SOLID WEEKEND FOR HARDING AT THE ROCK
Harding (#43) enjoyed undoubtedly his best ever MX-5 SuperCup weekend with 2 wins and a 2nd place – Photo: Jon Elsey
Our 2-day race meeting at Rockingham Motor Speedway may have been the last circuit racing that the venue will hold for 2016, but the racing made sure that it went out with plenty of noise and action to remember it by. Whilst one championship came to a close, 4 more continued making strides towards their final weekends with plenty of talking points.
The Mazda MX-5 SuperCup provided much drama and excitement right from the opening lap of Race 1, when points leader James Blake-Baldwin was tipped into a spin just a few corners in, leaving him to fight back through the order to finish 10th. Up at the front, the SuperCup’s second new winner in as many weekends came about with Jack Harding clinching his first top step finish from Tom Roche and Jonathan Greensmith. Race 2 would see more frantic battles including a dramatic tussle in the closing stages between title contenders Roche and Blake-Baldwin, however this only allowed Harding to take full advantage and again take the chequered flag first with Greensmith 2nd and Blake-Baldwin managing a podium as Roche was left frustrated in 5th. Putting it all behind him, it was much more straightforward for Blake-Baldwin in Race 3 as he dominated from start to finish to take the win, with Harding and Greensmith again on the podium while Roche was a distant 4th. It now leaves the championship battle as a showdown at Silverstone with JB-B leading Roche on dropped scores by a single point!
Roche's Mazda MX-5 Championship weekend in the Mk1 model began as he meant to go on with pole position for the first Group A race from Simon Baldwin and a guest appearance from Ben Short, a former regular frontrunner in the championship. Roche dutifully led from pole and did what he does best, leading from the front and cruising to a 10-second winning margin ahead of Baldwin and Short. The second A race would see something very unexpected, as Roche would be handed a drive-through penalty for track limits which ended up breaking his win streak in the process. Despite a hard charge back to 3rd and just missing out on besting Short at the line, it was Simon Baldwin who claimed his first win of the year. Despite starting on pole for their third and final race, he couldn’t stop Roche from powering past from the second row and winning once again with Baldwin and Short again following home as Tom took his win Mk1 win tally for the season to a staggering 14 victories.
With the Group B contenders in the second half of the field, honours in their first race went to pole man Joshua Brent. The son of regular Mk1 competitor Kevin, Josh scored a win in only his second race weekend in the championship, driving an impressive race with the fastest lap ahead of Paul Tucker and Sam Bailey. In their second race it was William Stephenson who took his turn on the top step ahead of Simon Woods and Matt Pickford, while the final race of the weekend was won by Paul Bateman with Martyn Canning and Sam Bailey sharing the rostrum on that occasion.
After another entertaining season, the Alfa Romeo Championship brought the curtain down on its 2016 campaign. The Modified class typically dominated overall proceedings once more with a weekend long duel between Barry McMahon’s 156 and outgoing champion Graham Seager’s GTV. McMahon drew first blood in Race 1 to win by 18 seconds from Seager, with newly crowned champion Tom Hill winning the Twin Spark Cup with 3rd overall. Race 2 saw Seager make sure he had the last laugh after McMahon’s car was forced into retirement, allowing him to complete his final race with #1 on the door with an easy victory. Dave Messenger was top Twin Spark in 2nd overall with Tom Herbert completing his guest appearance with a strong 3rd and P2 in class.
There was a title sealed and delivered on Sunday in the Scrapco Recycling/ Avon Tyres Intermarques as Malcolm Blackman ensured his points lead couldn’t be touched thanks to a commanding drive in Race 1. A win by 8 seconds from Daniel Smith and Steve Burrows looked to be enough to seal the deal for him, although he was unable to repeat the feat later that afternoon. Instead, it was left to Lewis Smith to go even better than Blackman’s effort and take the win by the larger margin of over 13 seconds. Blackman was still able to finish 2nd with Daniel Smith taking the final step on the podium.
The Rockingham oval was also utilized on Sunday to accommodate a pair of 35 laps races for the Pickup Truck Racing Championship, the UK’s own take on the popular championship as part of the NASCAR roster in the US. The first race saw Paul Tomkins complete a safety car-free race to win by less than 0.3 seconds ahead of Mark Willis and Scott Bourne, but it was the second encounter that really got the spectators out of their seats. In a race that was affected by two safety cars, the second coming just 6 laps before the end, it was left to David O’Regan to go toe-to-toe with Bourne and Tompkins in the final laps. In a nail-biting finish, the three drivers all crossed the line side by side and in the photo it was given to O’Regan, who had his nose in front by a mere 0.023 seconds from Bourne with Tompkins 3rd.
Once again, our thanks go to our marshalls, teams, competitors and BRSCC officials and Club personnel who helped the meeting run smoothly. You can find a full breakdown of the results via TSL Timing HERE. We’ll see you in 2017, Rockingham!