden 96.5.
3. Reeves and Wilkes 91.5
4. Blackstock and Rosney 63.5.
5. Quaye and Quaye 53.