The 2018 A.C.U. / F.S.R.A.
British F2 Sidecar Championship
Incorporating The F2 Cup
Round 6 - Croft - D.L.C.C.
Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th August
Words - Mark Dennis
Photographs - Dirk Wharton
The sixth round of the A.C.U. / F.S.R.A. British Formula 2 Sidecar Championship took place at the Battle of Britain meeting at Croft in North Yorkshire over the weekend of the 25th/26th August, in an event featuring races for competitors on two, three and four wheels.
This is the second time the championship has visited Croft this season with the opening round of the series taking place there back in April.
There was a fifteen minute free practice which began proceedings early on Saturday morning for the twenty one teams, held in dry conditions.
Twenty teams took to the circuit for qualifying at 11.30am in dry and warm track conditions for the fifteen minute session. Only one team managed to break the 1:30 barrier and that was the local favourites, who had taken the double win in the previous visit here – Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie. They achieved this twice in this outing, with a best time of 1:29.842 (84.17mph). Just under half a second in arrears were Team Founds Racing, the championship leaders Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley. The second row would see Ramsden Racing's Steve (re-united) with son Matty and joining them after a brilliant qualifying were F2 Cup leaders Daryl Gibson / Ashley Moore.
The third row would feature Team Lowther Racing's John, with brother Jake – back in action following an absence at Donington Park, and the all Manx pairing of Michael Jackson and new passenger Ben Binns. Row four featured a Super F2 team and a wildcard team - namely Gordon Shand / Tony Belsey and Simon Robinson / Phil Gravel. The second of the F2 Cup teams made it to row five – Ralph Remnant / Sam Tilley, joined by another wildcard team of Michael Kirkup / Arlo Brown. The next ten teams lined up as follows: Sean Hegarty / James Neave; Chris Schofield / Derek Taylor; Brian Ilaria / Olly Lace; Dave Schofield / David Ryder; Richard Lumley / Ray Whitnell; Richard Hackney / Paul Lowther; Stuart Lithgow / Karl Schofield(w.c.); Stuart Anderson / Karen Lupton (w.c.); Gendrutis Zakarauskas / Iain Souter (w.c.) and Wes Pettman / Sue Taylor.
Just to note the wildcard entrants receive trophies if they finish in the top three, but do not score points in either championship (Super / Cup).
The race - originally scheduled for twelve laps - was over before it had started for Hegarty / Neave on the Ryde Yamaha, as they were halted after a stone lodged itself in the throttle mechanism. Joining them on the sidelines were Team Powerhouse – Ilaria / Lace - with a water issue. Also not making it to the start of the race were Dukes / Moralee who had hit mechanical trouble in free practice.
By lap three of twelve and setting their fastest ever time around Croft with 1:29.631were Crawford / Hardie, who led Founds / Walmsley by 1.229s, with the latter recording a time of 1:30.057 which was also a personal best for them. So much so was the pace of the leading pair of outfits they built an eight second gap over the Ramsdens who were heading the “pack”. However, the battle was heating up for the final podium place, with just three seconds separating five teams - namely the Ramsdens, the Lowthers, Jackson / Binns, Gibson / Moore and Shand / Belsey.
In the F2 Cup with Gibson / Moore having an eight second advantage in their class over those chasing, it would be a battle between the registered F2 Cup runners and the wildcard entrants who were puttin on an impressive display.
At half race distance, Crawford / Hardie led Founds / Walmsley to the tune of 1.664s, and the gap to the Ramsdens in third had gone out to thirteen seconds. In the F2 Cup, it was still Gibson / Moore, followed by Schofield / Taylor and Remnant / Tilley.
On lap eleven the race was red flagged as the outfit of Robinson / Gravel suffered a mechanical failure and was stranded at the “Jim Clark Esses”, where it was considered to be in too dangerous a position to safely recover. The results were declared at the end of ten laps.
Sunday dawned with the threat of rain, and this duly delivered! With no track action allowed until noon, a ten minute warm up session took place at 12.10pm in wet conditions. With Team ARC opting to miss the warm up session, Founds / Walmsley and Gibson / Moore were split by less than one tenth of a second and with the top six facing a reverse grid, the latter would be on the front row.
Another twelve lap took place just before 3pm in very wet conditions, with the rain falling sporadically - but in general fairly heavily - so no doubting the choice of tyres: it was wets all round.
As the lights went out making a blistering start were Crawford / Hardie who led the pack into the first corner from sixth on the grid! This was the place to be avoided, with a huge amout of spray thrown up from the outfits. Such was their pace after lap one, Team ARC had opened up a two second gap to Gibson / Moore, who were just about holding off the Lowther brothers.
A spin on lap two dropped Founds / Walmsley back to fifth. At quarter race distance and after starting back of the grid, an amazing drive from Hegarty, who was joined by Sarah Stokoe for the race with James Neave`s partner being admitted to hospital for an early labour had moved up to seventh place.
With the Gibson / Moore pairing way out in front in the F2 Cup class and mixing it with the best of the Supers in the wet it was all to play for for the remaining two podium places, amongst those were two wildcards – Robinson / Gravel and Kirkup / Brown, who were split by Schofield / Taylor, but the next few teams were only split by the odd second, and were poised to capitalise on any mistake, namely: Hackney / Lowther; Anderson / Lupton; Ilaria / Lace; Lumley / Whitnell and Remnant / Tilley. Visibility must have been near enough non-existent, such was the closeness of all these teams and the spray they had to endure.
By the end of lap four, Founds / Walmsley had passed the Ramsdens to move up to fourth, however they were over eleven seconds behind the Lowther brothers. At half race distance the dominant team of Crawford / Hardie had pushed their lead to nearly eleven seconds over Gibson / Moore who in turn were over twelve seconds ahead of third place pairing the Lowther boys. The gap to fourth was now just over nine seconds.
In the F2 Cup, running second were Team Janizzi's Hackney / Lowther who had relegated Remnant / Tilley to third. By the end of lap seven in the F2 Cup, Lumley / Whitnell made a pass on Remnant / Tilley to move up to third in class. By the end of lap eight it was all change again for the F2 Cup runners with Remnant / Tilley digging in and moving up to second in class, with Lumley / Whitnell in third, relegating Hackney / Lowther back to fourth.
With the Ramsdens suffering a moment on lap nine, Hegarty / Stokoe had overtaken them to move up to fifth place overall, and the gap between third and fourth was down to below six seconds. There was also a change in the F2 Cup class as Hackney / Lowther moved ahead of Lumley / Whitnell. On the penultimate lap Lumley / Whitnell overtook Hackney / Lowther (who had a bit of a “sidewise moment) and also capitalising on this error saw Dukes / Moralee and Ilaria / Lace move up a place each.
It was a resounding win for Crawford / Hardie by fourteen seconds over Gibson / Moore who had an incredible race in securing their first ever Super F2 podium, and the Lowther brothers defended third place, holding off Founds/Walmsley by 1.1s and thus stopping their 100% podium success rate.
As former F.S.R.A. Press Officer John Newton mentioned at the presentation, the showing all teams gave in treacherous conditions was testament to the high level ofability all the way through the field, especially given the limited visibility.
On behalf of the F.S.R.A., I would like to give thanks to all the marshals who spent over five hours in the wet and cold so we could all go racing, and also to the Darlington Motor Club and Auto 66 Club for organising the Battle Of Britain meeting.