LEE Crawford and Scott Hardie dominated the FSRA F2 action at Brands Hatch as they scorched to two wins and nearly busted the lap record.
The Team ARC duo, who set a thundering pace on the Indy Circuit from the word go, dipped under the 12-year-old mark in qualifying before equalling Ben and Tom Birchall’s old record from the late-2000s in race conditions.
While many teams hit the track for Friday’s untimed test, it was clear that the LCR Suzuki duo was leading the way, but series debutant Harry Payne – with current FIM world champ Mark Wilkes alongside him on the GP Yamaha – were matching the fastest times.
Crawford / Hardie set the pace in Saturday’s first practice with a 51.070, but Payne / Wilkes were giving chase and impressing, posting the next quickest time ahead of 2015 Super F2 champion Alan Founds with passenger Jake Lowther.
But disaster struck early on for Payne / Wilkes as they barrel-rolled down the circuit on the uphill approach to Druids as Wilkes suffered a hand injury and was taken to hospital. After a number of repairs, however, an unhurt Payne recruited stand-in chairman Ryan Anderson for Sunday’s programme.
Fourteen crews took on qualifying as it was again Crawford / Hardie at the top of the order with a 50.778, nearly a tenth under the old F2 lap record of the Birchalls. Founds / Lowther were 1.3s in arrears to make up the front row, with Hegarty / Neave in close company. The Ramsdens edged out John Lowther / Matthew Rostron (LCR Yamaha) for fourth while the first of the F2 Cup teams, Ilaria / Sims, lined up sixth.
Crawford / Hardie made a fast, clean start from pole to escape early in race one, with Hegarty / Neave in close company after a look at Paddock Hill, with Founds / Lowther hot on their heels and a slight gap to the chasing pack headed by Lowther / Rostron.
Ilaria / Sims had a spin early on and dropped down the field, while former double British F2 champ Gary Horspole / Kenny Cole were making advances from their initial position of seventh, despite running a carburetted engine.
As Founds / Lowther continued to hound Hegarty / Neave, there was an ever-increasing advantage of around one second a lap at the front for Crawford / Hardie. But there was frustration for Founds / Lowther at half distance as they lost drive as the chain jumped from the sprocket as they exited Graham Hill Bend, forcing them into retirement.
The Ramsdens were promoted to third, while Horspole / Cole had moved into fourth at the expense of Lowther / Rostron, with the top five order unchanged as the chequered flag flew.
The F2 Cup was a decidedly closer affair as father and son duo Shaun and Ben Chandler (Baker Honda) came home sixth overall to take the class win. Chris Schofield, with new passenger Shane Colbrook (Ireson Honda), were the runners up – which made amends for their mechanical issues on Friday. Completing the F2 Cup podium were Paul Riley / Jody James (MRE Suzuki).
With the top six finishers from the previous race lining up in reverse order for race two, as well as Saturday retirees Founds / Lowther and Payne / Anderson lining up at the back, Hegarty / Neave and Crawford / Hardie both launched off the line to hit Paddock Hill Bend. But the most impressive opening lap was came from Founds / Lowther, who were up to third and in touching distance of the leaders. Crawford / Hardie, however, made a decisive move on lap two and quickly stretched a lead.
While the Ramsdens settled into a rhythm, Lowther / Rostron were in early contention with Horspole / Cole, but were apparently struggling with a misfire, which eventually forced them to retire, joining Payne / Anderson with a mechanical issue on the sidelines as Founds / Lowther found their undertray parting company with the outfit, also forcing them off track.
Crawford / Hardie pushed on to clock a 50.868, equalling the Birchalls lap record. As they negotiated some of the backmarkers in the latter stages, they eased their pace to take the win by 8.4s from Hegarty / Neave and bag a perfect weekend, topping the timesheets in every session.
The Ramsdens came home third, ahead of Horspole / Cole – a carbon copy of the top four finishers as in race one, while F2 Cup winners Ilaria / Sims had a trouble-free run to fifth overall. Schofield / Colbrook were sixth on the road, and again took second in the Cup, as Roger and Bradley Stockton (LCR Suzuki) – in their first race together at British Championship level – were the final F2 Cup podium finishers in seventh overall.