BRANDS HATCH BUMP STARTS THE NEW SEASON
To a racing driver, the off-season can feel like a lifetime. Not since October have many of our teams and drivers turned a wheel in anger, but thankfully this weekend that’s all about to change. The 2018 season for the BRSCC is ready to kick off once again and for our first full two-day race meeting of the year, we couldn’t have chosen a better place than “our local”, Brands Hatch in Kent on the Indy circuit.
As tends to be the case with most weekends they appear on the timetable, this weekend’s best-represented marque regarding sheer numbers is undoubtedly Mazda. After a record year for driver registrations in 2017, the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship has only one goal in mind for this season – continue that momentum, and the brilliant racing to boot. Crucially, reigning champion Will Blackwell-Chambers has elected to defend and wear the #1 on his car, meaning his immediate rivals will have all the motivation they need to beat him. Expect the likes of Oliver Allwood, Brian Trott, Michael Fisk, Teddy Clark, John Langridge, Jason Greatrex, Martin Tolley and Charlie Burge to be amongst the names up and around the front of the field making it difficult for him. Such is the size of entry numbers in this championship that a split-grid system is in place to allow everyone to race across the weekend.
While nothing has changed with the Mk1 MX-5s, there is a slightly different look and feel over with their Mk3 counterparts this weekend. With the MX-5 SuperCup having been chosen to join the support package for the new TCR UK Touring Car Championship, a new sub-contest has been created for those who wish to remain in the same paddock as the Mk1s, but still race a Mk3. It’s fittingly been dubbed the Mazda MX-5 Super Series, where no points will be scored, and only trophies and bragging rights are on offer. There are some familiar faces from the Mazda paddock that are new to a SuperCup-spec car like Joshua Jackson, Russ Lindsay, Matt Pickford and Sam Bailey, and they’re set to take on those who are more accustomed to the car like George Grant, Jim Hart and Simon Orange. Also, British GT driver Sam de Haan will make a one-off appearance this weekend as he looks to gain signatures on his licence ahead of his debut next weekend at Oulton Park in the Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
The ever-popular Fiesta Championship begins once again, with drivers facing up to the challenge of a new tyre supplier in the form of MRF. Reigning champion Jamie White will be looking to pick up where he left off last year and aim for a second overall title, while Class C winner David Nye will have hopes of emulating that achievement and becoming the first driver in his class to take the whole crown since James “JJ” Ross in 2015. Former BMW and Mazda racer Charles Plumley, and newcomer Robert Stevens are fresh faces to the grid, while the likes of John Cooper, Myles Baker and Bradley Kent are amongst the raft of established and returning names, ready to have another crack at what is still one of the most competitive one-make tin-top championships in British club motorsport.
Their younger counterparts in the BRSCC Fiesta Junior Championship also begin a new term as the series for 14-17-year-old junior drivers heads into another year. Also running on MRF rubber like the senior championship, this year’s field features another mix of second-year drivers and new names. Of those carrying on for a second full season, the front runners have to James Waite (technically in his third year), Olly Turner and Josh Steed, the latter two both sporting new cars. Danish teen Magnus Kriklywi will be prepped for his first full season attack, while new names to keep an eye on include Alfie Glenie, Isaac Smith and Nathanael Hodgkiss.
Another championship whose popularity is nothing short of booming this year is the superb Nankang Tyres BMW Compact Cup, which at the time of writing boasts an incredible 36 entries. Because of this, the drivers are set to be split up into 3 groups, meaning 3 action-packed races throughout Sunday. 2017 champion Steven Dailly had to wait until deep into the off-season to be confirmed as the #1 and he stays on to aim for a second English crown. The usual suspects should keep him company at the front, such as Owen Hunter, Ian Jones, Mark Skeats and more, while as always there’s a significant influx of brand new names and faces to the paddock ready to try their hand at excellent, cost-effective rear wheel drive tin-top action. Plus, keep an eye out for former MX-5 SuperCup driver David Chapman, who guests on this weekend’s entry – he could be a dark horse!
Moving into their first full year since their rebrand and providing the single seater element of the weekend, the fantastically rapid Speed Group F1000 Championship begin 2018 with a prosperous year in store. Another defending champion is back for more, as Michael Watton will also display the #1 on his car in a bit to score two in a row. You can be sure that fellow frontrunners Paul Butcher and Dan Clowes won’t let him have it all his way, while Peter Lague, Dax Ward and Alok Iyengar will be interested parties attempting to keep up with them. More entries are in the pipeline as the season progresses, so watch this grid grow even further this season!
Finally, to provide a further supporting element, we’re joined this weekend by our friends from the Track Attack Racing Club. They bring their ever-popular Nippon Challenge & Tricolore Trophy out to play here in Kent, with the former giving us a superb mix of Japanese and JDM machinery. The latter will be chock full of Renaults and Peugeots, especially those competing in the first-ever contest for the 206 GTi Cup, the latest low-cost form of motorsport to be conceived by co-ordinator Steve Vince.
Fear not, race fans – the long winter is finally over and who knows, perhaps Spring will come early in the form of some pre-easter Sunshine. The opening rounds of a new season are always critical to score points and build momentum, so whoever leaves here this weekend with the most significant points haul may or may not set the tone for the rest of the year. Who knows – but one thing is for sure: it’s time to go racing again!