An action-packed summer for sidecar duo

Dave Atkinson and his passenger Phil Knapton compete at Cadwell Park'picture: Derek Donsworth
Dave Atkinson and his passenger Phil Knapton compete at Cadwell Park'picture: Derek Donsworth

THIS summer has been an action-packed time for sidecar acing duo Team AWR.

The first weekend in July saw them travel to Cadwell Park for the next round of the British Championship. Although the Friday had been wet, saturating parts of the paddock, the weather for the Saturday and Sunday racing was fabulous.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Driver, Whitby’s Dave Atkinson and passenger Phil ‘Gromit’ Knapton (Selby) put in a really solid qualifying to merit fifth place on the grid, even more impressive as they only managed to do four laps of qualifying before the team had to pull in as the chain has started to rub, damaging to the driver’s seat unit.

The first race saw the team get a good start and against faster bikes it was always going to be the skill of rider and passenger that preserved their position on circuit. Team AWR were in the mix lap after lap desperately trying to reel in the third place bike of Carl Fenwick and Mark Sayers but with a superior start and faster bike and the fact that Team AWR had the same tyres on that had done the whole of the TT race week it was going to be a tall order. The team were very happy to pass the chequered in a respectable fourth position.

Sunday’s race saw Dave and Gromit start from their finishing position from Saturday’s race.However the tyre issue would be a real bugbear; however hard they tried their heavily degraded tyres would not give them the grip required to make inroads on the three bikes ahead of them.

They rode every inch of the circuit to the best of their abilities and masterfully held position against TT podium finisher Conrad Harrison.

The following week saw the team travel north of the border to East Fortune - one of the fastest circuits in the British Isles - for the Jock Taylor 30th Memorial Race Meeting.

It is one of the highlights of the sidecar racing calendar with Formula I and Formula II teams travelling from all over Britain to take part. Dave has long been a fan of the Scottish sidecar racing scene, winning the Scottish championship in his second year of racing.

All weekend the racing was fast and furious with Dave and Gromit never far from the action, the circuit being so open and fast suits the extra 400cc of a Formula I sidecar, but with their best race engine in the bike, Team AWR on their 600cc machine were no pushover.

Each time the lights went out at the start of the race the immaculate sky blue and black bike launched off the start line and was always in the top three come the first corner, however then the Formula 1 bikes would hit the straight and their extra 70 bhp would easily pull away from the smaller engined machine.

However excellent skill, pace and sheer determination meant that Team AWR were first Formula II bike home in each race of the weekend, even beating home favourite Gordon Shand on his 750cc machine and a number of local Formula I teams. In fact the only teams that finished in front of Dave and Gromit that weekend were the very best British Formula I riders, including three times World Champion Tim Reeves with the multiple TT winning passenger Dan Sayle on the side.

To round up a full racing diary for July, Team AWR made their début at Oliver’s Mount in Scarborough. The circuit is not for the faint hearted, with trees and hedges lining the course and steep drops on the back straight.

Saturday’s racing didn’t get off to an ideal start as due to last minute adjustments to the bike and a faulty tannoy system the team missed the crucial morning practice. By the time they realised the bikes had been called they missed the gate by a couple of minutes.

As this was the team’s first time at the circuit it was one of the most important sessions available to be able to learn the circuit before the all important qualifying. The team were gutted as this meant that they had to learn the circuit and qualify all on one session.

The circuit is one of the worst in the country to pass other bikes at due its narrowness. However the team made sure they were one of the first bikes out on circuit for qualifying to get as much track time as possible.

In a manic 10 minutes Dave and Gromit managed to qualify in a fantastic fifth position, behind Scarborough veterans such as Ian and Carl Bell, Conrad Harrison and Lee Patterson and Tony Thirkell and Nigel Barlow, as well as fellow debutant Frank Lelias and his passenger Mike Aylott.

The weekend’s racing came fast and furious and race one saw Team AWR start to get to grips with the Oliver’s Mount challenge. The team scrapped their way to a superb third place which they were delighted with considering the setbacks earlier in the day.

Due to racing incidences race two from Saturday was added to Sunday’s schedule, which meant a packed programme. The second time out on circuit in quick succession would catch the team out because even though theywould not make the same mistake as the day before, all teams were called up 30 minutes before schedule and so each and every team scurried to get out on circuit in time. All was running smoothly for Team AWR until on the last lap the bike started to cut out and in the haste to get out on circuit nobody had refuelled the bike from the morning’s warm-up.

The last two races were far more fruitful, with a fourth place and another third place to add to the collection. Team AWR are relishing the opportunity to return their for the Steve Henshaw International Gold Cup Meeting on 15/16 September where they hope to improve on their results.

* Team AWR met up in Whitby to pay a special visit to thank their sponsor Passage to India.

Team AWR wanted to thank the Indian restaurant based in Windsor Terrace for all their support and brought their highly prized bronze replicas for owner Kam and his team to have a look at.

These bronze replicas were won at the Isle of Man TT races where Dave and Phil earned an impressive 13th place in the first race and 18th place in the second. Kam and Passage to India have played a special part in Team AWR’s racing since Dave started racing in 2008.

Team AWR are very grateful for the support that Passage to India have provided and we would not be where we are today without their help. The team enjoyed a fabulous team dinner while the bronze replicas sat on the bar being admired by the restaurant’s customers.