Crunch Time at Croft

Paul Bishop (#44) impressed in the top 5 at Oulton. More of the same at Croft? Photo: Jon Elsey

After rather mixed fortunes for the frontrunners in the Mazda MX-5 Championship at Oulton park last time out, we now take ourselves up north for a return to Darlington and the exhilarating Croft circuit for another triple header. Just 6 races remain this season, with any one of 5 drivers still in with a realistic shout at claiming the ultimate prize.

Oulton Park provided quite the spectacle, although two drivers who didn’t necessarily leave Cheshire with smiles on their faces were Simon Baldwin and Brian Chandler. Baldwin’s engine expired two laps into Race 1A which forced him to be relegated to Group B for Race 2. In consolation, he claim victory from 5th on the grid, however only scoring points for 24th overall. Chandler’s fortunes took a nosedive barely minutes into his weekend after an incident in qualifying also pushed him into a Group B race. A dominant charge to victory promoted him back into the final Group A race, only for him to suffer contact on the opening lap, sending him to the rear of the field and seeing him end up in 19th.

As for those who benefitted the most, both Darron Lewis and Ben Tuck came away with the top step silverware. There were also podium visits for Ben Short, Sam Smith and Paul Bishop, all of which looked strong throughout the weekend. All of this means that, despite a less than ideal Oulton experience, Baldwin still leads the championship on dropped scores, albeit his lead has dropped to just 12 points from the ever consistent Darron Lewis, who could be in line to take the lead should further strong results occur this weekend. Smith and Tuck have jumped up a place each, while Chandler knows he cannot afford to hit trouble this weekend after slipping to 5th in the points.

Looking back to last year at Croft, the men to beat were James Blake-Baldwin and Alan Henderson. Both men have since graduated to the Mk1’s younger sibling, the Mk3, in the MX-5 SuperCup with the latter at the head of the championship table. Outside of that, both Simon Baldwin and Brian Chandler also graced the podium that weekend and with both clear on what’s required of them for their championship hopes, expect them both to be on a charge. Once again, the usual suspects should be mixing it amongst them, with Messrs Tuck and Smith and also Paul Bishop expected towards the front.

This weekend will also see four newcomers make their debut in the championship – the #10 of Japan’s Yoshihiro Ito, the #32 of Liam Brown, the #81 of Darren Stapleton and the #85 of Ian McDonald. A warm welcome to all four and we sincerely hope you enjoy your first weekend with us in the Mk1’s!

The entry list for this weekend reads as follows:

3              Ben Tuck
5              Richard Collins  
7              Courtney Milnes                                             
8              Michael Fisk                                                      
9              Simon Baldwin                                                 
10           Yoshihiro Ito                                                      
12           Harry Deane                                                      
13           Tim Penton                                                        
15           Andrew Caird                                                   
16           Matt Pickford                                                   
17           Russ Lindsay                                                      
18           Clive Powles                                                      
22           Chris Hart                                                           
23           Martin Tolley                                                    
25           Ivan Leary                                                          
29           Adam Craig                                                        
30           Paul Austin                                                        
31           Sam Smith                                                          
32           Liam Brown                                                       
34           Matthew Tasker                                                              
41           Kevin Brent                                                       
42           Paul Bateman                                                   
44           Paul Bishop                                                        
46           Simon Goddard                                               
50           Christian Young                                                
55           Graham Colby                                                  
56           Bryn Griffiths                                                    
62           William Stephenson                                                       
66           Nick Riley                                                            
67           Simon Orange                                                  
68           Paul Tucker                                                        
75           Bruce Carter / Guy Carter                                                            
76           Brian Chandler                                                 
77           John Cockburn-Evans                                                    
80           Anthony Hutchins                                                           
81           Darren Stapleton                                                            
85           Ian McDonald                                                   
86           Pengfei Chen                                                    
99           Patrick Collins                                                   
101         Simon Woods                                                   
105         Roger Chesneau                                                              
117         Michael Close                                                   
177         Euan Milne                                                        
285         Darron Lewis

Looking at the weather forecast for the weekend, there’s another threat of rain as there was at Oulton, with heavy showers predicted on Saturday. Sunday looks somewhat better with cloudy skies forecast and temperatures aren’t expected to exceed 16 degrees all weekend either. Our advice – just to be on the safe side, pack an umbrella and an extra layer or two. Then again the elements did prove us wrong at Oulton, however you it’s better to be safe than sorry, we think! Full details of the forecast are found at CROFT WEATHER.

Also, the provisional timetable, final instructions and entry list for the weekend can be found at CROFT RACE WEEKEND.

Scott Woodwiss

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