PETE Founds and Jevan Walmsley made a perfect start to their fourth straight FSRA British F2 title hunt with a clean sweep at Snetterton this weekend.
Not only did the defending champs convert their pole position into two wins, but they also destroyed the existing lap record and shaved a huge 1.9sec off the old mark, making their intentions clear for the year ahead.
While entries for the event had initially been over-subscribed, no less than five teams were forced to withdraw in the days leading up to the event, but a total of twenty eight outfits still lined up to do battle on the the 1.984mi Norfolk circuit.
Track temperatures remained low throughout Saturday morning and despite a couple of short flurries of snow, the front running teams were quickly on the pace and it was clear that the long-running lap record would fall as long as the weather remained dry.
LCR Suzuki boys Founds and Walmsley took pole position by just over 0.5sec from Dave Molyneux and Harry Payne, while third went to Lee Crawford and Scott Hardie, the latter of whom brought their session to a premature halt in pit lane with five minutes remaining thanks to an engine problem.
Bellas Honda duo Conrad Harrison and Andy Winkle were delighted to line up fourth after not riding anywhere since Oulton Park last October. Fifth place went the way of 2017 F2 Cup champion Mike Jackson and Ben Binns, just ahead of reigning F2 Cup victors Daryl Gibson and Ashley Moore.
Race one got underway in the early evening, with Founds and Walmsley making the most of their pole position to lead from Crawford and Hardie. TT legend Moly and Payne initially got away well, but were hit with with clutch slip early on, which progressively worsened throughout the race. On lap two, Founds and Walmsley briefly gifted the lead to Crawford and Hardie after making a rare braking mistake and losing four seconds.
The top two outfits both officially broke the lap record, with the fastest lap of the weekend going to Founds and Walmsley on their way to the win with a time of 1:16.778, while Crawford and Hardie eased their pace to come home 9.3 seconds adrift, and 10.5 seconds ahead of Moly and Payne.
Finishing eighth overall were the first of the F2 Cup runners Michael Kirkup and Arlo Brown, winning the sub-class battle by over 15sec ahead of Robinson and Hughes, who were tenth overall and second in the F2 Cup scrap.
Race two was brought slightly forward in Sunday’s programme and with the top six from race one lining up in reverse order, it was Lowther and Stokoe who led into Richies from the front row. However, undoubtedly making the best getaway was the reigning champ’s outfit, which charged from sixth to second as the pack entered Montreal before passing the leaders down the Bentley Straight to establish a commanding lead at the end of lap one.
Moly and Payne had moved up to second while Lowther and Stokoe were quickly under pressure from Crawford and Hardie, who eased into the final podium place.
By half distance, Founds and Walmsley had opened up a comfortable gap to the chasing field, which extended to just over nine seconds over Moly and Payne at the chequered flag. But the unfortunate Crawford and Hardie were plagued again by mechanical troubles as their outfit expired at the start of lap nine after nursing an engine issue for much of the race. Alan Founds and Jake Lowther charged up to third, and although as wildcard entrants they were entitled to trophies, they did not score the points, which instead went to fourth placed Jackson and Binns.
In the F2 Cup chase it was once again Kirkup and Brown who took the honours in ninth to make a perfect start to their campaign, with Robinson/Hughes and reigning FSRA Pre Injection champs John Shipley Jnr/ Milo Ward rounding out the rostrum. All three F2 Cup podium finishers in race two were newcomers to the series in an encouraging show of young talent coming through the ranks.
*Images: Dirk Wharton