LEE Crawford and Scott Hardie lead the FSRA British F2 Sidecar Championship after storming to two solid wins at Croft.
And the Team ARC duo also lifted the coveted Mac Hobson trophy for the fourth year in succession, after a dominant weekend in both wet and dry conditions.
The championship kicked-off its 2018 campaign at the North East Motorcycle Racing Club’s (NEMCRC) opening round at Crawford’s local track, although it was Hardie’s first visit as a competitor.
After getting to grips with the track in dry conditions during Friday’s practice, the pair qualified second on the grid for Saturday’s race, after being pipped to pole by Pete Founds and Jevan Walmsley in the closing minutes of a wet qualifying.
As the rain continued to fall, race chiefs were forced to delay the action as circuit staff battled to clear the track of standing water, but when the race got underway, Crawford and Hardie were just unstoppable.
In very wet conditions the pair took the lead at start and quickly built an unassailable lead, to eventually cross the line more than 21 seconds ahead of Founds and Walmsley, as Sean Hegarty and James Neave finished third.
With one hand back on the Mac Hobson trophy and the early championship lead, they knew things wouldn’t be quite so simple for Sunday’s race, as they started the race from sixth on the grid under the new reverse grid rules.
Front row starters Mike Jackson and Harry Payne got a blistering start to take the early lead, but Crawford and Hardie were on a charge, scything their way through to move to the front at Tower.
From there they came under no serious challenge. Founds and Walmsley had overcome a problem in warm up to put up a strong fight, and managed to reduce what had been a seven second gap to the leaders to just over four seconds by the chequered flag, but the day belonged to Crawford and Hardie.
Third this time went to Conrad Harrison and Andy Winkle, as the Team ARC boys also celebrated the fastest lap of both the race and the weekend.
“We started how we want to go on,” Crawford told UK Clubsport. “We kept reliability on our side after a tricky Friday session, and an engine change on Friday evening.
“We thought it might be a dull weekend but it absolutely poured like crazy through Saturday. We had a straightforward race given the tricky conditions. Visibility is poor in those conditions and trying to just stay on the track is a feat in itself, so to come home with a win in race one was great.
“On Sunday we knew conditions were going to be dry so we gave it everything, starting sixth with the reversed grid and we prevailed so we’re pretty happy.
“We lead the British championship now heading into round two, which is the way we wanted it, and I’m just over the moon to win the Mac Hobson again.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend. Great team, great job, great team effort – we’re all feeling very happy and confident about the season ahead.”
*All images by Dirk Wharton