WIGGIN AND ALLWOOD STAKE EARLY MX-5 CHAMPIONSHIP CLAIMS AT CADWELL PARK OPENER
The new season of the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship for 2020 had been a long time coming, after the original opening rounds at Silverstone in March were cancelled due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Less than five months later, racing was finally able to get going as the teams and drivers descended on the exceptional Cadwell Park circuit in Lincolnshire to finally get the season underway.
With everyone separated into their qualifying groups, the respective sessions took place on Saturday morning with Group 1 heading out first. Oliver Allwood proved that his pace was well and truly still strong with the fastest time in Group 1, followed by double champion Will Blackwell-Chambers and Mike Comber, with Matt Pollard and Sebastian Fisher rounding off the top five while newcomer Luke Pullen impressed many in the paddock with 6th fastest time on his debut weekend in the championship. In the second session, last year’s rookie sensation Joe Wiggin not only topped the times respectively but indeed set a time that was good enough for overall pole position, ahead of Matt Luff and Steve Foden with Jack Brewer and Brian Trott completing the top five. Fraser Fenwick and Oliver Graham also turned in good laps to go 6th and 7th fastest, while further impressive efforts came from both Brandon Abraham and Ben O’Hare.
With the times put together and the three racing groups decided, the first race was ready to line up to drivers allocated to Groups A and B based on their qualifying times. This put Joe Wiggin on pole with Allwood alongside, with Blackwell-Chambers and Foden on the second row ahead of Brewer, Pollard, Fisher and Fenwick.
Wiggin got the better start from the grid as the lights went out and managed to hold the lead on the opening lap, with Blackwell-Chambers getting the better of Allwood to move into 2nd place with the AB driver dropping to 3rd behind Brewer and Fisher. Allwood kept on Blackwell-Chambers’ tail and managed to repass him on Lap 3 as the pair kept up the pressure on Wiggin, whilst further back one driver making early progress was Oliver Graham, who managed to climb as high as 5th place before eventually slipping to 8th where he finished. Out in front, Wiggin managed to find some space between himself and the chasing cars behind, managing to edge out his lead by at least a couple of tenths per lap as the race moved on.
Given Cadwell’s tight confines, overtaking was few and far between making it a challenge for anyone to try and overtake, but easier for those needing to defend. In the end, no-one was able to dethrone Wiggin from the head of the pack, as he headed to the chequered flag to claim the first win of the season with Allwood in 2nd place and Blackwell-Chambers in 3rd, with Brewer and Fenwick completing the top 5. Steve Foden finished 6th from teammates Fisher and Graham, while Matt Pollard and Michael Knibbs completed the top 10.
The second race combined Groups A and C, with Wiggin again on pole but this time sharing the front row with Matt Luff, followed by Blackwell-Chambers and Mike Comber on the second row, Jack Brewer and Brian Trott on the third, then Fisher, Luke Pullen, Graham and Jack Moody to round off the top 10 starters.
Wiggin again picked up a good start and held the lead from pole, while Blackwell-Chambers again grabbed 2nd from Luff from Comber and Trott as the field completed the opening lap. The second lap ended up with misfortune for Luff when he got loose heading through the Hall Bends, glancing off the barriers but managing to continue albeit down to the back of the pack; he would end up finishing in 30th place. Comber was the main benefactor from Luff’s misfortune, moving into 3rd as a result and then 2nd when he overtook teammate Blackwell-Chambers, but by this time Wiggin’s lead had gone out to 1.6 seconds by Lap 5.
A quick couple of laps from Comber helped to greatly reduce the gap to just 0.4 seconds, but WB-C made sure he was still in the mix and elected to engage into an inter-team battle with Comber. This, in turn, only allowed Wiggin to relax a little more as he reeled off the final couple of laps to claim his second win of the weekend. Despite a brief switch of positions, Comber managed to beat Blackwell-Chambers to 2nd, followed by Brewer and Fisher in the top 5, then Graham, Trott, Moody, an excellent driver from rookie Ben O’Hare and returnee Paul Bateman, driving well on his comeback to the championship with 10th place.
For the final race, Allwood and Luff made up the front row with the latter looking to make up for his bad luck in his first race the day before. Forden and Comber lined up on the second row ahead of Pollard, Trott, Fenwick and Pullen, with Adam Craig and Jack Moody completing the top ten starters.
The race progressed over its first five laps with Comber managing to move his way into the lead ahead of Allwood, Foden, Trott and Luff, but the race would then be halted when the red flags came out. Jake Taplin, another driver making his debut this weekend, suffered an unfortunate and bizarre accident at Barn Corner when his car ended up the other side of the barriers, thankfully without harm or injury coming to Jake and the car remaining essentially intact despite the incident. After a lengthy delay to resolve the situation, the race was restarted with enough time for three more laps of racing.
With everyone starting from the positions they were in at the time of the stoppage, Comber and Allwood took up the front row for the sprint to the flag. Allwood grabbed the lead and managed to hold on to it for the remaining laps, while his AB teammate Luff and Trott applied the pressure to try and make Comber crack. Indeed, both managed to make it past Comber, but he fought back hard on the last lap as he attempted to remain in a podium position.
Allwood managed to hold the lead and claim his first Group A victory for a couple of seasons, finally getting back to the top step that had eluded him a handful of times before. Luff made up for his first race dramas with 2nd, while Trott out-dragged Comber in the sprint to the line to just maintain his grip on the final podium spot. Comber, therefore, secured 4th with Foden completing the top 5, ahead of Pollard, Moody, Craig, Pullen and Tim Dore, taking an impressive top 10 finish to give the Australian one of his best results to date.
Joe Wiggin holds the championship lead after the first rounds, just a couple of points ahead of Oliver Allwood and a further four ahead of Will Blackwell-Chambers in 3rd place, with Mike Comber and Jack Brewer completing the top five places. Brian Trott sits in 6th ahead of Steve Foden and Sebastian Fisher, with Oliver Graham and Matt Pollard completing the top ten.
The next rounds will take place at a different venue than originally scheduled, but still on the same date. With the Anglesey meeting forced to be cancelled due to the restrictions currently in place by the Welsh Government, the MX-5 Championship has now been moved across to Donington Park in Leicestershire on August 22-23, with another three races in store for the competitors. Donington Park is another drivers’ favourite, and with the race weekend they join featuring a headline act of the British Truck Racing Championship, meaning it should be an entertaining weekend all round!