DOUBLE wins and new lap records highlighted the weekend as the FSRA British F2 series descended on Donington Park.
Lee Crawford/Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki) continued their dominant form, taking pole, two wins and the Super F2 lap record, as they lifted the prestigious Bill Boddice Trophy for their performance in race one.
And it wasn’t just in the top class – in the F2 Cup, Harry Payne and stand-in world championships passenger Emmanunnelle Clement (GPF2 Yamaha) were runaway winners in the Cup ranks, taking the class lap record – which had stood for exactly a decade.
With the threat of rain and changing conditions, Saturday’s free practice was a gamble, but the slick-shod outfits won out as Alan Founds/Jake Lowther (LCR Yamaha) set the fastest time, whilst Crawford/Hardie survived a fast spin at Hollywood on a combination of wets and slicks.
But in qualifying, drizzle turned to steady rain and it was wildcard entrants and reigning world champion Tim Reeves with Kevin Rousseau (LCR Yamaha) who topped the times, with Founds/Lowther and another wildcard pairing of Todd Ellis/Phil Hyde (Baker Honda) fighting for the top spots. Also in the thick of the action were four-times British F2 Champions Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley (LCR Rowtec) who were having their first outing on a new machine, as Sean Hegarty/James Neave (Baker Honda) Payne/Clement and Lewis Blackstock/Patrick Rosney (LCR Honda) were nipping at their heels.
After a lightning-quick pit stop to swap from slicks to wets, Crawford/Hardie were back on circuit and their first flying lap was almost six seconds faster than the next best. Whilst their margin at the end of the session was narrowed to 3.6 seconds on a drying track, they held on to take their second consecutive British championship pole position. Ellis/Hyde leapfrogged Reeves/Rousseau in the closing stages to secure a front row start, while the top six was completed by Founds/Lowther, Founds/Walmsley and Blackstock/Rosney. Seventh overall, and first of the F2 Cup runners were Payne/Clement, with Brian Ilaria/Matt Simms (DDM Suzuki) second in class and Chris Schofield/Shane Colbroke (Ireson Honda) third.
Back on slicks for race one with a drying track, Crawford/Hardie made their pole position count as they led the field into Redgate, with Founds/Lowther looking to the inside line, but Ellis/Hyde and Reeves/Rousseau filled out the top three as the pack streamed through the Craner Curves on the opening lap.
A brake problem halted the progress of wild-card team Dean Lindley/Arlo Brown (DMR Suzuki), as they retired on lap one. At the front, Crawford/Hardie had already stretched a lead of almost three seconds over the group of Reeves/Rousseau, Ellis/Hyde,/Founds/Lowther, Blackstock/Rosney, Founds/Walmsley, Payne/Clement and Hegarty/Neave, all hunting for a rostrum spot.
Meanwhile, a four-way battle was shaping up in the lower reaches of the top ten between John Lowther/Matthew Rostron (LCR Yamaha), Conrad Harrison/Andy Winkle (Bellas Honda), Steve and Matty Ramsden (LCR Honda) and the F2 Cup runners Rob Atkinson/Mark Middleton (Bellas Suzuki).
While Crawford/Hardie continued to open a buffer at the front, the battle for the remaining podium places lost Reeves/Rousseau and Founds/Walmsley around half distance, with both teams suffering mechanical issues. They were joined on the retirements list by Nev Jones/James Saunders (LCR Suzuki), Richard Hackney/Dave Ryder (CES Suzuki), Paul Riley/Jody James (MRE Suzuki) and the Ramsdens – the latter suffering an overheating problem.
Founds/Lowther were making a charge, and moved through to second at the expense of Ellis/Hyde, with Blackstock/Rosney around a second back, looking to capitalise on any mistake. Crawford/Hardie had eased to a lead of almost fifteen seconds at the front, having broken the lap record no less than three times before cruising home 6.5sec clear of second placed Founds/Lowther at the chequered flag, with Ellis/Hyde, Blackstock/Rosney, Hegarty/Neave and Payne/Clement rounding out the top six.
In the F2 Cup, the win went to Payne/Clement, coming home around 40sec clear of second-placed Atkinson/Middleton. The father and son pairing of Roger and Bradley Stockton (LCR Suzuki) took third, their second podium in as many meetings. Mick Alton/Keith Brotherton (LCR Suzuki) were fourth, while Ilaria/Sims were fifth after losing ground with a spin on the final lap, with Bruce Moore/Amy Dodd (Ireson Honda) taking sixth.
The reverse grid for race two put Payne/Clement on pole, with Hegarty/Neave alongside them. While the pack made it off the line without issue, there was immediate disappointment for Lowther/Rostron who feared they may have suffered a dropped valve at the start as they retired to the paddock.
Blackstock/Rosney were pushing both front row starters as they took the lead at the end of lap one, with Founds/Lowther up to fourth and Crawford/Hardie and Ellis/Hyde in close company. Founds/Walmsley were making a strong charge from the back of the grid after a race one DNF, and were closing in on the top ten while wildcards Maria Costello/Vicky Cooke (LCR Kawasaki) retired to pitlane at the end of the opening lap.
Crawford/Hardie were on the move, and at the start of lap three had moved to fourth, right in the wheel tracks of Founds/Lowther and Payne/Clement, with Blackstock/Rosney continuing to lead the way. Ellis/Hyde were in close company with Hegarty/Neave in fifth and sixth, but positions were changing frantically, and by lap four, Crawford/Hardie had hit the front.
As they eased away from Blackstock/Rosney, the latter duo were coming under pressure from third placed Payne/Clement who shortly after took second on the road, breaking Dave Atkinson/Phil Knapton’s 10-year-old F2 Cup lap record in the process.
Further down the order, Atkinson/Middleton were in a lonely second place in the F2 Cup, but were running in close company on the road with Harrison/Winkle, and Founds/Walmsley, who had now moved within striking distance of the top six. Sitting in a strong third in class were the Stocktons, who themselves were involved in a close race for track position with the Super F2 teams of Wayne Lockey/Mark Sayers (LCR Honda), the Ramsdens, Howard Baker/Mike Killingsworth (Shelbourne Honda) and fellow F2 Cup team Ilaria and Sims.
The Schofield/Colbrooke outfit suffered a spin on lap five at Redgate and was stuck in the middle of the circuit, with several outfits taking evasive action to avoid them. Hackney/Ryder were able to avoid hitting the stricken machine, but were in turn clipped by Lindley/Brown who had nowhere to go. With outfits in the gravel, marshals were forced to throw red flags at the end of lap six.
And with time running low on the programme as well as 50 per cent of the race run, Crawford/Hardie once again took the win to continue their unbeaten start to 2021. Second overall and the first F2 Cup team were Payne/Clement in their first race together as Clement fills in for Payne’s injured chairman Mark Wilkes in her first run aboard an F2.
Ellis/Hyde moved ahead of Blackstock/Rosney to claim the final podium slot, with Hegarty/Neave fifth and the top six completed by Founds/Walmsley, who had made good progress through the field.
Atkinson/Middleton and the Stocktons filled out the F2 Cup podium in a repeat of Saturday’s result, while Ilaria/Sims; Schofield/Colbrooke and Alton/Brotherton completed the top six.