PETE Founds and stand-in passenger Ben Binns shared the ACU/FSRA British F2 Sidecar spoils with Sean Hegarty and James Neave at this weekend’s Oulton Park finale.
But it was Simon Robinson and Mick Fairhurst who left with a championship as they lifted the F2 Cup crown in their first attempt.
While the Super F2 series had been secured almost a month earlier at Castle Combe, going the way once again of Founds and Jevan Walmsley (LCR Suzuki), there was still the matter of the championship top three and a fierce battle in the F2 Cup to decide as the outfits descended on Cheshire.
The Cup fight had raged all year between Simon Robinson / Mick Fairhurst (LCR Suzuki) and Rob Atkinson / Mark Middleton (Bellas Suzuki), but neither had accrued enough points prior to Oulton to land the title.
With persistent rain hitting the Friday test day and a damp start to Saturday after more overnight showers, pre-event favourites were up in the air as a number of wildcard crews bolstered the grids. But the outfits caught a break in Saturday’s qualifying on what was a drying Cheshire circuit.
Founds called upon the services of former IOMTT lap record-holding passenger Ben Binns to deputise for Walmsley, who is still nursing a shattered heel, but the new pair wasted no time in getting acquainted and set pole position on their final lap as a definite dry line began to emerge. Founds and Binns were over five seconds clear of last year’s F2 Cup champions Daryl Gibson / Ashley Moore (Shelbourne Suzuki), who were a further second ahead of Robinson / Fairhurst. John Shipley jnr / Milo Ward (LCR Suzuki) put a relatively disappointing weekend at Mallory Park behind them to qualify fourth, just ahead of the first of the wild-card entrants, Wayne Lockey / Mark Sayers (LCR Honda).
Atkinson / Middleton, Sean Hegarty / James Neave (Baker Honda), wild-cards Dean Lindley / Rob Bell (DMR Suzuki), Brian Ilaria / Olly Lace (DDM Suzuki) and the father and son wild-card pairing of Roger and Bradley Stockton (DSCR Suzuki) completed the top 10.
Race one was a tyre gamble in the changing conditions, but Founds / Binns quickly made a break from their pole position start, opening up a two second gap at the end of the first lap.
Atkinson / Middleton made an excellent start from sixth and picked up several places to run third as they looked to keep the pressure on their F2 Cup rivals, but cruel fortune struck as a jubilee clip failed, dumping the water from their cooling system and putting an end to their race and ultimately their push for championship supremacy.
As John Shipley snr / Andy Haynes (LCR Honda) retired with an engine problem which ended their event, Shipley jnr / Ward inherited the lead in the F2 Cup and third overall before Hegarty / Neave were on a charge and overtook them on lap two.
Back at the front, Founds / Binns stretched their advantage over Gibson / Moore, who in turn were pulling away from the rest of the pack. Ilaria / Lace had moved ahead of Robinson / Fairhurst, who were running fifth and sixth overall and second and third in the F2 Cup, but Lockey / Sayers were closing on the latter crew, finding a way through a lap later.
It was an early end for Charlie Morphet / Paul Halliburton (LCR Suzuki) on lap five who had moved inside the top 10 before a minor incident at the Chicane, from which both escaped with only minor bruising.
Meanwhile, Shipley jnr / Ward had come under pressure from Ilaria / Lace, and dropped to second in the F2 Cup, and fifth overall. While Founds / Binns had built up a significant lead of around two seconds each lap over Gibson / Moore, all eyes were on Ilaria / Lace in the closing laps as they relished the conditions in a bid for their maiden Super F2 podium.
But Hegarty / Neave held on by a slender 0.2sec at the flag to snag third, 38sec behind second placed Gibson / Moore, who were over 13sec adrift of winners Founds / Binns.
Shipley jnr / Ward completed the top five overall with their best Super F2 finish of the year and second in the Cup class, just ahead of Lockey / Sayers.
And it was delight just behind for Robinson / Fairhurst who took a lonely seventh place and third in the F2 Cup ranks, enough to clinch the championship in their first season in class.
Lindley / Bell took eighth ahead of Giles and Jen Stainton (LCR Suzuki), while Oulton rookies Michael Boak / Brian Jukes (Baker Suzuki) bagged 10th
With a shortened distance thanks to weather disruptions and Founds / Binns opting out as the latter raced to his return ferry back to the Isle of Man, race two was wide open. But there was disappointment early for Lindley / Bell, who went off on the warm-up lap at Cascades.Lockey and Sayers were set to line up on pole with the reverse grid, but their non-start meant Shipley jnr / Ward were left as the only outfit on the front row for the six-lap sprint.
But it was Hegarty / Neave who controlled and led the race from start to finish to land their second British F2 race win of the year from Gibson / Moore, who made it a brace of runners-up places for the day.
Taking their third Super F2 podium in as many events were Robinson / Fairhurst, who passed Shipley jnr / Ward at half distance to win the Cup race as Ilaria / Lace bagged the final Cup rostrum spot in fifth overall.
Wild-cards Matt Dix / Shaun Parker (Baker Honda) came home sixth ahead of Chris Schofield / William Moralee (Ireson Honda) and David Schofield / Guy Pawsey (Windle Suzuki).
The Stocktons and the Staintons completed the top 10 while Pete Millington / Kez Hughes (MRE Suzuki) and Boak / Jukes tool 11th and 12th as sole retirees Ste Pawley / David Hammond (Shelbourne Suzuki) took a DNF on lap two having made the wrong tyre choice.
*Images: Ste McNorton