PETE Founds and Jevan Walmsley notched up another convincing double win at Anglesey as the ACU/FSRA British F2 Sidecar series reached its half-way point.
The LCR Suzuki duo’s hopes of taking a fourth consecutive British Championship look even more likely as they take a 106 point lead to Croft Circuit in a little under a fortnight’s time.
And in the F2 Cup, Simon Robinson and Mick Fairhurst (LCR Suzuki) also extended their lead with a double win over nearest rivals Rob Atkinson and Mark Middleton (Bellas Suzuki).
Initially the round was over-subscribed with thirty five teams signed up for the year, but only 20 outfits made the journey to North Wales. There was drama at the close of opening free practice, with problems for Team ARC’s Lee Crawford and Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki) and similarly mounted Michael Kirkup and Arlo Brown. Sadly, neither team were able to resolve their issues at the circuit, and both made the long journey back to their bases in the North East late Saturday morning.
In qualifying, Founds and Walmsley made no mistake landing their fourth pole position start in as many events this season. A second in arrears were John Lowther and Tom Christie (LCR Honda), following up their successful maiden event together last weekend at Oliver’s Mount, where they had taken two second places.
Forming the second row were the established pairings of Conrad Harrison and Andy Winkle (Bellas Honda) and Sean Hegarty and James Neave (Baker Honda). A strong performance from Robinson and Fairhurst and John Shipley jnr and Gary Wheeler (LCR Suzuki) meant two F2 Cup teams locked out row three. The top ten qualifiers were completed by Brian Ilaria and Olly Lace (DDM Suzuki), Atkinson and Middleton (Bellas Suzuki), Giles and Jen Stainton (LCR Suzuki) and John Shipley snr and Woodward (LCR Suzuki).
In race one, Lowther and Christie took advantage of the pole sitters’ slow start to lead on the opening lap from Harrison/Winkle and Hegarty/Neave. Founds and Walmsley were in fourth, hounding the third-place team. Harrison and Winkle were demoted to fourth on lap three, with Lowther and Christie opening a gap of just under two seconds at the front while Founds and Walmsley found their way into second on lap four.
In the F2 Cup, Robinson and Fairhurst settled into fifth with Harrison and Winkle in their sights. They opened a modest gap over the chasing pack, headed by Shipley jnr and Wheeler, but they were overhauled first by Atkinson and Middleton and then Ilaria and Lace.
The first of three retirements hit on lap four as the Manx pairing of Craig Melvin and Stuart Christian (LCR Suzuki) were sidelined for the weekend. But at the front, Founds and Walmsley were increasing their pace, setting a fastest lap of 1:13.556 chasing down Lowther and Christie.
By half distance, Founds and Walmsley had taken the lead and began to stretch an advantage. Back in third, Hegarty and Neave retired, promoting Harrison and Winkle into the final podium slot. A lap later, Richard Hackney and Dave Ryder (CES Suzuki) also joined the list of retirements.
Robinson and Fairhurst set the fastest F2 Cup lap of the race (1:15.583), securing them a safe fourth place overall, around fifteen seconds clear of Atkinson and Middleton, who were coming under pressure from Ilaria and Lace but holding on to take second in the F2 Cup and fifth overall.
Founds and Walmsley made no mistake, easing their pace on the final couple of laps to take the win by 7.5sec from Lowther and Christie, with Harrison and Winkle completing the podium. The overall top six was completed by the F2 Cup podium finishers – Robinson and Fairhurst took a fine fourth place, with Atkinson and Middleton – Mark having his first outing for 18 months due to RAF Commitments – just holding off Ilaria and Lace.
With a reverse grid and wet patches playing havoc for race two on Sunday, pole sitters Ilaria and Lace dropped six places on the opening lap although it was all action into turn one, with three outfits side-by-side.
Lowther and Christie blasted through from fifth to lead at the start of lap two, from Atkinson and Middleton, Robinson and Fairhurst, Harrison and Winkle and race one winners Founds and Walmsley. Meanwhile, Hegarty and Neave, who had started from the very back of the grid, had already made their way through to ninth.
By lap five, Founds and Walmsley had moved into second and were in close company with Lowther and Christie, who were beginning to experience a problem as their lap times began to drop. Meanwhile, Hegarty and Neave had moved on to the battle for the final podium place between Harrison and Winkle and the leading F2 Cup team of Robinson and Fairhurst.
By half distance, Hegarty and Neave had passed both machines to move into a clear third, and on lap 11 they inherited second as Lowther and Christie retired to pitlane, joining Charlie Morphet and Paul Halliburton (LCR Suzuki) and David Schofield and Guy Pawsey on the non-finishers list.
Founds and Walmsley eased their pace and coasted to their eighth win of the season by a margin of 11.5sec over Hegarty and Neave, with Harrison and Winkle fending off a determined Robinson and Fairhurst for third.
Fifth overall and second in the F2 Cup were Atkinson and Middleton, while Ilaria and Lace repeated their Saturday result, completing the F2 Cup podium and taking sixth overall.
Lowther and Christie have now leap-frogged Crawford and Hardie in the Super F2 standings but now sit over 100 points down on Founds and Walmsley, while Robinson and Fairhurst’s clean sweep has put them 39 points clear of Atkinson and Middleton in the F2 Cup title chase.
*Images: Ste McNorton