The RAF F2 sidecar team powered by Artic enjoyed a perfect start to the British championship with two race wins in their F2 Cup category to leave the track as class championship leaders for the first time.
The team arrived at Brands Hatch after taking delivery of the bike from the Christie Engineering workshop only two days before and with no time to apply the RAF/Artic livery. Friday test day started with an anxious first session with the new bike and the expected teething problems manifested themselves in a rouge cable burning through and bringing the team to a halt after just three laps. A quick diagnosis was met with a quick fix thanks to Adam Christie who was on hand to remedy the problem. The second test session saw the team record the fastest lap of the F2 Cup teams.
For the Saturday qualifying session, the team had new tyres and finding some clear track space to set a fast lap was always going to be a priority on the short 1.2-mile circuit. Expertly tagging onto some of the faster F2 Super category outfits Rob and Mark managed pole position in the F2 Cup class and 5th position overall. This represented an excellent opportunity to head the F2 Cup race and to get in amongst the F2 Super category field which included two previous Isle of Man TT winners.
Race 1 – A good clean get away saw the team up with the F2 Super front runners for the first 3rd of the race or so. As the first three F2 Super teams demonstrated their superior speed, the RAF team were in a four-way battle for 4th placed overall with the second group of F2 Super teams showing the speed and ability to race competitively with these more advanced outfits. Having good pit board signals the team knew they had a manageable gap to the next Cup bike so preserved their pace and decided not to battle with the Super outfits in front and took home a safe first place in class and 7th overall.
Race 2 – Missing out on a top 6 reverse grid, the RAF boys started in 7th on the outside of the track alongside Isle of Man TT winners Conrad Harrison/Andy Winkle. Conrad’s notorious good starts proved ever present as he stuck his nose up the inside into the first corner making slight contact which opened the door for Championship rivals Brian Ilaria and Arlo Brown to try and sneak up the inside up to the tight hairpin corner at Druids. Luckily, they couldn’t make it stick, and the team came out ahead of both and made their getaway with the leading pack. Completing the next few laps in 6th place the team again found themselves in a 3-way battle with Super category teams for 4th as they steadily broke away from the outfits behind. This time, Rob kept the pressure on and with Mark expertly balancing the machine they made a daring overtake at the entry into the first corner to the delight of the watching Artic staff and guests to move ahead of Jackson/Roberts with two laps to go ultimately coming home 1st in class and 5th overall.
A happy team in Parc Ferme was joined by Artic owner Vince McAnallan for the trophy presentations knowing that the bike and team had concluded a perfect start to the championship.
Rob and Mark would like to give massive thanks to all that made this weekend possible: “Rod Bellas for the chassis modifications, Christie Engineering Services for their hard work over the winter, getting us out in time for Round 1 and their technical support over the weekend. Thanks, as always goes to Martin Atkinson (Chief Engineer) for his expertise and opinion, Cindy Atkinson, Dave Middleton, Charlotte Mayo and Coralie Middleton for the catering. Not to mention our title sponsors Artic Building Services and the Royal Airforce Motorsports Association for their vital support. See you all at Donnington Park on the 14th/15th May for Round 2. “
BRITISH F2 SIDECAR CHAMPIONSHIP
The RAF team of Rob Atkinson and Mark Middleton are based at Brize Norton airbase in Oxfordshire, famous the world over, and used as a set in the latest Bond film. Away from the excitement of Hollywood, the team get their adrenaline fix on the racetracks of the UK through a six-round, 13 race championship taking in Brands Hatch and Donnington Park before heading to Wales and Scotland later in the season. Further supporting race meetings are planned on the Isle of Man and Brands Hatch (again) so our staff and customers will have ample opportunity to see the team up close and in action.
Our sponsorship has enabled the team to significantly enhance the bike for the new season with a new engine, new ignition system and major chassis alterations. We are looking forward to joining and supporting the team on their Road to the TT.