AFTER a lengthy break from action, the fourth round of the ACU/FSRA British F2 sidecar championship got underway at Britain’s Philip Island – the Anglesey Coastal Circuit.
But it wasn’t without drama as the meeting was delayed for several hours due to high winds, meaning some teams packed up early to avoid any chance of being stuck on the Welsh Isle.
The track was dry but blustery in places, and an hour after free practice began the heavens opened and a good downpour ensued, and it looked like qualifying would be a game of tyre strategy. But with the track drying rapidly in places and wet in others it would be the teams on full slicks that would set the fastest times.
On board the ARC sponsored LCR Suzuki, Lee Crawford/Scott Hardie set the early pace and were never headed as they consistently improved their qualifying time and on their tenth and final qualifying lap set pole with a time of 1:15.205.
Joining them on the front row of the grid after their best ever qualifying on his new DMR chassis with Suzuki power Mike Jackson with stand in passenger for the meeting Tom Christie just a tenth off pole 1:15.309.
The top two teams were over a second quicker than third-placed Printer Roller Services Honda Bellas of Conrad Harrison/Andy Winkle who in turn were three tenths ahead of Hegarty Racings Hegarty/Neave on their Baker Honda.
Fortunately, the rain held off and sixteen teams lined up for race one to be held over a reduced distance of 12 laps, with one team absent from qualifying Paul Riley Andrew Haynes due to a fault on their MRE they could not cure in time for the start of the race.
Crawford/Hardie lead the pack into the first left hander which would see Hegarty/Neave push series leaders Pete Founds/Jevan Walmsley, who had started seventh on the grid aboard their Rowtec/Trustlands Suzuki DDM, wide as the latter would also get mixed up with Lumley/Whitnell and relegate them to eighth place along the coastal part of the circuit.
The Ramsdens had worked their way up to second position by the end of lap one and were just 1.188s behind the pole setters. Jackson/Christie had dropped back to fourth and Hegarty Neave in fifth. Founds/Walmsley had regained their qualifying position of seventh and set about chasing the leading F2 Cup runners Gibson/Moore who were occupying sixth position.
Leading men Crawford and Hardie set the quickest lap of the weekend so far at 1:14.318 and were now 1.665s ahead of the Ramsdens and the rest of the positions remained unchanged. By the end of lap three Founds/Walmsley had overtaken Gibson/Moore to relegate them to seventh, although they had a healthy nine second advantage over Lumley/Whitnell who were second in the F2 cup class.
With another fast lap set by Crawford/Hardie 1:14.310 they had now extended their lead to 2.192s over the Ramsdens. But at the end of lap eight, Team Ramsden set the fastest lap of the race, chasing down Crawford/Hardie and reducing their lead to just 1.036s.
But after encountering back markers by the end of lap nine the gap between the front two was just 0.349s. There was drama for Team ARC just before the start of the penultimate lap as Hardie exited the outfit at the corkscrew and would unfortunately add to their tally of non-finishes.
Taking the chequered flag for the first time this season and setting the fastest lap father and son Steve and Matty Ramsden with just a second lead over Harrison/Winkle who in turn were also a second in front of third placed Founds/Walmsley. Gibson and Moore took the F2 Cup win from Shipley/Saidi and Remnant/Tilley.
The grid for the start of race two would see Gibson/Moore on pole with Hegarty/Neave joining them on the front row as the top six from race one was reversed to set the starting order.
But disaster struck for Harrison/Winkle from the off when they were handed a 10 second penalty for a jump start and after lap one were registered in 15th place, while Hegarty/Neave led the way by 0.574s ahead of Founds/Walmsley as Jackson/Christie held station in third.
The Ramsdens had moved up to fourth and remarkably in fifth after starting on row eight were Crawford and Hardie. After the end of lap two, Hegarty/Neave led, but they were about to be shuffled.
At the end of lap three Founds/Walmsley led Jackson/Christie, relegating Hegarty/Neave back to third, but lap four would see Jackson/Christie lead Founds/Walmsley with the Ramsdens heading Hegarty/Neave.
By the end of lap five the lead changed again with Founds/Walmsley leading Jackson/Christie by 0.469s and just a second further back the Ramsdens after they set the fastest lap so far 1:14.275.
In the F2 Cup Gibson/Moore had just under a two second lead over Shipley/Saidi and there was also a battle for third between Lumley/Whitnell and Remnant/Tilley with the gap between the Cup runners hovering at just 0.721s.
By the end of lap seven Founds/Walmsley had opened up a 1.775s gap over the Ramsdens and Crawford/Hardie as both teams recorded 1:14s laps and with Jackson/Christie losing a couple of seconds on previous laps, they found themselves in fourth.
Founds/Walmsley held a two second advantage recording the fastest lap of 1:14.089s, which pushed their lead to nearly three seconds, but Ramsden/Ramsden were having none of it and recorded a time of 1:13.932 on lap 11 to reduce the gap to 2.24s.
By the end of lap 13, Founds/Walmsley set their personal best for the race at 1:14.086 to extend their lead to 2.438s. But the race was cut short by red flags after Jackson/Christie, who were in fourth, went upside down in the middle of the circuit, both being reported okay soon after.
Founds/Walmsley took the win with the Ramsdens finishing second and setting the fastest lap, while Crawford/Hardie battled back from a 15th place start to finish on the rostrum. It was a repeat podium in the F2 Cup class as Gibson/Moore took the win by 13s over Shipley/Saidi, who in turn were nearly 15s ahead of Remnant/Tilley.
Defending champs Founds and Walmsley have now extended their advantage over Hegarty and Neave to 50 points, while Gibson and Moore’s double in the Cup category has put them ahead and broken the tie with Remnant and Tilley.
*Images: Dirk Wharton