What a fabulous meeting! Great weather, though at times too hot! good testing track, good organisation, and two superb races with outstanding performances. And if that wasn’t enough, with just two meetings to go, 4 races, we have a three-way tie for the championship lead, Conrad Harrison and Lee Patterson, Carl Fenwick and Ashley Moore, and Alan Founds and Tom Peters all on 122 points.
Let’s begin on Saturday morning and free practice for all sidecars, 38 outfits on track – well done to the North Gloucester club. Ian and Carl Bell fastest, a half second up on Steve and Mattie Ramsden, destined for a good weekend. An hour later, 29 went out for our qualifying session. Championship leaders Conrad and Lee took pole with 1.15.97 ahead of Sean Reeves and Mark Wilkes impressive on 1.16.01 and Dean Lindley and Rob Bell on 1.16.82.
By mid-afternoon, it was scorching hot and the opening race matched the weather! At the end of the opening lap, Reeves led Harrison by a few inches with Founds from eighth on the grid up to third. Gordon Shand and Phil Hyde, the Bells and Carl Fenwick, with Ashley Moore in the chair, completed the top six. Dean Lindley and Rob Bell, after an ‘interesting’ opening lap had their chain come off and they parked it. Within a lap, the Bells had retired, their 4th DNF in seven races a blow to their championship hopes. Ian wouldn’t find the fault till Sunday morning. No change in the top three but Fenwick had taken fourth off Shand. 6th to 10th were Dave Atkinson and Mike Aylott, their best placing of the season, Gary Bryan and Jamie Winn, Howard Baker and Mike Killingsworth, Steve and Mattie Ramsden, and Rob Fisher and Rick Long. Ramsden moved up a place but then drama for championship leaders Harrison and Patterson, their engine cried enough and 20 points instantly disappeared.
Reeves now had a comfortable lead of around ten seconds, and drove faultlessly to the flag. Founds through to Fisher all moved up a place and the Quayes completed the top ten. The remaining championship points were taken by Tony and Fiona Baker, Dave Lillie and Ben Chandler, Gary and Daryl Gibson, Roy Hanks and Kevin Perry and the Lowthers. The latter had done well to recover from their qualifying ‘off’ at Coppice when the outfit flipped at top speed. The result saw the leading four in the championship bunch up further with Fenwick now leading but just 9 points separated the four. Meanwhile Reeves had moved from 14th to 8th and he and Mark were delighted to receive the Bill Boddice Trophy from Michael Boddice, Bill’s grandson, ably assisted by Michael’s children Erin and Charlie Boddice, who just happen to be Pat Hamblin’s grandchildren – cue mention of the ‘sidecar family’! The Bill Boddice trophy, amongst many others, is looked after by DPRAC – the Donington Park Racing Association Club, whose clubhouse and viewing area is at Redgate. Only £15 annual subs, cups of tea just £1. Good people, and great value for anyone in the Midlands. End of advert!
Back to the racing – after the opening lap of race two – held in just a tad cooler conditions, Reeves again led, from a pack of five which just happened to be the leading five in the championship, Harrison and Bell leading the chase. On lap three, Bell edged to second and another lap saw him take the lead. But it was a fleeting visit to the front as Reeves soon retook the lead. As Bell and Harrison swapped places Reeves was able to open up a gap which stretched to five seconds at the flag. On the last lap the next four bunched up, with Harrison pinching second off Bell, and Fenwick losing out to Founds for fourth. Those changes saw the leading trio in the title chase incredibly level on 122 points! Roll on Croft!
Bryan and Shand had a keen battle for 6th place, 0.18 seconds the gap while there was a superb race-long dice for 8th. It went to Ramsden from Dave Wallis/Ben Weston, Lowther and Lindley, 0.66 seconds only separating the four. Howard Baker, the Quayes, Tony Baker and Fisher completed the points. Commiserations to Scott Parnell/Dean Kilkenny and Pete Alton/Keith Brotherton who retired in both races, there’s another meeting in three weeks time!
And so, a memorable double for Sean Reeves and Mark Wilkes which saw them add the inaugural Sam Hamilton Memorial Trophy to their weekend haul! As mentioned, Harrison, Fenwick and Founds tie on 122 points from Bryan 112, Bell 91, Shand 78, Lindley 73, Reeves 70, Wallis 48 and Tony Baker 44. In the F2 Cup, Founds stretched his lead over Lindley 180 to 139, with Reeves now third on 98 from the Quayes’ 95. Round 5 is at Croft on August 16-17. You know you have to be there, don’t you!
John Newton, FSRA Press Officer, Photos courtesy of the Marquis de Mushet and Duke of Donsworth.