LANGRIDGE SPOILS MCR'S CADWELL PARK PARTY

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Langridge left it late to snatch his first overall Mazda victory - Photo: Jon Elsey

A seven-week break between meetings was more than enough time for the teams and drivers of the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship, as Rounds 7, 8 & 9 of the 2018 season took place in the picturesque surroundings of Cadwell Park, nestled amongst the beautiful Lincolnshire countryside. A circuit rarely touched or altered since its inception, Cadwell is one of few circuits left in the UK that plays to the lay of the land, with its thrilling sweeps, undulations and winding corners providing a true test for both car and driver.

In qualifying, Group 2 had the better run of the conditions, as overnight and early morning rain had saturated the track, but while Group 1 didn’t have to contend with a wet track the surface was still damp in places but drying. By the time Group 2 ventured out, the circuit was practically bone dry and this showed in the difference in times between both groups. Those in Group 2 ended up lapping at least 4 seconds a lap quicker than those in the first session, and so it was obvious that pole would end up with the latter.

With the times of both groups combined, Mike Comber would start on the pole for the first Group A race, with Adam Bessell alongside him having topped Group 1’s damper session. Reigning champion Will Blackwell-Chambers and Brian Trott made up the second row ahead of Samuel Smith and an impressive run from Sebastian Fisher. Charlie Burge, Jason Greatrex, John Langridge and Adam Craig completed the lineup, while points leader Oliver Allwood had a lot of work to do starting from a disappointing 16th place.

From the start of the race, it was clear that Mike Comber Racing’s trio of cars had the advantage over just about everyone. Comber took the lead from pole straight away and by the end of the first lap, both Blackwell-Chambers and Smith had quickly moved up into 2nd and 3rd and soon the three cars were circulating together in team formation. All three of them worked together to continuously increase the gap to 4th placed Brian Trott, who was now enjoying his newfound status as the lead Masters driver in the field whilst also maintaining his advantage over 5th placed Bessell behind. By the end of the race, the MCR trio was at least 5 seconds ahead of the pack and cruised home to take a comfortable 1-2-3 finish. Trott and Bessell maintained 4th and 5th places until the flag.

Charlie Burge enjoyed a good battle with Jason Greatrex throughout the race and managed to fend him off to hold 6th position, and it was equally as close in the contest for 8th as John Langridge managed to move past Sebastian Fisher in the early stages before defending for the remainder of the race. Stephen Foden took the final top 10 place after starting down in 14th as he steadily picked off cars one by one until he was on the tail of the Langridge-Fisher battle at the end. As for Allwood, he was forced to stomach a less than satisfying result as he appeared to struggle home to 14th place. Trott did indeed come home top Masters driver from Marcus Bailey and Clive Powles.

For the first Group B race, it would be Christopher Stapleton on pole with Courtney Milnes taking up the second front row slot, with Callum Greatrex and Paul Bateman behind them on the second row, ahead of Ivan Leary, William Hayden, Bryn Griffiths, Adrian Burge, Graham Rumsey and Charlie Rawles. Immediately Bateman leapt from the second row to the lead and was quickly followed by Milnes after pole man Stapleton retained 2nd place from the start. Milnes then made sure she stayed close and at half distance, pounced on Bateman to take the lead. She was able to hold on for the next 4 laps until Bateman reeled her back in and made a move with just two laps to go.

From there, despite her best efforts, Milnes couldn’t repass and Bateman ran out the race as the winner with Milnes a superb and close 2nd. Stapleton ended up 3rd  ahead of Hayden and Burge in the top 5, all of whom would move into the following Group A race. Callum Greatrex took 6th ahead of Leary, Griffiths and Oliver Robinson, with Clive Chisnall completing the top 10 finishers.

The second Group A race once again had Comber on pole with Blackwell-Chambers and Smith lining up around him and Trott, Bessell and Burge next in the order. Once again, the three MCR cars fell into line off the start with Comber leading, but their plan to escape out in front was prematurely scuppered when Marcus Bailey retired on lap 2, causing the safety car to make an appearance. With the field only bunched up for two complete laps, Comber and co wasted no time in getting the hammer down and sprinting away from those behind them, only this time it was Smith ahead of Blackwell-Chambers after a better opening lap. Once again, no-one was able to usurp any of them and for the second race in a row, Comber led his cars home in a clean sweep of all three podium places, only completing 8 laps as a result of the safety car.

Trott again finished up best of the rest in 4th and top Masters driver once more to boot, with Langridge completing the top 5 this time just behind his AB Motorsport teammate. Stephen Foden managed 6th ahead of Charlie Burge, with Oliver Allwood having improved fortunes in 8th, but still lower down than he would have expected. Sebastian Fisher settled for 9th this time with Adam Craig rounding off the top 10 finishers.

Lewis Cannon ended up on pole for the second Group B race with an unfamiliar sight alongside him in Martin Tolley, after an incident in the first Group A race had pushed him down almost to the back of the field. Matt Pollard and Simon Orange took up the second row, with Paul Tucker and Callum Greatrex behind them on Row 3, followed by Leary, Griffiths, Robinson and Chisnall.

Contrary to what some may have expected, it was Cannon who would lead into the first corner and indeed the opening laps, as Tolley slipped to 4th behind Pollard and Tucker. Cannon was quick to establish himself in the lead and was able to pull out a gap of more than 2 seconds by the halfway point. Pollard did his best to go with him but despite being able to distance himself from 3rd place downwards behind him, he wasn’t able to catch Cannon at the pace he was setting. Tucker held on to 3rd place until Lap 6 when he lost out to both Tolley and Orange and would have to settle for 5th place in the end after tailing Orange in the final few laps.

In the lead, no-one was able to catch Cannon as he reeled off the laps one by one and eventually took the chequered flag to win by an impressive 4.3-second margin. Matt Pollard took an equally deserved 2nd place ahead of the recovering Tolley in 3rd, no doubt relieved to be back in Group A for his last race but also most likely concerned as his drop in pace. Orange and Tucker came home in 4th and 5th as mentioned, followed by Callum Greatrex, Griffiths, Leary, Chisnall and Rawles.

Heading into the final Group A race, MCR’s trio of Comber, Blackwell-Chambers and Smith filled the top 3 slots on the grid with the intention of making it a third clean sweep of the weekend. Trott, Langridge and Foden occupied the remainder of the top 6, all intent on trying to spoil their party and as it happens, one of them did just that. Comber wasn’t able to maintain his pole advantage and by the end of the opening lap had slipped to 5th. Smith would be the one to take up the mantle from Blackwell-Chambers, while Langridge had moved into 3rd place and set about chasing down the top two, while Comber had to contend with trying to pass Trott to reclaim 4th.

Blackwell-Chambers took over the lead on lap 5 in an effort to pick up his fourth win of the season and enhance his efforts in reclaiming the championship lead, but now Langridge had dealt with Smith and was on his tail for 2nd place he was being made to work hard. Try as he might, Blackwell-Chambers held on as much as he could but eventually, he was made to capitulate by Langridge on the last lap. After more than a season of learning and progressing, John Langridge picked up his first Mazda MX-5 win overall, with Blackwell-Chambers trailing behind him in 2nd. Smith had been running in 3rd place, but he lost out on the last lap and dropped to 5th as Comber completed his comeback drive to 3rd, while Charlie Burge stole 4th place just before the chequered flag too. Trott took the last top 5 spot ahead of Smith who had to settle for 6th place, followed by Allwood, Foden, Fisher and Powles.

Even though Adrian Burge found himself on pole for the last Group B race of the weekend alongside Christopher Stapleton, he couldn’t sustain his advantage. The conclusion of the opening lap saw him down in 3rd as Stapleton picked up the lead ahead of a fast-starting Marcus Bailey from 4th on the grid. It didn’t take long for Bailey to overhaul Stapleton and hit the front himself as it happened on the following lap, and from there he allowed those behind him to battle it out for 2nd place downwards while he capitalised on their squabbles. Callum Greatrex had also made a great start from 5th and was able to find his way into 2nd on Lap 6 after pressuring Stapleton for a couple of laps.

In a performance similar to that of Cannon’s drive earlier in the day, Bailey pulled out a gap of almost 5 seconds by the chequered flag to score his first ever BRSCC Mazda win, with Greatrex doing all he could to come home 2nd. It was a much closer affair for 3rd place downwards, however – Stapleton, William Hayden and Burge all became tightly packed together in the closing stages, and Hayden was able to pass Burge to put him down another place in the order. With hardly any time or space left on Cadwell’s narrow confines to repass, it was left to Stapleton to pick up the final podium spot from Hayden in 4th and Burge forced to settle for 5th. Charlie Rawles took 6th place ahead of Chisnall, Griffiths, Leary and Robinson.

Leaving Lincolnshire, Will Blackwell-Chambers has made the most of an off weekend for Allwood as he now assumes the championship lead once again. However, dropped scores are definitely a saving grace for Allwood as he’s only slipped to a deficit of 6 points, meaning all of his results from this weekend are likely to be the ones scrubbed for the time being. Mike Comber’s two wins have helped him up to 3rd place just 4 points back, while Sam Smith has climbed back up the standings to 4th after his tough Snetterton weekend; he sits just 4 points ahead of Brian Trott in 5th. John Langridge’s win also gives him his own 4 point advantage, with Charlie Burge in 7th ahead of Tolley, Greatrex and Foden.

There’s no time to rest for the drivers as they only have a turnaround time of just two weeks before the next meeting, a single day thrash at Oulton Park in Cheshire on June 16th. Come the end of the day, we’ll have already reached the halfway stage in the 2018 season, leaving us to ask two important questions – who are the main contenders for the championship title, and where on earth has this year gone already?!

Scott Woodwiss

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Current Standings

Driver Accrued Points Adjusted Total
1 Ben Short 298 298
2 Brian Trott 292 292
3 Joe Wiggin 286 286