BREWER TAKES PERFECT HAT-TRICK IN MX-5 CHAMPIONSHIP OPENER AT CROFT
The opening rounds of the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship got underway this past weekend at the Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire, with the premise of a new champion and plenty of familiar contenders lining up to claim the crown taken by Joe Wiggin in 2020. Weather conditions played their part in proceedings, but that didn’t stop the drivers from pushing straight from the off.
With a change in the weekend format for 2021 thanks to the introduction of the new one-day format Mazda MX-5 Clubman Championship, the main MX-5 Championship for Mk1s would now see just one grid compete in three 20 minute races as opposed to a larger entry being split into two groups with each racing three times. The fastest drivers were expected to stick around in the main championship and judging by the entry list, this proved to be exactly the case.
Qualifying on Saturday morning produced a brand new pole-sitter, as Tucker Motorsport’s Jack Brewer picked up where former champion teammate Wiggin left off by setting not just the fastest time of the session, but a brand new qualifying lap record in the process. This being the first visit for the championship since Croft had been resurfaced, Will Blackwell-Chambers’ existing record of 1’41.311 set in 2017 was positively smashed by Brewer, who lapped a staggering 1.4 seconds faster to set a 1’39.901, the fastest ever lap set in a BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship qualifying session around the circuit.
Partnering him on the front row would be Steve Foden, followed by Michael Knibbs and 2020 runner-up Oliver Allwood, who was desperately keen to put aside the agony of just missing out and wanted to start 2021 off right. Brian Trott and Jason Greatrex lined up next ahead of Adam Craig and Oliver Graham, with Fraser Fenwick and Stuart Symonds rounding off a familiar-looking top 10.
The front row pair got away evenly, but through Clerveaux Brewer put himself in front to retain P1 from pole position with Foden getting shuffled down to 5th as Knibbs, Trott and Allwood all filtered past in the opening corners. A breakaway top 5 quickly formed as Allwood repassed teammate Trott for 3rd but as they both battled with Foden, it allowed Brewer and Knibbs to quickly edge away with the top two running nose to tail. Allwood managed to break free to make it a leading trio and tried a move at the Hairpin for 2nd on Knibbs to no avail, allowing Brewer some breathing space in the process.
Jack’s respite was brief as Knibbs quickly reeled him back in whilst leaving Allwood was left to deal with a recovering Foden and by mid-race the top four were evenly spread out, while Trott found himself under threat from both Fenwick and Jason Greatrex for the final top 5 place before steadily falling back through the top 10. Knibbs managed to arrive on Brewer’s rear bumper once more but didn’t seem to have enough pace left in the tank to complete a pass, chasing him throughout the second half of the race but ultimately having to settle for the runner up spot. Thus, Brewer held on superbly to avenge losing victory on the last lap at Silverstone to finally take his first MX-5 Championship win, delighting both Jack and the team in equal measure. Knibbs still managed a personal best 2nd place finish with Allwood starting 2021 off strong with 3rd ahead of Foden and Fenwick. Oliver Graham made a quiet charge to take 6th place on the last lap, ahead of Jason Greatrex and Trott, with Symonds and Matt Pollard completing the first top 10 finishers of the year.
Sunday morning produced a somewhat saturated circuit as rain had left the drivers to deal with a wet track for the weekend’s second race. This time, Knibbs stole the lead in the opening corners from Brewer as he used the extra grip on the outside line to his advantage to head the field from Jack, with Allwood, Graham and Trott in tow. Trott and Foden managed to pick up 4th and 5th respectively before the opening lap was complete, while ahead Allwood tried to mount a challenge on Brewer for 2nd on Lap 2 which only put teammate Trott in a position to pounce a few corners later and make a pass for 3rd. Foden, meanwhile, slipped to 7th as both Fenwick and Greatrex used the damp conditions to their advantage to move up a spot each.
The AB Motorsport teammates of Allwood, Fenwick and Trott began squabbling amongst each other which in turn not only brought Foden and co back into play but also allowed Race 1 dominators Knibbs and winner Brewer to briefly gain a small gap, which didn’t last long. Feeling the pressure from those behind, Brewer decisively slotted back past Knibbs into the lead down the pit straight and into Clerveaux and immediately set the fastest lap of the race, while behind him Trott made a move on Fenwick at Tower Bend which initially raised questions of an overtake under yellow flags (caused by Jordan Pimley’s car stuck in the gravel), but eventually any risk of a penalty was averted.
Allwood went on the attack on the outside of Knibbs heading to Clerveaux a couple of laps later which didn’t work out, bringing Trott onto his tail. He tried again after Knibbs then ran wide exiting the Sunny corners to pick up 2nd and managed to retain the place until the end. Out in front, Brewer managed to come home 2.5 seconds in the lead to collect his second win of the weekend with Allwood a place higher in 2nd, while Knibbs resisted a last lap attack from Trott to remain on the podium once again. Trott held onto 4th in that instance, with the top 5 completed by Fenwick from Greatrex, Foden, Graham, Pollard and an impressive drive from young Zak Oates, who managed a strong 10th place.
If it were even possible, the weather conditions worsened for the final race of the weekend, with steady rain falling as the cars headed out onto the grid. When racing got underway, Brewer got a clean start while Allwood’s getaway saw him swamped by the next few rows behind him as everyone tried to be 2nd into Clerveaux for the first time. Trott’s race would go no further at this point as he slid wide into the gravel and out on the spot. Racing wouldn’t last much longer when the safety car was called after several cars found themselves caught up in incidents at the Sunny In/Out corners, leaving four more cars out of the race.
A handful of safety car laps later, Brewer got the race back underway but failed to drop Fenwick who stuck to his tail, but Brewer managed to hold on and create a small gap. Behind them, the man on the move in the wet was Foden as his car was clearly suited to the conditions better than others. He picked off Allwood (who went spinning a few laps later at Barcroft), Greatrex, Knibbs after he ran wide and then eventually Fenwick to climb into a superb 2nd place and immediately set his sights on Brewer and that first BRSCC Mazda win. The top three ran in tandem throughout the second half of the race applying constant pressure for the lead, but no matter what Fenwick and Foden tried, there was just no way past.
With that, Brewer completed an amazing hat-trick to start off his 2021 season in the perfect way with Foden taking 2nd and Fenwick 3rd, while Jason Greatrex took a very strong 4th place as he got close to the top three towards the end. Oliver Graham was a slightly distant 5th ahead of Craig and Knibbs, with Zak Oates making more superb progress with an 8th place finish ahead of Symonds and Owen Mills.
There’s a month’s wait until the second weekend of racing which takes place at the Home of British Motorsport, Silverstone’s National circuit in Northamptonshire on June 19/20. Brewer may have the advantage at the top of the points standings with his trio of wins, but at this early stage in the season it’s too premature to start picking title favourites. Silverstone will certainly help us shape a slightly clearer picture of who the main contenders could potentially, but for now it’s advantage Brewer leaving North Yorkshire!