MX-5 CHAMPIONSHIP BRINGS STACKED 60 CAR GRID TO SILVERSTONE AS CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS PREPARE FOR BATTLE
It may be a shortened season which means fewer races, but that does at least mean that the racing action we do get in the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship this season is as fast, frantic and energetic as it’s ever been. 2020 looks as though it’s going to produce one of the tightest contests for the title in recent years, as there are several drivers who not only have the pace to win races but also to potentially lift the crown come season’s end. With Cadwell Park and Donington Park now in the history books, Silverstone’s National circuit is the next battleground for our drivers to continue their skirmishes with a stacked entry that at the time of writing has reached its capacity of 60 cars!
The favourite for the title right now appears to be points leader Joe Wiggin, with the former BMW Compact Cup racer carrying the momentum gained from his rookie season last year to bring him four wins from his first five races, adding to the eight he took from the first nine races of the second half of 2019. Joe’s confidence in his pace, the car and his Tucker Motorsport team are sky-high right now and this feel-good factor looks set to continue to Silverstone. Whether this remains the case could change depends on how his rivals step up to him and judging by how close they’ve been to him so far, it’s not impossible to see someone steal his thunder.
His closest pursuer is Oliver Allwood, who has been in this position before. When he battled for the MX-5 Championship title a few years ago, he agonisingly missed out on more than one occasion, but he now appears to have rediscovered his winning form having climbed back onto the top step of a podium at Cadwell Park. In just about every race he’s contested in 2020, he’s been at the front in contention for the lead and victory, hence why Oliver is just four points back from Wiggin. All he needs is that little bit extra to knock Wiggin off the top step to overhaul him in the standings. It’s a big task, but Allwood’s renewed vigour will mean that he’s more than up to the challenge.
Double champion Will Blackwell-Chambers managed to get back to winning ways at Donington Park and he appears to be on the kind of form that could potentially give him a third title. With team boss Mike Comber also up at the front of the field with him, the pair looks as formidable as ever and are really giving everything they can to take the fight to Wiggin and Allwood. This quartet appears to be the main contenders to become champion in 2020, so where they place this weekend will be vital heading into the season finale at Brands Hatch at the Formula Ford Festival. It could even turn out to be the most important weekend of this truncated calendar, as title charges could be strengthened or broken in just one race.
Just behind the leading four are two drivers that have made marked improvements over 2019. Teammates Oliver Graham and Sebastian Fisher both look as though they have the pace to trouble the established front runners and it seems as though they’re getting faster and faster with each passing race. If their trajectory keeps on rising, it’s definitely not unrealistic to state that a podium finish for either of them could well be achievable – that is, if they can overlook a potential internal battle for the final top 5 spot in the points!
Another driver who has been incredible this year is rookie Ben O’Hare, who has taken the Close Racing team and car to new heights as he lies an astounding 7th in points. To put it into perspective, out of the five races he’s completed so far, only once has he finished outside the top ten and even that odd one out was an 11th place. Once again, consistency is vital in a reduced calendar like that of this season, and this form means that not only is he looking to be a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year honours, but also for a very impressive end of season position in the final points table, provided he can keep this momentum going.
The rest of the top ten includes current Masters points leader Paul Bateman, who has reintroduced himself onto the grid in fine fashion with some impressive results amongst the more experienced drivers on the grid, as well as Michael Knibbs currently in 10th who is busying himself this year with double duty in both the MX-5 Championship and MX-5 SuperCup this season. He also sports one of the best looking cars on the grid, and as we all know, the better the car looks, the faster it goes (at least, that’s the theory anyway).
You also need to keep an eye for drivers who should be higher in points but are currently lurking around the second half of the top 20. Proven race winners Matt Luff and Fraser Fenwick, teammates at AB Motorsport, have had mixed fortunes, particularly Luff who has found himself in difficult situations on more than one occasion so far this season. Jack Brewer also has the pace to score big results and big points and he would dearly love to replicate the form he showed at Snetterton last year when he managed to score his first podiums. Former Rookie of the Year driver Matt Pollard has also found himself up and down the pack at times but a decent Donington appears to have put him on the right path.
Adam Craig can usually be found hanging around the first half of the field in races and will hope to do more of the same at Silverstone, while Luke Pullen has been another impressive rookie driver that looks as though he’s only set to get stronger with more time at the wheel. Proof of this was his storming drive from the back of the field in Race 2 at Donington, when he recovered from an overnight engine change to climb 23 places to 17th, earning him the Driver of the Weekend accolade in the process – and much deserved, too! Brian Trott, another proven race winner, will also be lining up again at Silverstone and he is sure to want to push himself amongst the race leaders in a bid to steal some silverware for himself.
It wouldn’t be an MX-5 Championship weekend without some new drivers joining the foray, would it? Amongst the newcomers, this weekend will finally mark the first appearance of former British GT champion Marco Attard, as he and his son Oliver will compete in a pair of cars to see who’s the fastest among the family and after Marco watched both of his sons have a go last year, it seems as though the temptation to do so himself was just too strong to resist! Plus, they are also providing the bubbly for the BRSCC courtesy of their business The Calais Wine Superstore, so we suspect they’d quite enjoy spraying their own fizz if they reach the podium too!
Also on the grid will be two drivers who are the driving force (pun fully intended, of course) behind our wonderful championship sponsor WASPP this season – the experienced Jay Shepherd and his regular co-driver Ed Worthington will dovetail their FunCup commitments this weekend with a race each in their own car which they will share. This will be the first time that either of them will have raced against the cars which proudly carry their windscreen strips, and after observing them for the first time at Cadwell Park, they now get to be part of the action themselves – they’re sure to expect a VERY busy grid and plenty of drivers to race against!
Of course, there will be the usual suspects and familiar names and faces on the grid as per usual, meaning that with such a healthy entry for this coming weekend’s racing action, the Mazda MX-5 Championship continues to live up to its reputation as one of the best-supported series in British club motorsport!