2016 SEASON REVIEW – BRSCC MAZDA MX-5 CHAMPIONSHIP
Tom Roche's mean green Blendini machine was almost unbeatable, only being bested 3 times all year! – Photo: Jon Elsey
After a successful campaign in 2015, BRSCC Mazda MX-5 champion Brian Chandler elected to move to pastures new and explore his racing potential at the wheel of a BMW for 2016, leaving the door open for a wave of new challengers to conjure up their own efforts to take the title for themselves. Once again the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship for the Mk1 model of the popular Japanese sportscar was shaping up to be nothing but close fought competition all the way from start to finish. At least, that’s what was anticipated…
When the teams and drivers reached Snetterton in April for the opening rounds, it was former multiple champion Tom Roche who exerted his authority in much the same way he had done in previous title winning campaigns. A clear brace of victories (both from pole position) would set the tone for what in the end turned out to be another dominant display from the Welshman. In fact, Roche would only fail to reach the podium once after mechanical issues forced him out of the 3rd race at the Anglesey triple-header. He’d still secured victory in the first two races and from there, the top step was his and his alone on all but two occasions at Rockingham and Silverstone respectively. With a grand total of 16 wins from 19 races, he was the undisputed Mk1 champion in one of his most impressive title charges since his first days as a Mazda driver.
The 3 races in which he wasn’t able to complete a perfect record were won by Oliver Allwood and Simon Baldwin, with the latter ending up 2nd in points after an incredibly consistent year. Strong podium finishes at Snetterton and the first ever European rounds for the Championship at Zolder in Belgium helped push Baldwin into a similar position to that of last season, however a sizeable incident at Oulton Park put paid to his main race car, leaving him to switch to the back-up for the remainder of the year. 5 more podiums would follow on top of the lone win at Rockingham to hand him a very admirable 2nd.
For most of the year, Allwood had been in that 2nd spot after emerging into the new season as Roche’s nearest competitor with five 2nd places, a 3rd and the win at Anglesey from the first three meetings. This in turn eventually saw him compete at the magnificent Global MX-5 Cup Invitational at Laguna Seca where he represented Club and country in fine style, even achieving a top 10 in one of the races. However, his form back home appeared to drop off throughout the middle of the year as other drivers caught up. Incredibly, it wouldn’t be until the final rounds at Silverstone when Allwood would grace the rostrum again, with 3rd in Race 1 followed by a nail-biting last gasp win stolen from Roche on the line in the final race of the year.
In the end, it would be his AB Motorsport teammate Michael Fisk who claimed 3rd after a slow start didn’t see him score a podium until two 2nd places at Oulton Park. It was there that he would almost take over the mantle from Allwood as Roche’s closest pursuer, also hounding him at Brands Hatch and Donington before settling to just bank points until the end. 3rd was assured with two more 2nd places at Silverstone, leaving the race for next year’s title open to a host of top drivers – provided Mr Roche doesn’t return to attempt to retain it once again…
We should mention those that were also good enough to grace the podium on at least one occasion in 2016, with James Harris, Clive Powles, Simon Goddard, Brian Trott and Ben Short all taking home silverware throughout the course of the season. Those who succeeded in the Group B races must also be credited as names such as Matt Pickford, Joshua Jackson, Paul Bateman and more were all worthy winners.
2016 as a whole was another success for the Championship, with the inclusion of the first overseas races, and for next season it’s only set to get bigger and better – proof that this is the premier place to race a Mazda MX-5 in 2017!