The 2018 A.C.U. / F.S.R.A.
British F2 Sidecar Championship
Incorporating The F2 Cup
Round 7 - Castle Combe - N.G.R.R.C.
Saturday 1st & Sunday 2nd September
Words - Mark Dennis
Photographs - Jenny Wells
The penultimate round of the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British Formula Two Sidecar Championship took place this past weekend in the “Grand National” meeting at Castle Combe in Wiltshire. Our hosts, for the second time this season, were the North Gloucester Road Racing Club.
With no sign of rain forecast and warm weather on the agenda, the big question was: “could the lap record fall”. This was set eleven years ago by John Holden / Andy Winkle in a time of 1:15.42. Both were attending this weekend - John with Lee Cain, entering as a “wild card” to test out the outfit after damage sustained at this years Southern 100 - and Andy back on with regular driver Conrad Harrison, after they had missed Croft due to a clash with the Classic TT, where Conrad's sons had been competing.
Under a cloudy sky, but on a dry circuit, the twenty one teams took to the circuit for morning practice.
On to qualifying, and Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley put their DDM Suzuki on pole, registering a time of 1:16.207. Just two tenths back in second were Team ARC, Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki). A further tenth back were Holden / Cain (LCR Honda). There then followed a 2.5s gap back to fourth, which saw the all Manx pairing of Mike Jackson / Ben Binns (DMR Suzuki) qualfying fourth - a great achievement in itself as neither had visited the circuit previously.
There was just under three seconds separating the next eight teams, namely: Wayne Lockey / Mark Sayers (Ireson Honda – wild card); Harrison / Winkle (Bellas Honda); John Lowther / Jake Lowther (LCR Honda); Daryl Gibson / Ashley Moore (Shelbourne Suzuki); Steve Ramsden / Matty Ramsden (LCR Honda); Mike Russell / Shaun Parker (Shelbourne Honda); Ralph Remnant / Sam Tilley (Lumley Kawasaki); and Sean Hegarty / Lee Watson (Ryde Yamaha). Another Ireson Honda made row seven, that of Chris Schofield / Derek Taylor, who were only 0.4s adrift of row six and they were joined by Brian Ilaria / Olly Lace (DDM Suzuki).
The remaining grid positions from row eight were as follows: Rob Handcock / Ken Edwards (Baker Honda – wild card); Richard Lumley / Ray Whitnall (Lumley Kawasaki); Dave Schofield / Dave Ryder (Windle Suzuki); Paul Downes / David Hainsworth (MRE Suzuki); Maria Costello / Sarah Stokoe (LCR Kawasaki – wild card) and Paul Riley / Kirk (MRE Suzuki).
Race one was held in the mid afternoon, over ten laps in glorious sunshine. However, several non-starters, for a variety of reasons were: Russell / Parker; Hegarty / Watson; Downes / Hainsworth and Wes Pettman / Sue Taylor.
A blistering start from Crawford / Hardie saw them lead the chasing pack into Folly, (the first right hander) and they were still in front at the end of lap one. On the second lap they ran wide at the chicane, and Founds / Walmsley dived up the inside to take the lead.
With three laps completed, Founds / Walmsley had managed to open up a one second gap to Holden / Cain who in turn had just overtaken Crawford / Hardie, as the outfits had been backed up somewhat with the leaders seemingly having missed a gear, with just under two tenths of a second separating second and third.
The Lowther brothers were now running in fourth, moving up the field from their initial starting postion of seventh. Lockey / Sayers were holding fifth, and Harrsion / Winkle placed sixth. In the F2 Cup, Gibson / Moore held a nine second advantage over Chris Schofield / Taylor, with Lumley / Whitnall third. This was going to be a fascinating battle as Remnant / Tilley; Dave Schofield / Ryder and Ilaria / Lace were catching the teams in front of them, motivated by the prospect of a podium place.
At half distance, Founds / Walmsley and Holden / Cain both recorded 1:15.7 laps, just three tenths off John's lap record. The gap was still just over a second but such was the pace of the front two, a three second gap had opened up to Crawford / Hardie who were having huge problems with understeer.
There was a change in the order in the F2 Cup as Remnant / Tilley moved up to third at the expense of Lumley / Whitnall. With eight laps of ten complete, Holden / Cain set the fastest lap of the race - 1:15.572 - in chasing down Founds / Walmsley to reduce the gap to under a second. The fight for second and third in the F2 Cup was heating up, and the places had changed, with Remnant / Tilley now moving into second at the expense of Chris Schofield / Taylor.
Founds / Walmsley took the win by 1.631s from Holden / Cain, with Crawford / Hardie in third. However, wild card teams do not score points, so the top three in terms of the podium and the championship points are recorded below.
Race two was building up to be another enthralling encounter, in front of a crowd of approximately 20,000 people, and in sunny conditions. With a reverse grid of the top six finishers from race one, which saw Harrison / Winkle on pole, alongside the Lowthers; row two consisted of Lockey / Sayers and Crawford / Hardie, while the third row was made up of Holden / Cain and Founds / Walmsley.
As the lights went green, yet another superb start from Crawford / Hardie saw them quickly move to the front followed by the Lowthers. Founds / Walmsley had moved up to third, next came Harrison / Winkle; Holden / Cain; Lockey / Sayers; Gibson / Moore; the Ramsdens; Chris Schofield / Taylor; Handcock / Edwards; Lumley / Whitnall, and Remnant / Tilley, so another epic battle was on the cards in the F2 Cup class!
On the first flying lap, Crawford / Hardie registered a time of 1:15.466, just 0.04s off the lap record, with the chasing Founds/Walmsley 1:15.610. By the end of lap three the record had fallen - Founds / Walmsley set a time of 1:15.237 to reduce the deficit to just under a second to Crawford / Hardie.
At the end of lap four the gap was just 0.4s as Founds / Walmsley further lowered the record with 1:15.209, and on the same lap Holden / Cain registered their fastest ever time – 1:15.265 - also under the former lap record. The young guns of Gibson / Moore led the way in the F2 Cup class by over ten seconds as Chris Schofield / Taylor were endeavouring to fend of Remnant / Tilley. At half race distance the top three were just split by 1.3s, certainly giving the throngs of spectators value for money, as was the battle for second and third in the F2 Cup.
By the end of lap seven there were new leaders, Founds / Walmsley usurping Crawford / Hardie and on the very next lap Holden/Cain moved in to second with just two laps to go. The unfortunate Team A.R.C. pairing had what seemed like an intermittent electrical fault – which in fact was caused by the alloy battery box breaking and moving the battery from it's mountings.
In the F2 Cup, the battle for second and third was split by the slenderest of margins - 0.385s. There was a further tussle for fourth in class, as Ilaria / Lace were just 0.476s to the good in front of Russell / Parker. Crawford / Hardie's woes were evident for all to see as they had lost eleven seconds to the leaders with one lap remaining. On the penultimate lap, Remnant / Tilley made their move and overtook Chris Schofield / Taylor. Ilaria / Lace were still in fourth in class to the tune of 0.4s.
As the chequered flag came out Founds / Walmsley took the win by 0.5s over Holden / Cain and the Lowthers eased past Crawford / Hardie claim the final podium spot, as Team A.R.C. completed the race with the battery trailing on the road! It was another class win for Gibson / Moore, from Remnant / Tilley, and Chris Schofield / Taylor completed the Cup podium. The battle for fourth went the way of Ilaria / Lace over Russell / Parker by just 0.086s.
The F2 Cup is still to be decided, Gibson / Moore hold a thirty eight point lead over Remnant and Tilley, with fifty points remaining. The battle for third could mathematically go to any one of the following teams: Lumley / Whitnall;C. Schofield / Taylor; D. Schofield / Ryder; Ilaria / Lace and Pettman / Taylor.
First and second places have been decided in the Super F2 class. Congratulations to Pete and Jevan, winning their third consecutive British Championship, and setting a new lap record. Also many congratulations to Lee and Scott in securing second place in the championship, having taken six race wins is a great achievement and will spur them on to get on the top step in 2019.
Third place is still far from decided, and the final round at Oulton Park will be enthralling, with the Ramsdens and the Lowthers currently tied on 153 points. It is also mathematically possible for Hegarty / Neave; Gibson / Moore or Harrison / Winkle to take third in the championship.
Thanks as always to all the teams for putting on two great races – all the way down the field - at a circuit many had not competed at before. Thanks to Steve “Stavros” Parrish for commentating and interviewing the riders, and to Peter Hickman and Fiona Baker-Holden for presenting the trophies on Sunday. It was good to see Tony at Croft and Fiona this weekend as they both recover from their injuries sustained at this year's TT. Last but by no means least, a big thanks from the F.S.R.A. and the teams to all the Marshals, medics and backroom staff associated with Castle Combe and the North Gloucester road racing club for running a very enjoyable and efficient meeting.