This is the first visit to Brands Hatch by the F.S.R.A. for seven years, last playing host to the season opening meeting in 2014. On that occasion the Super F2 wins were shared by Conrad Harrison / Lee Patterson, and the late, great Ian Bell and his son, Carl. The F2 Cup spoils were taken respectively by Dean Lindley / Rob Bell, and Alan Founds / Tom Peters. The latter crew went on to dominate the Cup in spectacular fashion, finishing every one of their eight races, scoring four wins and four runners-up placings. In 2015, the same combination went on to win the overall Super F2 category, before moving to the F1 series. However, it gives the F.S.R.A. great pleasure to welcome Alan back for the 2021 season, with his regular passenger Jake Lowther (LCR Yamaha).
The championship has seen many changes in its participants since that previous Brands Hatch event, and of the twenty four registered drivers who appeared in 2014, only six remain in the series today. Several have retired and others moved to different branches of motorsport. However, regular followers of the British F2 Sidecar Championship will be well-aware of the formidible talent which has joined the series in more recent years, and they are set to renew their rivalries after an eighteen month lay off, as 2020 bore witness to the first cancelled campaign since it first ran, back in 1985.
In 2019, Pete Founds / Jevan Walmsley made history, winning a record-breaking fourth consecutive British F2 Championship. As ever, they have registered for the series to defend their honour, but are rumoured to be making a bold change to Honda power, having sold their trusty LCR Suzuki over the winter months. As such, their attendance at this opening round is doubtful, as they still have much to do in readiness for the new season.
Lee Crawford / Scott Hardie (LCR Suzuki), will be all out to win the title that has evaded them for the last four years. They have proved to have the raw pace, but in 2019 were frustrated by a problem with their chassis which saw the chain part company with the outfit on too many occasions! However, they made their intentions clear in 2020, taking no fewer than four Super F2 lap records – including Brands Hatch – albeit on the longer G.P. Circuit, rather than the Indy configuration being used at this event. They also surprised allcomers, taking the chequered flag at the Donington Park B.S.B. event, on their short F2 outfit at the head of the field, against the F600 machines. They also dominated the Scarborough Gold Cup meeting at Oliver's Mount winning all four races with ease.
The most recent British F2 Sidecar race winners were Sean Hegarty / James Neave (Baker Honda) at Oulton Park in September 2019, and with Brands being a local circuit for Hegarty, this could well be an advantage for this versatile team, who have also been proving to be a winning combination on a Classic front-exit sidecar last year. John Lowther – with new passenger Matty Rostron (LCR Yamaha), will be for hungry for regular podium finishes, as Lowther took his first British F2 win at Mallory Park in 2019.
Father and son combination Steve and Matty Ramsden (LCR Honda), will be hoping to regain their usual front-running form early in the season, after a disappointing 2019 saw them involved in a nasty incident at the Southern 100, after which they struggled to recompose. Development work on their machine over the winter months has proved fruitful, and they look set to hopefully have a less problematic year.
Following many years racing in the British F1 class, we welcome the return of double British F2 Sidecar Champion Gary Horspole, who teams up with the experienced Kenny Cole. They are set to ride the same Shelbourne Honda (running older carbureted motors), that propelled Horspole to the 2000 and 2001 titles. Also returning to the series are Roger Stockton, with son Bradley on the ex-Pete Founds LCR Suzuki, Wayne Lockey / Mark Sayers (LCR Honda) and Nev Jones / Joe Gaunt (LCR) – although owing to work commitments the latter pairing will not be in action until round two.
Runners-up in the 2019 F2 Cup, Rob Atkinson / Mark Middleton (BLR Suzuki), will be hoping to “go one better” this year. However, they face stiff competition from regular Cup podium finishers Brian Ilaria / Matt Sims (DDM Suzuki); Chris Schofield / Shane Colbrook (Ireson Honda); Richard Hackney / Dave Ryder (CES Suzuki) and the likes of Bruce Moore / Amy Dodd (Ireson Honda); David Schofield / Guy Pawsey (Windle Suzuki) and Paul Riley / Lizzie Quinlan (MRE Suzuki).
It is a pleasure to welcome several newcomers to the fray, and expected to be towards the front of the F2 Cup field are Harry Payne, who is ably assisted by former World Champion passenger Mark Wilkes (GP Yamaha). Father and son team Shaun and Ben Chandler (Baker Honda) are also joining the F2 Cup grid. They have had regular top six finishes at Oliver's Mount in recent years, and are looking forward to focusing on the short circuits, as their plans to compete at the T.T. and Southern 100 were scuppered (along with those of many others) due to the pandemic.
I would like to pay tribute to our series sponsors, all of whom have remained loyal to the F.S.R.A., despite the difficult times which the pandemic has brought about for many businesses. The ACU have awarded the official “British Championship” title, and along with A.R.C. (Binchester / Newton Aycliffe); A.V. Craine & Son; Hegarty Plant Ltd; Lockside Engineering; Pagid Racing (Breitenbach Rennsport); Rowtec Engineering Maintenance; and Whitby Cottages they continue their long partnerships with the F.S.R.A. We would also like to welcome aboard Leeds Parcel Company, who join as a new sponsor in 2021 – their director, Andy Wilby, is known by many in the paddock as a sidecar driver, and has also assisted several solo and sidecar teams over the last twenty years.
Finally, the F.S.R.A. would like to thank N.G.R.R.C. for hosting this opening round, and to all their dedicated staff, officials, marshals, medics and all the other volunteers who have come together to get the season underway as early – yet as safely as possible. Organising events even in “normal times” is hectic enough, but under these extraordinary measures of the last twelve months makes these things even trickier!
We hope and anticipate that the country may continue it's way out of all restrictions, and by the summer months, the racing season will have returned to a semblance of familiarity and normality. Round two of the series will once again be hosted by N.G.R.R.C., at Donington Park over the weekend of the 15th and 16th May. In the meantime, please keep up to date with F.S.R.A. news, including race reports and up to date championship points on the new website – www.fsra.org.uk
Words - Tim Langham (F.S.R.A. Press Officer)
Photographs – Dirk Wharton