AFTER the eight-week mid-season break for the Isle of Man TT and Southern 100, Team Whitby sidecar racer Dave Atkinson was eager to get back in to his leathers at the next round of the ACU British FII Sidecar Championship in Anglesey.
Dave and Phil ‘Gromit’ Knapton from Cawood were fully focused on lifting some silverware and claiming the points needed to make them the outright FII Cup Championship leaders, as going into the round they were joint leaders with TT best newcomers Carl Fenwick and Mark Sayers.
During the break, the team managed to secure a more powerful engine for the bike and although this had taken a lot of funding they felt the sacrifice was worth it and the first few laps of Saturday’s free practice seemed to reinforce this.
Team AWR made the practice laps look effortless and even though new tyres limited them to 80% the current and former British champions did not manage to shake Dave and Phil off their tail. However halfway through the session their hopes of setting a good time in qualifying were dashed as they pulled in early due to a dropped valve in the engine.
The team exchanged the engine for their newly refreshed spare engine. This engine swap could not be done in time to get the team out to qualify, which meant they would have to start from the back of the grid in the forthcoming races.
The first race saw a magnificent performance from Team AWR going from last on the grid to 10th in the first lap. They had moved confidently up the pack when a finish was cruelly snatched away when the team had to retire due to a blowing exhaust and loose airbox.
Dave and Phil managed to fix the exhaust and airbox problem and had put their disappointment behind them ready for Sunday’s racing where they were determined to finish what they had started.
This Sunday morning appetiser came to an abrupt end, when as the team were heading towards the most formidable part of the circuit - The Corkscrew - when the throttle stuck open and they hurtled off circuit, with only masterful driving and a good bit of luck stopping them hitting the tyre wall.
A thorough inspection was made of the bike to find that a stone had become wedged in the throttle mechanism. These events, however, just made the team more determined to finish on a high and register an excellent result in the final race of the weekend.
This final race promised to be an epic - Team AWR were hungry for an excellent finish and championship points and they were intent on getting a well-deserved podium.
As the lights went out Team AWR got a superb start, jumping up three places before the first corner but some evasive action from the bike in front saw them having to resort to the grass to avoid ending their race early, losing time and rejoining the at the back of the group.
With sheer tenacity they would not concede defeat and again caught the tail enders and after only two or three laps Team AWR had skilfully rode their way up to eighth. After another lap they were up to sixth, with a nine second gap to the next bike in front, former British Champion and multiple TT winner Roy Hanks.
Lap after lap saw Dave and Phil claw the gap back down to under a second. Sixth place was in sight, just one more lap, but it was not to be. On lap 18, out of 20, they were cruelly robbed of their well-deserved finish when the engine let go.
A conrod smashed its way through the engine, casing ending all dreams of a successful weekend.
The weekend’s results were made all the more galling, when results and times were published it showed Team AWR were third fastest on circuit all weekend behind the considerably higher performance bikes of the former and current British champions.
After great expectations the team left Anglesey full of dissappointment and engineless, putting a huge question mark on whether they will be able to make the next round at Cadwell Park on 13-14 August.