The view of the rear bumper of Sam Smith (#36) was a familiar sight to all competitors all weekend - Photo: Jon Elsey

In another weekend of high intensity action in the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship, Mike Comber Racing's Samuel Smith made sure he firmly kept himself in the hunt for the title with a stellar performance in all 3 races at Snetterton, something even his closest rivals seemed unable to match.

Heading into the Snetterton weekend, Will Blackwell-Chambers was still in the lead of the championship on dropped scores despite having missed out on making the podium in the last two race meetings. Returning to the track with a renewed vigour, Blackwell-Chambers duly went out in his qualifying group and went fastest by just over a second from John Langridge, Patrick Lay, Martin Tolley and Brian Trott. His Mike Comber Racing teammate Samuel Smith also topped his session but only by 0.4 seconds ahead of Joshua Jackson, Oliver Allwood, Stuart Symonds and Charlie Burge. This left both MCR drivers on the front row together with Smith’s time faster than that of Blackwell-Chambers, while the second row of Jackson and Langridge set to produce fireworks ahead of Allwood and Lay.

It was Blackwell-Chambers that got the jump at the start of race 1A, as he led the opening lap ahead of Smith and Jackson. It quickly became apparent that the trio had the measure of the rest of the field, as they dutifully pulled away in a battle of their own. Jackson pushed himself between the two MCR cars on lap 2 before stealing the lead from Smith on the next circuit, where he would stay until the final two laps after consistent pressure from the #36. Smith repassed for the lead before Blackwell-Chambers snatched 2nd on the final lap, leaving the top 3 of Smith, Blackwell-Chambers and Jackson to take the chequered flag and take to the rostrum in that order.

Behind them, a fantastic scrap for 4th took place all race long as leading Masters driver Martin Tolley, John Langridge, Oliver Allwood, Brian Trott, Charlie Burge and Patrick Lay all put on a superb show for the spectators as they constantly swapped places. Eventually, Tolley would come home in the coveted P4 spot ahead of Allwood, with the rest of the top 10 completed by Burge, Stuart Symonds, Sam Bailey and Lay.

For the first Group B race, Adam Craig and Kevin Brent lined up on the front row ahead of Jack Rawles, Clive Chisnall and Russ Lindsay. When the lights went out, it was Craig who got the best launch out of anybody and led the opening lap with Rawles and Brent in tow. Rawles took over at the front on Lap 2 and held on for a few laps before Craig re-passed on Lap 5, while Brent remained in 2nd place the entire time and keeping a watching brief. Suddenly, Lap 6 was his opportunity as he took a turn to head the pack which, like in Race 1, was considerably further back up the road than the top 3 – even more so that Group A!

The last few laps saw Rawles recover the lead but the last lap would be the crucial one; Brent left it right to the last minute, but managed to snatch victory on the line by 0.019 seconds! Craig was only a couple of tenths behind in 3rd. There was a brief wait for 4th placed Anthony Hutchins as he came home in 4th place some 13 seconds behind the leader, while Chisnall and Oliver Robinson took the flag in 5th and 6th. Russ Lindsay took 7th place ahead of Simon Woods, Paul Stephens and Adrian Burge.

Group A’s second race had a carbon copy of the front row in the first with Smith and Blackwell-Chambers together again, but this time it was Smith that managed to convert his pole position into the lead. Jackson followed him into 2nd place while Langridge quickly made up a couple of spots and pushed Blackwell-Chambers down to 4th before the #43 took 3rd place back again on Lap 3. Blackwell-Chambers then put his foot down to catch the leading pair of Smith and Jackson, with the 3 cars once again packed together throughout the closing stages. However, neither of Smith’s closest pursuers could overhaul him as for the second time Smith took the win at Snetterton, albeit this time with 2nd and 3rd places reversed compared to race 1.

4th place this time went to Oliver Allwood after John Langridge slipped down the order throughout the race and eventually retired on the final lap. Stuart Symonds picked up 5th place ahead of Martin Tolley and Sam Bailey, with Charlie Burge, Brian Trott and Roger Chesneau completing the top 10.

Incredibly, it would be Stephen Foden starting from pole position for the first time ever for race 2B with Sam Gendy alongside him for company, with Richard Collins, Paul Maguire and Oliver Robinson lining up behind them. Foden immediately showed his rapid progression in ability across the season so far by jumping into the lead and remaining there over the first 3 laps, but Lap 4 would see Maguire take over at the front and from there never be headed. He went on to win with Foden superbly holding on to his coattails in 2nd place and never further than a second behind.

Gendy secured the final podium spot in a relatively spread out field with Richard Collins taking 4th and Clive Powles in 5th. Russ Lindsay managed to just beat Oliver Robinson to the line for 6th spot, with rookie Bill Taylor, Adrian Burge and Ivan Leary finishing the top 10 places.

For the final Group A race of the weekend, Samuel Smith was looking at a potential hat-trick of victories as he and Jackson took to the front row for the final time of the weekend. From the start, the race appeared to be in Smith’s hands as he managed to extend a lead of 2.5 seconds over teammate Blackwell-Chambers, who passed Jackson on lap 3 and acted as something of a rear gunner to conserve an MCR 1-2 to complete the weekend. From there, no further action materialised at the front as Smith maintained his lead gap all the way to the flag to complete a perfect hat-trick. Blackwell-Chambers completed a weekend back on the podium with 2nd, as did Jackson in 3rd, while Allwood managed to rack up another 4th place but it still searching for that first win.

Trott and Symonds did well to clinch 5th and 6th places respectively, with Roger Chesneau also making further progress up the field by finishing 7th. Charlie Burge took the flag 8th from the ever improving Jack Warry in 9th, while Paul Tucker incredibly took his only top 10 of the weekend in 10th, but could take some comfort in main Masters rival Martin Tolley having an awful final race as he trudged home in a lowly 18th.

Earlier Group B race winner Kevin Brent found himself once again on the front row for his final race, albeit this time in pole position with Clive Chisnall alongside. Matt Pickford and a very much out of place John Langridge started on row 2, while Patrick Lay once again proved that both he and Langridge simply couldn’t get away from each other as he started 5th!

Incredibly, it was both men on the second row that got the best starts as Langridge charged into the lead with Pickford quickly in tow. While the #15 of Langridge would pretty much stay where he was for the remainder of the race, Pickford couldn’t hold off Lay for very long as he was already through by the end of Lap 2. Immediately he was putting the pressure on Langridge, the top 2 once again driving away from the rest of the pack. By this point, the weather conditions had changed and the gloomy, overcast skies had decided to open leaving the track wet by the end of the race. In increasingly difficult conditions, Langridge and Lay splashed their way around Snetterton until eventually Langridge would be the one to cross the finish line first.

The pair were only separated by less than a second at the flag, but behind them no-one else could keep up with them in the conditions! 3rd placed Kevin Brent made it to the finish almost a minute behind race winner Langridge, but he was excluded from the result after hitting the back of Pickford’s car at Riches corner. This is turn handed Paul Stephens the final podium place, while Simon Woods put in the drive of his life to cannon through the field from 24th and last on the grid to 4th place after Brent’s exclusion. Adrian Burge picked up 5th ahead of Russ Lindsay in 6th and Ivan Leary 7th, with the top 10 populated by a trio of rookies in Andy Shovel, Jason Taylor and Bill Taylor.

Much like Jenson Button in 2009, Will Blackwell-Chambers will be very thankful for the 5 victories he scored from the first 6 races of the season as, yet again, he is STILL leading the points on dropped scores. Even so, his gap to teammate Smith is 31 points despite the trio of victories, with Allwood another 10 points behind, and Jackson a further 10 back. This means the race for the title is looking pretty intense with 9 races still left to run and a maximum of 918 points on offer.

Martin Tolley, leader of the Masters standings, sits in 5th place less than 100 points behind the lead meaning any slip up from the top 4 could put him straight into contention. Brian Trott has quietly been racking up the consistent scores and now holds 6th position, with Charlie Burge, Stuart Symonds and Paul Tucker ahead of Patrick Lay, who still holds 10th place despite a less than ideal weekend.

As we’re in the middle of Summer, it would be fitting to squeeze in a trip to the coast wouldn’t it? Well, luckily the next rounds will allow our drivers to do just that as we’re off to the beautifully picturesque Anglesey circuit in North Wales. With a great mix of corners, it’s a venue that always for an interesting spectacle. One has to wonder that with the title race being as close as it currently is, interesting is certainly a word to describe the prospect of what lies ahead at least!

You can find the full breakdown of the results here – SNETTERTON RESULTS.

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Snetterton 300 - 10th - 11th Apr 2021

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