A BRAND NEW MAZDA SEASON AT BRANDS HATCH

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Almost 50 Mk1 MX-5s will hit the track this weekend to kickstart 2018! - Photo: Jon Elsey

How do you top a season like that of the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship in 2017? With just over 100 registered drivers by the end of the season, it was unofficially the best-supported championship in British club motorsport last year. Now the challenge is to maintain the cadence and momentum built during the previous 12 months and with just over 60 drivers registered already before the season starts, everything looks and sounds promising.

Where else to start our preview than with the reigning champion – 2017 title winner Will Blackwell-Chambers finally gets to proudly display the #1 on his door this season, something that he’d been questing after for so long. Winning the title is in some ways the easy part – defending it? Not so much. He knows more than anyone that the #1 can be a blessing or a curse and that he will now be a target for his main rivals.

Speaking of which, may of last year’s usual suspects are also back once again in the hunt for stealing WB-C’s crown. Having come close twice before, including second last year, AB Motorsport’s Oliver Allwood must remain the biggest threat to the title. Perhaps 2018 will be third time lucky? Also, never count out Will’s Michael Comber Racing teammate Samuel Smith who, should he appear this weekend, will also be out to take the glory for himself. 2016 title contender Michael Fisk, another driver with AB, has reportedly solved the engine problems that plagued him throughout most of last year and testing has revealed he’s back on the pace. Maybe, just maybe, that first Group A win will finally go his way this year?

Two names you definitely cannot count out either are Masters frontrunners Martin Tolley and Paul Tucker. While they’ll also be set to cause the regular frontrunners some headaches and have done in the past, they will also embroil themselves in their own personal battle. The Masters contest is for the more “experienced” drivers in the field, those being aged 45 and over, sparking a race within a race and adding an extra exciting element to proceedings.

A lot of last year’s regular drivers are back for another year of fun and games, up and downs and everything in between. Those who follow the championships will recognise the names Clive Powles, Paul Bateman, Brian Trott, Stuart Symonds, Simon Woods and Oliver Robinson, while there’s a host of “sophomore” drivers looking to ensure their second season in Mk1s builds on the momentum obtain from Year 1. Ones to watch from this bunch are Teddy Clark, Stephen Foden, Charlie Burge and John Langridge.

As tends to be the case every year, we also welcome a raft of new names and faces to the paddock, so it’s only fair we pay respect to them too. Say hello to Richard Wootten, Sam Jarvis, Graham Rumsey, Matthew Pollard, William Hayden, Charles Mugglestone, Graham Hickman and Jack Moody as they all make their debuts here at Brands Hatch, while experienced Mazda racer Sebastian Fisher is another driver making his first venture on to BRSCC shores. Welcome to the grid, everyone!

So, new drivers, familiar faces and what are likely to be the same bunch of championship contenders plus perhaps one or two surprises. Whatever the case, the Mazda MX-5 Championship is always guaranteed to provide entertainment with its split grid system to accommodate all entries. With more than 40 cars set to turn up this weekend, the new season is all set to kick off in fine style!

Scott Woodwiss

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Brands Hatch - 23rd - 24th Mar 2019

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