Clark drove superbly in wet conditions to give his new car a win on its maiden weekend - Photo: Jon Elsey

Despite being located on the coast of North Wales, the weather still played a massive part at Anglesey for the latest rounds of the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship, which resulted in throwing up some unexpected results including a first time Group A race winner!

Heading into the first of the remaining 9 rounds of the 2017 season, Will Blackwell-Chambers was keen to get himself back to winning ways. That said, his qualifying performance left him scratching his head as he would be forced to start towards the bottom of the top 10 while his rivals took full advantage.

One such rival was Joshua Jackson, who went out in qualifying on Saturday morning and duly topped his qualifying group by over 0.6 seconds from Mike Comber, who was no stranger to competing in a Mk1 MX-5 but was making the switch to the BRSCC championship after campaigning in the MX-5 SuperCup up until this point. Oliver Allwood took 3rd fastest from Brian Trott and Roger Chesneau, with Jason Greatrex taking 6th fastest ahead of Teddy Clark, Matt Pickford and Ben Hancy.

Prior to this, Group 1 had ventured out on track with John Langridge managing to go quickest on only his first ever visit to the Anglesey circuit. Championship contender Samuel Smith was fractions behind in 2nd place ahead of Martin Tolley and the aforemention Blackwell-Chambers, the #43 not able to better 4th fastest. Patrick Lay would lap 5th quickest in the session with Charlie Burge 6th, while the top 10 times were completed by Paul Tucker, Clive Powles, Stephen Foden and Richard Collins.

With times from both sessions put together, the first Group A race lined up on Saturday afternoon with Jackson on pole and Langridge alongside. Teammates Mike Comber and Samuel Smith lined up on the second row ahead of Oliver Allwood and Martin Tolley, with Brian Trott accompanying Will Blackwell-Chambers on the 4th row as the points leader would start 8th. Roger Chesneau would start in 9th spot with Patrick Lay completing the top 10 in the hope of a good result.

From the start and throughout the subsequent laps, Jackson jumped into the lead from pole and was never headed all race. During the 20 minute encounter, Comber made sure he applied as much pressure as he could as he provided key support for his two drivers Smith and Blackwell-Chambers (directly behind him throughout) in their bids for championship glory. The lead gap never extended to more than 0.9 seconds for the entire race, as Comber hounded Jackson all the way with the pair eventually pulling a gap the cars behind.

Try as he might, Comber couldn’t snatch the win and Jackson drove home to collect his 3rd victory of the season. Blackwell-Chambers crossed the line in 3rd, and while Smith did finish 4th on the road, he was later excluded from the result after a post-race technical check found his car didn’t comply with the race scrutineer. 4th place, therefore, went to Oliver Allwood with Brian Trott in 5th and John Langridge taking a fine 6th place. Roger Chesneau picked up 7th with Patrick Lay finishing in 8th, while Charlie Burge and Jason Greatrex rounded off the top 10 finishers.

For the first of the Group B encounters, Oliver Robinson found himself starting on pole alongside Patrick Collins, with Courtney Milnes and Adam Craig taking up the second row behind them. Max Norfolk and Clive Chisnall would start on Row 3 ahead of Ivan Leary and Adrian Burge, with the 5th row comprised of Bryn Griffiths and Jason Taylor.

By the end of the first lap, it was Collins that had taken the lead with Robinson down to 6th, while Max Norfolk had jumped into 2nd place ahead of Craig and Milnes. Throughout the next few laps, the cars behind leader Collins began to shake out as Norfolk and Craig began swapping places in the early stages. Meanwhile, Adam Bessell had started the race from the back of the grid and after just 3 laps had picked off most of the field to reach 6th place. Over the next few laps, Bessell also managed to manoeuvre past Milnes, Robinson and then Norfolk to reach a superb 3rd place. This would be where his charge would end, however, as the top two were simply too far out of reach in the last couple of laps.

Collins completed a flawless lights to flag victory ahead of Adam Craig in 2nd, with the aforementioned Bessell taking his 3rd place. Robinson was able to snatch 4th in the closing stages from Max Norfolk, with all of the top 5 making the now customary leap into Group A for their second race. Courtney Milnes was able to take the finish in 6th place ahead of Bryn Griffiths in 7th spot with Adrian Burge, Ivan Leary and Clive Chisnall rounding off the top 10 finishers.

The second Group A race saw Jackson and Comber line up on the front row once more, with Blackwell-Chambers and Allwood on the second row and Trott and Langridge on Row 3. Chesneau and Lay made up the 4th row ahead of Burge and Greatrex who completed the top 10.

Jackson and Comber once again took off from the line and set about claiming 1st and 2nd places all to themselves, although this time the competition was a little bit closer. Brian Trott had made a superb start to pick up 3rd place by the end of the opening lap and set about making life difficult for the likes of Allwood, Blackwell-Chambers and Langridge behind him. The top 6 remained static with no positions changes for the entire race despite coming close on a couple of occasions, therefore seeing Jackson take his second win of the weekend on the road ahead of Comber and Trott. However, matters weren’t so simple after the race.

Befalling the same technical discrepancy that had caught out Samuel Smith in Race 1, both Jackson and Comber were subsequently excluded from the Race 2 results, leaving Brian Trott to pick up a surprise victory ahead of Oliver Allwood and Will Blackwell-Chambers. John Langridge further improved his results with 4th ahead of fellow impressive rookie Patrick Lay, while Roger Chesneau picked up 6th place ahead of top Masters driver Martin Tolley. Teddy Clark’s dramatic increase in pace was partly thanks to new car and it showed with an 8th place finish – something that would prove rather beneficial later on. Charlie Burge and Jason Greatrex were the final two cars home in the top 10.

For Group B’s second race it would be a familiar pairing of Anthony Hutchins and Matt Pickford on the front row, taking their places ahead of Simon Orange and a fired up Samuel Smith. Courtney Milnes and Bryn Griffiths made up row 3 from Adrian Burge and Ivan Leary, with the top 10 completed on the grid by Clive Chisnall and Clive Powles.

Immediately, Smith wasted no time in picking up the lead from the front row men at the start as he jumped into a 2 second lead by the end of lap 1 which dramatically increased with every lap he drove. This left pole man Hutchins to fend for himself in 2nd place, maintaining a steady 2 second gap to Clive Powles for most of the race. Eventually, Powles would close in and pass Hutchins on lap 8 and, like Smith, would pull away to create a comfortable gap. The positions would then remain relatively the same with no major changes to the order all the way to the flag. However, Smith would sadly be denied from standing on the top step once again as, like in Race 1, he was excluded for the same technical irregularity meaning Clive Powles took the win with Hutchins 2nd and Matt Pickford in 3rd. All three, along with Adrian Burge and Simon Orange would progress to the final Group A race.

Mother Nature decided to add a little twist to proceedings for the Group A’s 3rd and final race of the weekend as rain fell between races on Sunday afternoon, forcing everyone to make setup changes to cope with the wet conditions. Brian Trott and Oliver Allwood made sure the front row was pleasant viewing for AB Motorsport team boss Ali Bray, with Will Blackwell-Chambers and John Langridge taking up the second row and Patrick Lay and Roger Chesneau on row 3. Martin Tolley and Teddy Clark would start from row 4 ahead of Charlie Burge and Jason Greatrex who completed the top 10.

From the start, Trott was able to quickly establish a lead from pole position, while Blackwell-Chambers slipped into 2nd ahead of Allwood, but the key mover on the opening lap was Teddy Clark, who seemed to revel in the adverse conditions by ending lap 1 four places higher in 4th. Incredibly, Clark was only just beginning as he picked off Allwood on the next lap before taking both Trott and then leader Blackwell-Chambers to lead by the end of lap 4. From there, he created and maintained a lead of around 2 seconds for the rest of the race, with the likes of Blackwell-Chambers, Trott, Langridge and Patrick Lay unable to do anything about overhauling him.

In a sensational performance and surely one of the feel good moments of the season, first season rookie Teddy Clark took the chequered flag to pick up a sensational first win in the Mazda MX-5 Championship despite the conditions. Blackwell-Chambers took a strong 2nd place to further reinforce his title aspirations, while Trott rounded off a satisfying weekend at the front with 3rd place. John Langridge and Patrick Lay added yet another top 5 finish to each of their rookie season tallies with 4th and 5th respectively, ahead of Jason Greatrex in 6th, with Allwood surely feeling aggrieved with only reaching the finish in 7th. Patrick Collins, Paul Tucker and Clive Powles completed the top 10, Powles particularly shining despite starting towards the back of the field after his Group B promotion.

The final race of the weekend for Group B was also equally as wet, as Max Norfolk and Sam Gendy took up the front row on this occasion, with Joshua Jackson alone on Row 2 due to Adam Bessell being a non-starter. Mike Comber and Simon Woods took up row 3 and the rest of the top 10 was filled by Clive Chisnall, Michael Close, Bryn Griffiths and Jason Taylor. With some top names once again amongst the regular Group B runners, it was always going to be exciting – especially with Samuel Smith starting from the back of the grid.

Gendy would take the honour of leading lap 1 ahead of a racy Comber, who didn’t waste too much more time in making a move on Lap 2 to take the lead. Gendy, however, wasn’t interested in letting Comber get away and did well to stick with him during the next couple of laps. What he couldn’t hold back was Samuel Smith, who charged his way into the lead by lap 5 before becoming embroiled in a race long battle with his team boss Comber all the way to the end. Once the lead swapping had finished, interestingly enough it was Comber who reached the chequered flag first.

Try as he might, Smith couldn’t overhaul his team leader and had to settle for 2nd place just 0.2 second behind. Gendy did well to hold on to 3rd place and the final step on the rostrum, but the conditions didn’t seem to favour Jackson as he was off the podium and couldn’t better 4th. Michael Close had one of his better races of the season with 5th after solving one or two power issues he’d been fighting in recent races, with Max Norfolk collecting 6th ahead of Simon Woods, Nick Le Doyen, Clive Chisnall and Charlie Rawles.

So, what has this done to the points standings with just two meetings left to go? Well, Blackwell-Chambers is still on top with a lead gap of 50 points, but behind him things have really been shaken up. Allwood has now jumped into 2nd place with that 50 point deficit, but he will know that it won’t be impossible to overhaul that. The surprise mover is Brian Trott whose results in North Wales have launched him all the way up to 3rd, while Martin Tolley lurks behind him in 4th just 8 points back. Jackson has slipped to 5th after his Race 2 exclusion lost him points, while Charlie Burge had a weekend flying under the radar but maintains 6th. Patrick Lay now sits in 7th spot ahead of Paul Tucker, but it’s Samuel Smith that will have felt the sting of this weekend the most. After heading into it in 2nd place, the two exclusions have pushed him all the way down to 9th and with a lot of work to do to get back into the title fight in some way, shape or form; not impossible but it definitely don’t be easy. Stuart Symonds also moves up as he breaks into the top 10.

Two more weekends and 6 more races are left to decide the champion and while everyone else behind him is playing musical chairs in the standings, Will Blackwell-Chambers is keeping his cool whilst everyone around him appears to be losing theirs. He won’t thank us for pointing out that he still hasn’t won a race since Cadwell Park, but even so it’s been the consistent string of podiums and top 5s that have helped him maintain his advantage. How will he fair as the Championship ventures north once again to the awesome Croft circuit in North Yorkshire. A real gem of a track that at times is wrongly overlooked, Croft is a flat, high-speed wonder with mostly fast corners linking several long straights.  Who will have the pace and the power to cope, and will Blackwell-Chambers still be points leader?

Scott Woodwiss

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