2017 SEASON REVIEW: BRSCC MAZDA MX-5 CHAMPIONSHIP
Entering the 2017 season, many competitors in the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship would have breathed a sigh of relief when they learned that 2016’s champion Tom Roche would solely be focusing on the MX-5 SuperCup. The Welshman’s rate of domination in the championship was one rarely seen before in recent years, so you would be forgiven for thinking that those staying on and/or joining the grid for the new season were going to have it easier, right? Well…
Come the opening meeting at Brands Hatch in bright April sunshine, it was returnee Will Blackwell-Chambers that set the pace from the word go, taking pole position and a hat-trick of wins all weekend to almost take the maximum score. Michael Fisk continued his strong form from 2016 with two second places, while Oliver Allwood, Simon Baldwin and new boy Samuel Smith all shared the remaining podium places between them. WB-C’s pace was certainly ominous heading forwards.
Cadwell Park in May saw Blackwell-Chambers add two more wins to his tally to reach 5 in six races, while the other would go to Smith as he picked up his first on BRSCC shores. James Harris was able to grab a second place in Race 1, while Allwood managed to grab two 3rds for his troubles along the way too. However, it was the visit to Silverstone’s National circuit at the end of the month that saw Blackwell-Chambers’ title charge hit the brakes somewhat.
Seventh place in Race 1 was followed by a loose bonnet flying up into his windscreen, forcing him to the back of the field and down in Group B for his final race. He would be joined by Allwood and Harris after a first lap tangle in the second Group A race saw them both hit strife. That said, the battle between the trio was one of the best the spectators had seen all weekend. Back at the sharp end and after Harris picked up his first win of the year, up stepped Joshua Jackson with two of his own to mark his first Group A successes. Both top Masters driver Martin Tolley and Allwood just missed out on victories themselves, while Smith took two more 3rd places and Charlie Burge made his first Group A podium visit, with 2nd place in Race 3.
The halfway stage saw blazing conditions at a bright and clear Oulton Park in Cheshire, where Harris continued his good turn of pace with a fine hat-trick of top step visits. Jackson and Allwood shared the bulk of the podiums, with Blackwell-Chambers happy to be back on form somewhat with a 3rd place in Race 3. The conditions at Anglesey in August were a polar opposite in contrast, with grey skies and wet weather greeting the drivers for most of the weekend. Jackson increased his win count to four while the likes of Blackwell-Chambers, Allwood, Brian Trott and the returning Mike Comber all took to the rostrum. But a surprise star of the weekend was Teddy Clark, competing in his first full season and stunning everyone with his wet weather prowess to take a superb first win, leaving him one to watch heading into 2018
North Yorkshire’s weather offerings weren’t much better either as the drivers descended on Croft for the penultimate meeting of the year, but it was a weekend that did mark a return to winning way for WB-C. Despite not winning since Cadwell, Blackwell-Chambers had headed the table ever since the season began and his second hat-trick of the year didn’t do his lead any harm. Allwood, Smith, Comber and Jason Greatrex all picked up silverware behind him, along with Teddy Clark whose skill in the rain shone through again with another firm 3rd place.
On to the finale at Donington Park in October, Blackwell-Chambers knew exactly what he needed to do – score the points required and seal the title. At the front, Allwood was mimicking his 2016 form of waiting until the final rounds to score his first win of the season – which he did, twice! Jackson would take the final race of the year, while 4th, 6th and 11th were good enough for WB-C to become the 2017 champion. A season very much akin to that of Jenson Button’s 2009 Formula 1 success, where all the hard work was done at the beginning of the year – albeit Will also now has the honour of wearing #1 all season next year!
A shout out must also go to Martin Tolley, who became the Masters champion for drivers aged 45 and over, beating out both Paul Tucker and Simon Orange to take an incredible hard fought title. One wonders what kind of form he could hit in 2018.