PETE Founds and Jevan Walmsley dominated the ACU/FSRA British F2 Sidecar races at the Cadwell Sidecar Revival to move one step closer to another title.
The LCR Suzuki duo topped the timesheets in every session as they claimed pole position, a hat trick of wins, broke the lap record and bagged the Steve Norbury Trophy.
Almost 25 teams lined up in the F2 category at Cadwell’s annual outfit scrap and the defending champs immediately took control in qualifying, going a tenth under the lap record which had been set almost a decade ago by Simon Neary and Paul Knapton back in 2010.
Lining up alongside them would be their old adversaries Lee Crawford and Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki), who were 0.8s off the pace of the pole-sitters but over two seconds clear of the third fastest team – Sean Hegarty and James Neave (Baker Honda).
Race one got underway in the early evening on Saturday, and whilst Founds and Walmsley took the advantage at the front from the start, Crawford and Hardie were in contention with them in the early laps, both teams pushing to the limits with the leaders setting the fastest time on lap four with a 1:37.270 as they officially busted the record.
The chasing pack was led by John Lowther and Ben Binns (LCR Honda), with Hegarty and Neave contesting the final podium slot. Conrad Harrison and Andy Winkle (Bellas Honda) were early retirements, pulling in after just two laps. But making a charge through the field were Daryl Gibson and Ashley Moore, who had started at the back of the grid following problems in practice.
Rob Atkinson and Simon Dawson (Bellas Suzuki) were proving their brace of wins at the previous round at Donington Park was no fluke and were running at the head of the F2 Cup field, inside the overall top ten, with Nick Dukes and William Moralee (Baker Honda) heading up the challenge in the Cup scrap.
The LCR Suzuki outfits of Simon Robinson and Mick Fairhurst and Michael Kirkup and Arlo Brown were having an entertaining battle for the remaining F2 Cup podium slots, with Brian Ilaria and Olly Lace (DDM Suzuki) poised to take advantage of any mistakes.
Unfortunately race one featured a catalogue of non-finishes. Joining Harrison and Winkle on the sidelines in the early stages were Dean and Ben Dickinson (Shelbourne Suzuki) and the wildcard pairing of Rob Fisher and Rick Long (Baker Thundercat). Unfortunately, Crawford and Hardie joined the list of retirements on lap three – as they hounded Founds and Walmsley through the Chicane the outfit went offline and pitched Hardie from the machine, gifting a healthy lead to the reigning champions over Lowther and Binns, with Hegarty and Neave completing out the top three.
These positions remained unchanged at the chequered flag, with Founds and Walmsley winning by over 30sec. In fourth came Gordon Shand and Tony Belsey, just ahead of the Ramsdens, with Atkinson and Dawson rounding out the top six and taking the F2 Cup victory, less than one second ahead of Gibson and Moore with their spirited ride through the field landing them a seventh-place finish.
Dukes and Moralee took second in the F2 Cup, and eighth overall. But it was all action on the final lap in the battle for the podium between Kirkup/Brown and Robinson/Fairhurst before a coming together between the machines at the Hairpin put them both machines on the grass, handing third in the Cup to Ilaria and Lace, with Shipley jnr and Ward taking fourth in class and 10th overall.
Thanks to a reverse grid, Atkinson and Dawson bagged pole for Sunday’s opener, but there was disappointment for them as they missed the gates for the race following wheel bearing repairs after issues in the warm up, leaving the lone front-row duties to the Ramsdens.
The new pole-sitters grabbed the holeshot from Hegarty and Neave and Lowther and Binns, but by the time the front runners had gone through the dip on Park Straight, Founds and Walmsley were once again at the head of the field and going about establishing a strong lead.
Hegarty and Neave settled into a somewhat lonely second place for much of the race, with Founds and Walmsley stretching their advantage, breaking the lap record once again as they lowered it to 1:37.223 on lap nine. Lowther and Binns settled into third, maintaining a consistent gap over the outfits of Gibson and Moore, while the Ramsdens and Shand and Belsey were all in close company until the latter pairing were forced into retirement at two thirds distance.
After starting at the back of the grid, Crawford and Hardie powered forward into the top ten and by three-quarter distance they had knocked Lowther and Binns off the final step of the podium, and whilst they were making some in-roads into Hegarty and Neave it looked like they would struggle to make any further progress.
In the F2 Cup battle, with Atkinson and Dawson as non-starters, Robinson and Fairhurst were keen to make amends for their fifth place finish in the previous race and were running at the front. Ilaria and Lace were in a safe second, with Shipley jnr and Ward fending off Kirkup and Brown to complete the podium at the flag.
While Founds and Walmsley stormed to their second convincing win of the weekend, there was drama in the final two laps as Hegarty and Neave appeared to be visibly slowing with a mechanical problem. This allowed Crawford and Hardie to close and pass them on the final lap.
Hegarty and Neave were able to keep the machine going and took third, with Lowther and Binns, Gibson and Moore, the Ramsdens, Harrison and Winkle, Robinson and Fairhurst, Ilaria and Lace and Shipley jnr and Ward completing the top 10.
With another revers grid for the third and final race, Lowther and Binns led the way from Gibson and Moore and Hegarty and Neave, but it was not long until sixth place starters Founds and Walmsley took charge at the front once again.
Crawford and Hardie were eager get away from their fifth place grid slot and dropped several places as the back wheel spun up on the run up to Coppice, but it wasn’t long before they re-composed and made their way up to second place, although Founds and Walmsley had already pulled out a lead of several seconds. But the chasing duo pulled up at the chicane with wheel-arch concerns, eventually rejoining back in seventh place after a quick fix.
In the Cup scrap, Atkinson and Dawson had been forced to start from the back of the grid and they set about chasing down Robinson and Fairhurst, who were leading in the sub-class. Unfortunately, the Dickinsons were retirements on lap three, having had a frustrating weekend in all three outings. Ilaria and Lace returned to the paddock at half distance, as did Hegarty and Neave a lap later with a terminal mechanical issue.
While Crawford and Hardie made a strong comeback to second, they had no answer to the dominance of Founds and Walmsley, who shattered the lap record further, to 1:36.448, taking almost a full second off Neary and Knapton’s former best.
Lowther and Binns took third with consistency over the weekend moving them to a clear third place in the overall points standings, only 11 behind Crawford and Hardie. Gibson and Moore had their best finish of the weekend with fourth with the Ramsdens fifth and Harrison and Winkle sixth. F2 Cup teams completed the top ten with Atkinson and Dawson taking the win from Robinson and Fairhurst, Kirkup and Brown and Shipley jnr and Ward.
*Images: Dirk Wharton