THE final round of the 2011 British FII Sidecar Championship saw one of the closest standings in many years, with first, second and third places in both competitions (Super and Cup) being decided at this meeting.
Whitby driver Dave Atkinson and passenger Phil Knapton of Team AWR went into the weekend 18 points adrift of the cup leader and needed two good results, with the other two teams retiring, to claim the cup championship.
The weather was as if it had been specially ordered for the occasion, with blazing sunshine both days.
Qualifying was an interesting affair, seeing the championship leaders setting one flying lap to secure pole position but then retiring due to battery problems. Degrading tyres meant Team AWR could only qualify in seventh place, although this was still an excellent result as they qualified ahead of the cup leaders who both had superior engines and tyres.
Saturday afternoon saw the first race of the weekend and all systems were go to try and get the much-needed result over the leaders in the Cup Championship.
Dave and Phil rode superbly, riding the bike on its limit but their best efforts were thwarted by the failing tyres.
Every time they tried to go faster the bike would lose grip and they had to slow again, even with all their skill they slipped further and further back through the field and eventually they crossed the line in a rare 10th place.
After the frustrated team returned to the paddock it was decided that for Sunday’s race, new tyres would be a must.
As the budget only allowed for one tyre to be replaced it was decided a new rear tyre would be the most sensible option, however when the new tyre came to be fitted the tyre seller had sold his last rear tyre only minutes beforehand.
This would now render their cup championship chances virtually impossible. The second best option available to the team was to purchase a new chair tyre and use an unused intermediate rear tyre that should last for the warm-up and race.
The tyre choice was a good one and the bike’s handling was significantly improved, holding the Tarmac and making the faster lines so much easier to take. With this, warm up saw the team knock off significant time from the previous day’s laptimes.
As the last race drew closer, the anticipation was rising and Team AWR were psyched up for the challenge.
As they lined up in seventh place Dave and Phil had only one thought on their mind and that was trying to secure the cup championship victory. As the lights went out the team had one of the very best starts of the season, catapulting themselves up to fourth place, in front of the overall British Championship leader.
Even on their inferior tyres they were hot on the heels of the leaders and with every lap the fans willed them on.
The fourth lap saw the third place retire with a blown engine, thus promoting Team AWR into a superb third position.
As the race progressed it saw Team AWR masterfully hold their position, but then all dreams were to be shattered.
On lap eight, the team retired with a blown engine, their third of the season. Everything the team had worked towards had been cruelly snatched from their grasp.
After the disappointment had subsided and the final points were calculated, Team AWR had secured third place in the cup championship and a very impressive seventh place overall in the British Championship.
The team thank all their sponsors and are looking forward to chasing down the 2012 British Championship and also competing in the world-famous Isle of Man TT races where they hope to claim title of Best Newcomer.
Prior to the beginning of next season, the team are busy making major improvements to the bike as well as securing sponsors for the new season. Anybody interested in helping can contact Dave Atkinson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org