WIGGIN EXTENDS MX-5 CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS LEAD AT DONINGTON PARK
The BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship continued its exciting start to its amended and shortened 2020 season as the teams and drivers moved on from Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire to a different venue than that which had been allocated at first. Originally this past weekend’s races were to be held at Anglesey in North Wales, but because of the Welsh Government’s restrictions that race meeting had to be cancelled. Instead, the MX-5 Championship was moved across to Donington Park, where one grid of 40 Mk1 Mazda MX-5s was ready to take on three races altogether.
A dry track for qualifying helped to produce a brand new pole-sitter, as Matt Luff set the fastest time to line up on the front row alongside points leader Joe Wiggin, ahead of Oliver Allwood and Matt Pollard on Row 2, ahead of double champion Will Blackwell-Chambers and Sebastian Fisher on the third row from Mike Comber, Jack Brewer, Michael Knibbs and Adam Craig.
Wiggin snatched the lead from the line as Race 1 got underway, with Allwood coming up to challenge teammate Luff heading into Redgate on the outside line as the field charged its way through towards the Craner Curves. Luff running slightly wide at Old Hairpin allowed Allwood to take 2nd and he would hold on for the remainder of the lap to leave Luff to fend off Fisher, Blackwell-Chambers and co before the end of the opening lap. WB-C passed Fisher into Redgate to claim 3rd and with Comber quickly following him through, the pair set off in pursuit of the AB Motorsport duo in front of them.
Luff switched places with Allwood in an effort for him to try and catch leader Wiggin, as Comber behind them set the fastest lap. Behind them at McLeans a small tangle between Fisher and Pollard left them both tracking through the gravel as they ambled their way back on track. Back in front, Wiggin was being caught by the quartet of cars behind him, and it wasn’t just because they were better on pace. A developing gearbox problem was giving the leader headaches and to make matters worse, the rain was starting to fall as the race ticked over to half distance to make it even more difficult. Blackwell-Chambers passed both AB Motorsport cars in front of him to go 2nd and even tried moving for the lead at Old Hairpin to no avail. With the gearbox getting worse, Wiggin had to capitulate and slipped from 1st to 4th, just in time for the safety car to come out due to both Richard Wootten and Brandon Abraham both getting stranded in the Redgate gravel.
The pack bunched up under the safety car over the next few laps and when it restarted it would be something of a one-lap sprint to the flag. Blackwell-Chambers got away well with Comber as his rear gunner for the remaining lap and the Mike Comber Racing cars came 1-2 across the line with WB-C back on the top step of the podium for the first time since Anglesey last year, with Comber in 2nd place and Allwood taking 3rd. Wiggin still managed to hold on for 4th despite his gearbox issue with Luff claiming 5th, followed by an impressive 6th for Michael Knibbs, then Fraser Fenwick, Oliver Graham, the recovering Fisher in 9th and Ben O’Hare driving superbly to claim a top 10 finish for Close Racing.
Blackwell-Chambers would start Race 2 from pole courtesy of his race win as dry conditions greeted the drivers for Sunday’s first race, with Comber alongside followed by Allwood in 3rd and Wiggin starting 4th with a replacement gearbox now fitted and the car back to full strength once again. WB-C led team boss Comber through Redgate at the start while a stunning getaway from Michael Knibbs put him alongside Wiggin briefly for 3rd before he got attacked from either side by Allwood, Luff and Graham, allowing the top three to quickly escape down the road. The melee at the chicane gave Allwood 4th with Knibbs still holding back Graham, while Luff had to defend from his fellow AB Motorsport driver Fraser Fenwick into Redgate on Lap 2. With Allwood now released at the head of the second group, he could now press on to chase down the top three.
Blackwell-Chambers came under attack from Comber into Redgate, but his failed attempt only allowed Wiggin to sense an opportunity to take advantage, but everyone was forced to bunch up again as another safety car was called due to Brandon Abraham once again hitting problems, this time pulling up on the inside grass exiting Old Hairpin, while unfortunate luck for Michael Knibbs also saw him drop out after such a strong start. This, in turn, would benefit Allwood and co who had dropped back initially due to the early battles. After two laps, racing got back underway and Wiggin wasted no time in trying to dive past both MCRs in front, but could only pick off Comber as Allwood followed him past to drop Mike down to 4th, and just a few corners later Fenwick would also get involved and push Comber down a further place, leaving him to be swallowed up by the chasing cars behind the leaders.
The top three tried to make a break but Fenwick was keen to stay with them and brought the rest of the pack with him. Graham decided to go for broke on the approach to the chicane as he looked outside of Fenwick for 4th to no avail, bringing both Comber and Luff back into the mix as the race began to seriously heat up with five minutes to go. Comber managed to get alongside Fenwick through the Craner Curves, but all this did was give Luff the run inside Old Hairpin to go wheel to wheel with Mike through the next few corners. Meanwhile, a great run out of Coppice gave Wiggin the lead with Allwood following suit for 2nd, and Fenwick’s attack on WB-C left him shuffled all the way down to 8th a few corners later as the fight for 4th became Luff vs Fenwick vs Fisher. All this allowed Comber to close up to the leading pair and he tried the cutback into Redgate with two minutes to go, but his failed attempt brought Luff back into contention for a podium – briefly. Running wide at McLeans ended all hopes of a strong result and he had to track through the gravel and rejoined in 13th place.
As for the leaders, Wiggin was able to complete the last two laps relatively unchallenged as the battle for 2nd was strong enough to allow him to drive without having to get defensive. Wiggin reeled off the corners to take his third win of the season in a brilliant race, with Allwood holding 2nd from Comber, while Fenwick scored one of his best results of the season so far with 4th ahead of Race 1 winner Blackwell-Chambers, with Oliver Graham setting the fastest lap of the race on his way to 6th place and Jack Brewer scoring an improved result with 7th. Seb Fisher came next in 8th, followed by Adam Craig and another top 10 finish for Ben O’Hare in 10th place.
Wiggin’s good start to Race 3 allowed him to once again hold the lead heading towards the first corner, with Comber trying to squeeze to the inside of Allwood while Fenwick took a wide entry on the outside line to try and gain places that would help him into 3rd place. While most people were able to make it through Old Hairpin without drama, a mishap for Adam Craig left him spinning to a stop in the middle of the pack, thankfully avoided by everyone else around him. Wiggin led the opening lap from Allwood and Fenwick with Comber and Graham completing the top 5, but just outside it Blackwell-Chambers was keen to make moves and made a dive for 5th at Redgate which allowed him to pick off Graham.
Blackwell-Chambers continued his progress as he passed Fenwick a couple of laps later to pick up 4th, who began to fall into the clutches of Graham as a result, while behind them a very impressive run from Ben O’Hare had helped him reach the dizzying heights of 7th ahead of Seb Fisher after just five minutes. By now the top six was breaking off into pairs as Wiggin led Allwood, then the two MCR cars of Comber and WB-C and then the aforementioned scrap for 5th between Fenwick and Graham, but it would only take one slip from the leaders to bring everyone back together again. This meant the fight for 7th was getting hotter as O’Hare worked to hold back Fisher as well as a charging Matt Luff who was making up for his less than satisfactory result in Race 2 – or he had been until he made another off-track excursion at Coppice, which appeared to set off a chain reaction for O’Hare, as he was passed by Pollard, Fisher and then Jack Brewer.
Meanwhile back in front, Comber and Blackwell-Chambers were edging closer to Wiggin and Allwood and with less than six minutes to go, it looked as though it was going to be a tense affair in deciding the podium places in this final race of the weekend. WB-C passed his team leader for 3rd place and after a small skirmish between the four cars for 2nd place at the chicane, it dropped him into the clutches of the double champion as Wiggin made a late escape up the road with three minutes to go. Blackwell-Chambers attacked for 2nd heading into McLeans and Comber tried to follow him through at the chicane but failed to do so, leaving him to lose 4th to Fenwick as a result with just two laps to go. All this fighting was only benefitting Wiggin, who was a few seconds up the road by this point and unchallenged in the lead.
As it was, Wiggin took win number 4 of the season by around 4 seconds in the end, while a late lunge into the chicane on the final lap saw Allwood steal 2nd place from WB-C, with the former champ in 3rd ahead of Comber in 4th ahead of Graham and Fenwick in 5th and 6th. Fisher managed to claim 7th in the end ahead of the ever-impressive Ben O’Hare who improved his personal best to 8th ahead of Masters winner Paul Bateman and Michael Knibbs rounding off the top 10.
It’s crazy to think that because of the truncated season due to the pandemic, that we’re already halfway through the shortened calendar, but we are now into the second half of the schedule already with the next rounds taking place at Silverstone on September 12/13. Join us there, and of course, we say a big thank you to WASPP, Avon Tyres and GAZ Shocks for their continued support of the championship!