The team travelled up to Donington Park for the second round of the FSRA F2 British sidecar championship with a championship lead and a freshly painted outfit to boot. A scorching weekend was ahead and the engine cooling problems which threatened the team at Brands Hatch were in the back of everyone’s mind.
Saturday Practice – With the hottest day of the year upon us the team went out to get a feel for the grip putting in some consistently fast laps, quickest in class, and approaching full race pace. The minor modifications made to the fairing to increase cooling air flow seemed to be working as the engine stayed within acceptable heat levels. Towards the end of the session as the team were pushing to find the limits of performance, the bike unsettled itself with a lifting passenger wheel at the famously fast Craner Curves and the team took evasive action ending up in the gravel trap. Fortunately, no harm done to team or bike, and all was well for qualifying
Qualifying – Finding clear traffic to put a few fast laps in at Donington Park is usually much easier than at other circuits. This wasn’t the case as the lads put in a few laps in traffic and tried to find a rhythm. A quick pitstop for a team talk left enough time for the traffic to clear and to find one fast lap. As it happened this was to prove dividends and a slender 3 tenths of a second was the gap between us and championship rivals Ilaria/Brown. 6th overall and 1st in class.
Race 1 – One of the best starts the team has ever produced saw us tag onto the faster top 5 super class as the RAF outfit made their getaway from their championship rivals team Powerhouse. Unfortunately, after two laps a nasty looking crash involving #33 Hackney/Knight brought out at the red flags and after a healthy delay the race was re started for a 7-lap dash. The good start could not be emulated as well this time and after some scrapping on the first few laps the team eventually gained a healthy 8 second gap over 2nd place. This was to be undone 2 laps from the end as a mistake saw them taking to the grass once more at Schwantz curve. Just missing an enormous gravel trap, Rob managed to right the outfit and re-join the track with that lead cut to less than half a second! The team dug deep for the remainder of the race and brought home the win in class and 7th overall.
Picture by Ste McNorton – Inst – @mcmotorsphoto
Race 2 – Continuing the tradition of missing out on the top 6 reverse grid, they started in 7th for race 2. As the lights went out a fast traffic jam was forming with outfits dicing for room around the famous circuit, a procession of outfits holding each other up into the corners meant opportunities needed to be taken soon. Team Powerhouse didn’t waste their time in getting passed into Mclean’s and tried to power away down the back straight. A good run for the RAF boys into the last chicane and an out breaking manoeuvre saw the lads back first in class. From then on in it was a case of managing fatigue, tyres and engine temperature as we followed Gibson/Christie for the remainder of the race, happy with 7th overall and 1st in class once more to round off a very successful weekend. With maximum points from the first four races and the bike performing well up into the “Super” class outfits, the team left Donington with broad smiles.
A huge thankyou to all our sponsors and team who continually support us. Artic Facilities Management as title sponsors, Royal Air Force Motorsports Association, Atlantic Aviation Defence Services for the paddock accommodation, Christie Engineering Services, Chief engineer and expert pit boarder Martin Atkinson, David Middleton for his work ‘back at the factory.’ Craig and Matty Atkinson for their skilful analysis, Cindy, Charlotte, Coralie, Claire, Stu Bell and Diane for the support at this round. Big thanks as always to the FSRA and NG road racing for hosting a great weekends racing. See you all at Anglesey for round 3 on 25th-26th June. We wish Richard Hackney all the best for his recovery.
Picture by – Paul Bonito-Brook (PBB Sports Media)
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.
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