The new BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Clubman Championship began life as the latest addition to the BRSCC Mazda paddock this past weekend at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire, with the one-day, two race format adding a third element to the already established MX-5 Championship and MX-5 SuperCup. Despite a smaller than anticipated grid, the numbers are already looking up for the following rounds at Silverstone with over 20 cars already booked in for the next meeting in June.

The first ever MX-5 Clubman pole position went to Harry Storer, as he placed his Go4It Racing car at the top of the times and at the head of the grid for Race 1. Peter Higton took up the front row spot alongside him, followed by Richard Bartlett and Jay Shepherd, with teammates Robert Greensmith and Kevin Bird occupying the third row ahead of Dan Blake and Andrew Dean, then Tim Storer, Dale Whiteman and Owen Woodwards.

Storer converted his pole into a lead heading into Clervaux with Higton maintaining 2nd, while a strong start for Bird saw him move into 3rd place in the opening corners. He immediately put the pressure on Higton for 2nd throughout the rest of the first lap while teammate Greensmith got stuck in with both Bartlett and Shepherd, ending the opening tour in 4th sandwiched between the pair. It was already clear that Harry Storer has a pace advantage over the rest as he was 1.6 seconds ahead starting Lap 2, leaving those behind to squabble over the order from 2nd downwards. Bird managed to pass Higton and fended off an initial retaliation, something that was brought to a halt when Bartlett made a dive at the Hairpin that only left the pair bobbing along the grass after making light contact.

With those two drivers now recovering from their mishap and Storer already continuing to extend his lead with Bird looking a little more comfortable in 2nd, the focus was now on the fight for 3rd between Greensmith and Shepherd. Jay hounded the rear of Rob’s car over the next few laps while the pair steadily brought Bird back towards them, while Bartlett was doing well to get back on the pace and keep the top four in his sights. He made another passing attempt at Tower on Shepherd which saw him lightly tap the rear of his car causing a small loss in momentum, but the order remained unchanged as the minutes ticked on.

As the race moved through its second half towards the closing stages, Bird’s pace seemed to hit a cliff as it wasn’t long before the chasing quartet were right on his tail. Eventually the pressure worked as Bird got sideways exiting the Hairpin to allow Greensmith to ease past into P2, before another mistake at the Complex opened Shepherd’s passage into 3rd. But by this stage, out in front Storer seemed to be in a class of his own as he drove on to claim the first ever MX-5 Clubman race win, with Greensmith and Shepherd duly filling the podium in 2nd and 3rd ahead of Bird. Higton managed to get 5th place back from Bartlett in the final laps, while Tim Storer took 7th ahead of Blake, Dean, Whiteman and Woodwards.

In the second start, Greensmith managed to get the better of Storer on the run into the first corner, but Harry retaliated at Tower Bend to quickly retake the lead with Shepherd following him through into 2nd place and then Bird into 3rd. The ever daring Bartlett also pushed Greensmith down another place on the next lap to shuffle him back to 5th within two laps. The pair traded places twice at the Hairpin and then Clervaux bringing Higton and Tim Storer into play, but then everyone would move up a spot when Shepherd’s car slowed and stopped on the back straight with mechanical problems, forcing him out of what would have been another excellent podium finish in 2nd.

This relieved the pressure that Harry Storer had been feeling up to that point, meaning Bird was now heading up the scrap for 2nd place as teammate Greensmith and Bartlett continued to bicker over the final podium spot. A light sprinkling of rain began to fall mid-race which ended up catching out Bird at the first corner, as he was lucky to get away with running wide and skipping across the gravel. Bartlett quickly took advantage and passed into Tower, immediately putting up a resistance to the two Steel City MX-5 team cars now on his tail as the drizzle continued. By this point, while the three cars were essentially in a race of their own, so was Storer out in front as the battles had allowed him to build a lead of almost 7 seconds as the closing stages approached.

From here the race stabilised and Storer maintained his lead until the flag, wrapping up a superb double victory on his MX-5 Clubman debut, while Bartlett was able to get away from the Steel City pair in the end to take a comfortable 2nd. Bird and Greensmith did run close to each other for the remainder of the race with Bird holding on to the final podium place, while Higton rounded off the top five ahead of Blake, Dean, Tim Storer, Woodward and Whiteman.

As mentioned, the next MX-5 Clubman rounds take place at Silverstone on June 19th, where more cars will be lining up and Storer and co will be looking to make gains on their successful opening weekend at Croft. Onwards and upwards!

Scott Woodwiss


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