Engine problems present challenge for sidecar duo

Dave Atkinson racing at Cadwell Park'picture: Derek Donsworth
Dave Atkinson racing at Cadwell Park'picture: Derek Donsworth

WHITBY’S Dave Atkinson and Phil Knapton of Team AWR had a tall challenge to reclaim some of the lost points from the disastrous last round of the British Formula II Sidecar Championship where they failed to finish a race due to two blown engines at Anglesey.

To make their task more difficult, not only had they lost their two most powerful engines, the engine they sourced at short notice had not been set-up for short circuit racing, meaning they would have to contend with a significant drop in horsepower.

Whitby's Dave Atkinson competes in the British Sidecar Racing Championship round at Cadwell Park'picture: Derek Donsworth

Whitby's Dave Atkinson competes in the British Sidecar Racing Championship round at Cadwell Park'picture: Derek Donsworth

The pair headed to Lincolnshire and one of their favourite circuits - the picturesque but challenging Cadwell Park.

Saturday qualifying was to highlight the lesser engine’s weaknesses as the two rode hard and well but could only qualify 8th, behind their championship rivals Carl Fenwick/Mark Sayers and rookie Frenchman Frank Lelias with Mike Aylott on the side - both of whom had significantly faster engines.

Race one saw a determined Team AWR fight for every advantage and try to work their way, against the odds, higher up the pack. The team rode as if they were on mission impossible and sheer tenacity saw them claw their way to fifth place, a great achievement considering all bar one bike in front of them were former British champions.

After the first race it was decided the engine would need to be taken out and set-up to optimise performance and hoping that extra torque would give the team an advantage a standard engine was borrowed for race two. The team worked late into Saturday night making the exchange and shortly before midnight the bike had its loan engine fitted, ready for action the next day.

Sunday saw a bright start to the day and optimistic team make their way to circuit. The biggest priority was to finish and register some points but the higher the finish the better the points deficit would look.

Race two was a frustrating ride for the team as they hoped to gain a place or two with the engine change but this was not to be and however hard they tried they could not make inroads on the leading pack which resulted in a repeat of the finishing order from the day before.

Although Team AWR had hoped for better results they were also relieved to finish both races and were proud with what they achieved, against stiff competition and far superior engines.

The next round was a one-day meeting at the Castle Combe, Wiltshire and it was critical to register two finishes in two good positions.

However the team was at its biggest disadvantage because Castle Combe is a circuit where a tuned engine is a must so Dave and Phil were already on the back foot as they arrived at circuit with only the borrowed standard engine available to race with - this was going to take a small miracle to achieve anything like a decent result.

Qualifying saw the team put in a sterling performance and qualify a well-deserved ninth which, although not ideal, was more than acceptable.

Race one saw a superb start from Team AWR and a real gutsy performance but again the lack of tuned engine proved the major limiting factor. With excellent driving skill and accompanied by one of the best passengers in the country, Dave and Phil brought the bike home in seventh place.

Race two again saw a great start from the team, who darted past several bikes before the first corner.

With sheer grit the team defended their position lap after lap but it was no match for the more powerful bikes and as the remaining laps turned into the penultimate one, the team were powerless to avoid conceding sixth place to the highly experienced Tony Baker and daughter Fiona Baker-Milligan, once again bringing the bike back in a respectable seven position.

Even though the duo were frustrated to think that had they had any one of their tuned engines in the bike the results could have looked different, they were delighted with the results and the way in which they rode the bike to its maximum, showing how much potential they have if they get the necessary backing.