SUPERCUP’S SOJOURN BACK TO SCOTLAND
There hasn’t been the sight of a SuperCup-spec Mk3 Mazda MX-5 turning a wheel in anger at Knockhill since 2012, back when the series use to be known simply as the Mazda MX-5 Cup. But, 6 years later, the championship makes a return as part of its support status for the TCR UK Touring Car Championship. With this year’s field looking as competitive as it’s ever been and with the challenge of tackling the circuit in the reverse direction for the first time, this could be a weekend that throws up some interesting results.
Speaking of which, the SuperCup left the opening rounds at Silverstone with three different race winners, with Will Stacey, Jack Harding and James Blake-Baldwin all picking up one apiece. Stacey was something of a sensation as he begun his first full season with an impressive victory. The former Lotus Cup frontrunner has adapted to the championship incredibly quickly and will be hoping for another strong result, which could also help him banish the memories of his race 2 incident with Richard Wicklen, when dislodged brake pads left him powerless to slow down and avoid heavy contact with Wicklen at Becketts.
Harding and Blake-Baldwin also both certainly put forward notices of intent with their race victories, with the former more determined than ever to become champion after missing out the past two seasons, while the latter would dearly love to add a second title to his 2016 campaign success, as he rediscovered the form he appeared to have lost for most of last season. Both are strong bets for the title this year, but of course you cannot count out reigning champion Luke Herbert. His first weekend of his title defence started with pole for Race 1, but a technical issue leaving the assembly area forced him to start from the back and claw his way through the field to finish deep in the top 10. A Race 2 win on the road was taken away from him due to a track limits penalty, while Race 3 would at least see him take to the podium with 2nd place. Knowing the #1 on the door is coveted by many, expect the champ to bounce back this weekend.
Silverstone also saw the emergence and further improvement of many names familiar to the MX-5 SuperCup over the past couple of seasons. Colin Bysouth and Aidan Hills were two names that made big strides in their performance as they were able to keep pace and race competitively with the established front-runners. Hills, last year’s SuperCup rookie of the year, inherited his first podium finish with 3rd place in Race 2, while Bysouth benefitted from the reverse grid pole for Race 3 and genuinely gave the cars around him a challenge. Jonathan Greensmith was another driver who impressed as he made it back on to the podium in Race 1, with his new car built for this season serving him well.
Simon Baldwin was another driver who went from strength to strength over the opening weekend, especially in Race 3 as he was able to keep step brother Blake-Baldwin within touching distance for most of the race. Other names who will be ones to watch will include former BMW Compact Cup champion Steve Roberts (who finished 2nd in Race 1 last time), the Clapham North backed pair of George Grant and Nick Dunn, Carl Garnett, former Toyota MR2 racer Kristian White, Will Stephenson and Jack Sycamore. Jack in particular suffered with an underpowered engine at Silverstone, so a fresh unit for Knockhill should help him unlock his true pace. At the time of writing, Rob Boston was also entered to drive one of his self-prepared Mk3s, and if he does decide to take a place on this weekend’s grid, he will undoubtedly be in with a shout of stealing a race win or two.
Many of the drivers racing this weekend won’t have raced at Knockhill full stop, let alone in its MSA-approved reserve direction layout. Those that have, including champ Luke Herbert, may gain something of an early advantage, but expect the regular pace setters not to hang around too long before getting into the mix. Whatever happens, the end result (as it usually tends to be in the MX-5 SuperCup and indeed was at Silverstone) is set to be epic!