2019 SEASON REVIEW – BRSCC MAZDA MX-5 SUPERCUP
Having risen to the top of the championship standings over the last two seasons and claimed the #1 for himself, double defending Mazda MX-5 SuperCup champion Luke Herbert headed into the 2019 season looking to make it three on the bounce. However, given the tough task his rivals had made it for him in previous years, he was under no illusions that it was going to be another hard slog to get the job done once again.
This proved true at the opening rounds at a baking hot Snetterton 300 circuit in Norfolk in April, where the three main contenders for the season all took a victory each. Herbert opened his account in the best possible fashion with a win in Race 1 from Jack Harding and Aidan Hills, followed by Hills picking up victory in Race 2 ahead of Herbert and Harding. To round off the opening weekend, Harding took his turn on the top spot to win Race 3, with Herbert in 2nd place again and Hills once more taking a 3rd place, his second of the weekend. Even from this first meeting, it was already clear who the main contenders for the season were going to be.
A few weeks later, the SuperCup drivers congregated at Oulton Park in Cheshire with the plot lines the same as those from Snetterton. Once again, all of the top three drivers took a win each as they had their turn to head the field throughout the day. Herbert again drew first blood by winning Race 1 from Harding and Steve Roberts, while Hills ended up 5th behind Will Stacey but certainly wouldn’t stay there come Race 2. Storming through from the third row, Hills was able to do as he did at Snetterton and win the second race, this time from Herbert and Harding and again in something of a carbon copy it was Harding came out on top in Race 3, beating Hills in 2nd and Herbert in 3rd in the process.
Two meetings down, the next stop was the beautiful Anglesey circuit on the coast of North Wales, with the SuperCup competitors sharing a grid with their non-points-scoring counterparts in the MX-5 Super Series. In the SuperCup portion of the weekend, Race 1 saw a familiar face return to winning ways in the form of 2016 champion James Blake-Baldwin. The former #1 was only contesting a part season but was keen to remind everyone of his championship winning pace as he headed Herbert and Roberts to the flag as Hills and Harding completed the top 5. The title contenders got back to form in Race 2 as Harding took the win with Blake-Baldwin in 2nd and Jack Sycamore picking up his first SuperCup podium finish in 3rd. Hills also kept up his season’s win streak too as he won Race 3 with fellow key players Herbert and Harding joining on the rostrum.
A firm favourite venue with drivers, Croft in North Yorkshire saw the SuperCup campaign reach the half way stage in 2019 and for one of the main contenders, it was a weekend that ultimately would end up defining his season and his chances for the title. Harding made sure to start strong in the first race by taking victory ahead of Hills and Herbert, but the second race would end up proving critical for Hills as a daring attempt to make a pass on Herbert into the Sunny complex of corners saw him run off the road and ultimately end up finishing 5th; Harding, meanwhile, secured his 2nd win ahead of Herbert and Roberts. Then on the formation lap for the final race of the weekend, a problem with Hills’ engine forced him out of the race before it began, serving him a bitter blow to his championship campaign. In the race itself, former Compact Cup champion Roberts claimed his first SuperCup win with Herbert and Harding keeping up their strong points scoring streaks in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Brands Hatch in Kent would see Luke Herbert’s absence from the top step of the podium come to an end as he would go on to win the first two races of the weekend. The first saw him beat Blake-Baldwin to victory as Harding took 3rd and Hills missed the podium with 4th place, and in the second race Herbert doubled up with Harding moving up to 2nd this time and Blake-Baldwin completing the rostrum as Hills once again had to finish just off the top 3 in P4 again. The third race with the partially reversed grid would work superbly in favour of both Harding and Hills, as they quickly pushed their way to the front and drove on to finish 1st and 2nd respectively, while Herbert completed a very strong weekend with 3rd place.
Donington Park is always seen as a firm favourite amongst drivers in the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 paddock and the trip to the venue in August on the GP layout marked the first of two weekends here, as well as the second meeting of the season sharing the grid with the MX-5 Super Series once again. Aidan Hills had fond memories of this circuit from last season where he was able to take victories in vastly different weather conditions. This time, he picked up where he’d left off by winning Race 1 ahead of Harding and Herbert, while in Race 2 it was Herbert’s turn to climb the top step to win with Harding in P2 and Hills in P3. Thanks to the partially reversed grid placing him ahead of his two key rivals, Hills once again worked his way to the lead and stayed there to the flag, collecting his second win of the weekend with Harding and Herbert helping to mimic the top 3 from Race 1 the day before.
Hills’ great form carried over to the first race at Silverstone on the National circuit as he charged to his third win in four races with the usual suspects following him home in 2nd and 3rd, Harding again ahead of Herbert. Luke was then able to make sure the weekend remained his to control in both of the remaining two races he would claim the win with Harding picking up a pair of 2nd places and Hills scoring two 3rd place finishes. All of this worked to help set up another final weekend showdown for the championship crown once again back at Donington Park.
On the return to Donington, this time racing on the shorter National circuit, the points table was set in such a way that realistically only Herbert or Harding could leave as champion, while Hills had a slither of hope should fortunes take a strong nosedive for either of the men ahead of him. Race 1 certainly proved pivotal no matter how you looked at it, as the defining moment came on the last lap when Harding made a move for the lead into the final chicane. Despite getting through and taking the flag first on the road, the stewards deemed Harding to have cut through the chicane a little too much in his pass on Herbert and was therefore handed a 0.2 second penalty to give the win back to Luke, while returnee Simon Baldwin took a very impressive 3rd and Hills, now effectively out of the title hunt, settling for 4th place. The second race saw more of the same for Herbert as he marked himself as champion-elect Herbert was within touching distance of the crown with his second win of the weekend. Hills picked up second with teammate and SuperCup new boy James Cossins taking a superb 3rd place, but down in 4th Harding felt his title chances were over. Withdrawing from the final race, this left Herbert with a clear path to clinch his third title.
What followed in that final race was an epic end of season battle between Herbert, Hills and Baldwin as the trio enjoyed scrapping amongst. In the end, it took an amazing last two laps to settle the score as Hills completed his best SuperCup season to date with another victory, while Baldwin won the drag race to the line for 2nd place. No matter for Herbert, though, as 3rd place was plenty enough to confirm him as a three-time MX-5 SuperCup champion. Both Harding and Hills fought valiantly all year and put in some stunning drives throughout the year, but in the end it was Herbert’s endless consistency that kept him in line for more Mazda MX-5 dominance. As for his hopes of title #4? Who knows. Luke has mentioned that he may want to step back and run cars himself for other drivers instead, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t see him behind the wheel of something in 2020.
Over in the Masters contest for drivers aged 45 and over, Garry Townsend drove hard all year to collect his second title in as many years, beating a consistent effort from Nick Rutter who scored 2nd place and George Grant also completing his best season to date with 3rd place in the Masters standing come the end of the year.