HERBERT & GREENSMITH LEAP BACK TO THE FRONT IN KNOCKHILL SUPERCUP THRILLER
The Mazda MX-5 SuperCup made the long trip north to the highlands of Scotland for the first time since 2012 as they made their second appearance on the TCR UK support package on the awesome Knockhill circuit – only this time they would be tackling’s Scotland’s only major race track in the reverse direction. Needless to say, all of the drivers in attendance were keen to put on a show that was just as entertaining as the opening rounds at Silverstone.
Saturday morning’s qualifying session brought an opportunity for reigning champion Luke Herbert to bounce back from a weekend of somewhat mixed fortunes to kick off his title defence. He promptly went ahead and stuck the #1 car on pole position with his teammate Aidan Hills putting the #8 on the front row alongside him for Race 1. AK Automotive locked out the second row with Carl Garnett setting a stunning 3rd fastest time ahead of Jack Harding, with the third row consisting of James Blake-Baldwin and Steve Roberts. Row 4 saw Jonathan Greensmith line up ahead of Colin Bysouth, with Nick Dunn and Simon Baldwin completing the top 10.
The opening couple of laps of Race 1 remained relatively trouble free with Herbert leading from Hills, Harding and initially Carl Garnett, before the #19 slipped back to 6th behind Blake-Baldwin and Greensmith. A safety car on Lap 7 bunched the field up again for a couple of laps, but even on the restart the order remained unchanged with Herbert heading Hills and Harding, but a mistake from Harding deep into the race on lap 16 shuffled him down to 5th place. In the end, Herbert’s pace was too great and managed to pull out an extra second on the cars behind on the final lap to pick up the first victory of his title defence. Hills secured a personal best 2nd place finish with Blake-Baldwin collecting a very strong 3rd. Jonathan Greensmith secured ahead of a disappointed Harding in 5th, while the second half of the top 10 was populated by Carl Garnett, Steve Roberts, Colin Bysouth, Simon Baldwin and Nick Dunn.
The grid for the second race was comprised of everyone’s second fastest lap times in Saturday’s qualifying, so Herbert once again took up residence on pole position. This time, it was Carl Garnett who lined up a sensational 2nd from Blake-Baldwin and Hills on the second row and Harding and Roberts on the third. Bysouth and Dunn locked out the 4th row of the grid, while Greensmith had work to do from 9th place as he shared Row 5 with Simon Baldwin.
Herbert led again from the start as Hills and Blake-Baldwin wasted no time in slotting into 2nd and 3rd past Garnett. Herbert quickly began to try and make his escape as he left Blake-Baldwin to dice with Hills and the pair to both be caught by Harding in the process after a slow start. Carl Garnett, meanwhile, wouldn’t last long in the race as a mishap while battling both Bysouth and Greensmith put him out of the running. Bysouth would also exit the race at the hairpin moments later after a mistake. All this brought out the safety car once again, forcing Herbert to rebuild his advantage on the restart. At said restart, Hills quickly lost out to Blake-Baldwin and then Harding, before coming under attack from the pursuing pack behind him. A trip across the grass exiting Clark Corner didn’t help matters either.
Just in front, Harding and Blake-Baldwin also locked horns in a dicey scrap for 2nd place, all the while attempting to keep leader Herbert in touching distance for the victory. A second safety car was called for Tom Parker’s stricken MX-5 in the gravel at Clark Corner, where Harding had made the move for 2nd place moments earlier. A quick restart to finish the final couple of laps came and went and despite Harding’s best efforts to apply pressure, it ultimately wouldn’t force Herbert to budge. Luke picked up his second win in a row, of the weekend and indeed the season, with Harding settling for 2nd place ahead of Blake-Baldwin, Hills and Roberts.
With the final SuperCup race of the weekend featuring a partially reverse grid, the draw to see how many drivers would end up swapping positions worked out in favour of Jack Sycamore. Lining up on pole and hoping his freshly installed engine would help him secure a strong result, he knew that Jonathan Greensmith alongside him wasn’t going to allow him to relax. The second row of Simon Baldwin and Steve Roberts also looked formidable, while Hills and Blake-Baldwin made interesting partners on the third row, as did Harding and double race winner Herbert on the fourth. Garry Townsend would start an improved 9th, and Sam Tatler hoped for forward progress starting from 10th.
Greensmith immediately jumped into the lead from the start and despite initially appearing to be swamped by the cars around him, Sycamore was able to hold firm in 2nd and even begin to apply pressure to Greensmith in the opening couple of laps. A charging Aidan Hills swept past at the beginning of lap 3 on the pit straight for 2nd place and immediately picked up the mantle to chase Greensmith down, with Steve Roberts doing the same on the next time by under brakes for the hairpin. Once on his tail, Hills didn’t give Greensmith one moment to relax and despite moments where a move looked to be on, the #2 held firm and absorbed the pressure.
Both Hills and Roberts then went into combat themselves over 2nd place, allowing Sycamore and the chasing pack back into the mix; that pack contained both Blake-Baldwin and Simon Baldwin, Herbert and Harding, all waiting for their moment. Try as Hills might, he just couldn’t find a way past Greensmith but his caused was helped by the re-appearance of the safety car after George Grant beached his Clapham North car in the gravel at Clark Corner. A quick recovery got racing underway in no time, and again Hills tried every trick he knew to pass Greensmith, but still to no avail!
A distraction from Roberts pushed Hills wide on the exit of SEAT Curves, and through all of the mayhem Luke Herbert came through to pick up 2nd place and the challenge for the lead. With Herbert, Blake-Baldwin, Harding and Hills all stacking up behind him, Greensmith was pulling out all the stops to cling on to the lead despite the massive pressure that was being applied. However, nothing anyone could do was good enough and Greensmith took an emphatic win from Herbert in 2nd place and Blake-Baldwin 3rd. Harding held 4th place from a late charge by Simon Baldwin in 5th, while Roberts stole 6th from Hills on the final lap ahead of Tatler, Sycamore and Lewis Carter.
After two meetings, it’s former champion James Blake-Baldwin who leads the way with 580 points, thanks to his consistent run of scoring a podium in every single race so far. Jack Harding is only four points back in 2nd place, while champion Herbert is only a further two points away in 3rd. Jonathan Greensmith’s win helped him move into 4th place ahead of Aidan Hills in 5th, while Steve Roberts has begun what is set to be his first full season in SuperCup incredibly strong in 6th. Simon Baldwin sits 7th ahead of Sam Tatler in 8th, Jack Sycamore will be pleased with his progress as he now sits 9th, and the top 10 is rounded off by Carl Garnett, who will be hoping for slightly better fortunes next time.
Simon Baldwin was also running as top Masters driver after the Knockhill weekend, topping that table ahead of Garry Townsend, George Grant, Jeremy Crook and Alec Livesley.
As for next time, the SuperCup now visits a circuit that just about all the drivers adore – Brands Hatch in Kent on the Indy circuit. It’s another short, sharp circuit with sweeping elevation changes, long corners and a relatively good flow, meaning racing should once again be superb. So far, we’ve had 5 different winners from the first 6 races. With other front-running drivers yet to notch one up for themselves, could we see that tally increase in a few week’s time?