2018 SEASON REVIEW: BRSCC MAZDA MX-5 CHAMPIONSHIP
With over 90 drivers registered across the 2018 season, the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship was always going to live up to its reputation as one of the best supported and most competitive series in UK club motorsport. Defending champion Will Blackwell-Chambers elected to attempt to defend his title, knowing that the competition was only going to get tougher in contrast to 2017.
That being said, his opening meeting performance at Brands Hatch gave everyone déjà vu as he went on to take a clean sweep of all three races, just as he did the year before, with Mike Comber Racing teammate Samuel Smith and the AB Motorsport pair of Oliver Allwood and Brian Trott snapping at his heels all weekend. While everyone began to expect more of the same weekend. As everyone prepared for more of the same at Snetterton in April, Allwood managed to step up and find the pace to take a hat-trick of his own, leaving those behind him to furiously swap places between themselves. The third race could have ended up going to Jason Greatrex instead, however Allwood was able to inch him out in a drag race to the flag, beating him by a mere 0.003 seconds – one of the closest finishes in the championship’s history! Meanwhile, WB-C didn’t score a podium all weekend, while an engine problem in Race 2 left Smith only scoring a Group B race win later in his final race.
Smith rebounded in the best possible way with a win at the next rounds at Cadwell Park after team boss Mike Comber clinched one of his own the day before. However, MCR’s party was eventually spoiled by one John Langridge, who usurped all of his rivals to claim his first MX-5 victory since debuting in 2016. With Blackwell-Chambers managing three podiums to keep his points tally full, he needed to get back to winning form and at Oulton Park two weeks later, that’s exactly what he did. A win in the first race kept spirits high, however it was Smith that got the better of him in the other two to close in further in the standings, while Comber, Trott and Langridge also shared podium honours between them.
Moving into the second half of the season, Smith kicked his pace up a gear and took the fight to WB-C by claiming 2 wins at the next rounds at a wet-dry Silverstone, while Blackwell-Chambers picked up the other; it was also a weekend where Brian Trott very narrowly missed out on his first win amidst incredibly wet conditions. In similar contrasting climates at Anglesey a few weeks later, Smith did it again but this time picked up the hat-trick and while both Allwood and Langridge took the lion’s share of the trophies with him, Blackwell-Chambers could only achieve a best of 3rd in the final race of the weekend. With two rounds left, battle lines were being drawn between the two teammates as the last ever visit for the Mk1s to Rockingham loomed. Between them, the pair and John Langridge had the leading positions on lockdown in all three races as WB-C drew first blood in the first race. Smith fought back with an audacious last lap pass to steal the lead and the win ahead of Langridge with Blackwell-Chambers in 3rd, leaving the weekend win tally at one apiece; WB-C would end up claiming the third race, taking the title down to the wire at Donington.
With a large entry and high stakes on the line, both title contenders had only one thing on their mind. Smith took full advantage of a better qualifying session to take third in the first race behind first time winner Jason Greatrex and Ben Short, before winning Race 2 and incredibly taking over the points lead. Heading into the final race of the season, his fortunes looked good – however a cruel twist of fate awaited him. Fluid from a competitor’s cracked water pipe was left across the track at Coppice, which in turn caught out a least a dozen drivers as they all skated into the gravel. This included both Blackwell-Chambers and Smith, but unbelievably WB-C was able to track his way out, while Smith was beached and unable to restart. Sadly, his title charge ended there and by taking 4th place compared to his teammate’s no score, Will Blackwell-Chambers did the double – as he said himself, it wasn’t the way he’d expected to win the title, but he’d take it any way it came!
Over in the Masters competition, Martin Tolley was also able to retain his crown, although victories amongst the more experienced drivers in the field were hard to come by after Brands Hatch with Brian Trott’s eligibility for Masters status kicking in from Snetterton. Trott did indeed take the bulk of the Masters wins throughout the year, but Tolley’s consistency helped him retain P1 ahead of Paul Bateman and Marcus Bailey.