Langridge led the way for most of the weekend as he secured two wins - Photo: James Roberts

After an energetic and exciting opening three rounds of the 2019 season at Brands Hatch at the end of March, the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship made its way to Pembrey Circuit in South Wales for Rounds 4, 5 & 6 on Easter weekend. The drivers were greeted on their arrival by clear blue skies and bright sunshine, leaving them in good spirits as the weekend got underway.

Championship leader Ben Short was a late entry on Thursday afternoon, however fellow Brands Hatch race winner Brian Trott elected not to make the trip as he was only contesting selected rounds instead of a full campaign. Nonetheless, Short headed to Wales in a bid to maintain and extend his lead in the standings over the usual suspects at the head of the field. In addition, not only was it the first time that the championship had visited the venue in its current guise, but it was also their first time utilising the new Clubmans layout, with an extra technical switchback section inserted between the Senna Esses to elongate the lap a little further as well as provide potential new overtaking opportunities.

Qualifying group 1 saw John Langridge set fastest time but only by a narrow margin, as two-time defending champion Will Blackwell-Chambers finished the session just 0.043 seconds behind. Steve Foden showed improved progress by taking 3rd fastest some four tenths back, while Ben Short had to settle for 4th but only a couple of hundredths behind. Short’s BS Motorsport teammate Ben Hancy completed the top 5 with an impressive 5th quickest, followed by Adam Bessell, Martin Tolley, David Waters and Marcus Bailey. Completing the top 10 was Dave Turton, who showed improvement over his opening weekend by claiming the 10th fastest time.

Over in the second qualifying group, top time was taken by local favourite Jason Greatrex as he went quickest on one of his home circuits. Popping up into 2nd place was a sensational effort from the young Ginetta Junior graduate Matt Luff, who appeared to be making great progress adapting to the Mazda MX-5 Mk1 after a respectable first time out at Brands Hatch. Jack Brewer made a welcome return and set the 3rd fastest time ahead of Joe Wiggin in 4th, while Tom Smith was beginning to show signs of the pace previously set by brother and 2018 vice champion Samuel by going 5th fastest. Oliver Allwood was 6th quickest ahead of Matt Pollard in 7th, with the top 10 completed by Adam Craig, William Hayden and Jack Moody.

With the times combined, the first Group A race would see Langridge on pole alongside Greatrex ahead of Blackwell-Chambers and Luff on Row 2. Steve Foden and Jack Brewer made up the third row from Ben Short back in 7th alongside Joe Wiggin, with Ben Hancy and Tom Smith rounding off the top 10. With a slightly mixed up front half of the grid, the opening race was certainly shaping up to be an intriguing prospect.

Langridge led from pole from Greatrex and Blackwell-Chambers in the early laps as the leaders quickly broke away from the pack. After 5 laps, Blackwell-Chambers made the move on Greatrex to take 2nd place and instantly set about hassling Langridge for the lead, wary to make sure there was no contact on this occasion as had occurred in Brands Hatch’s second race. Langridge ended up in the Paddock Hill Bend gravel trap that day, but not so on this occasion at Pembrey. Despite the best efforts of the reigning champion, WB-C just couldn’t find a way past Langridge that would stick and by the flag he had to reside with taking 2nd place. Langridge took his first win of the 2019 season, although Blackwell-Chambers made sure he scored an equal amount of points by taking the fastest lap of the race. Jason Greatrex was an unchallenged 3rd place finisher as well as top Masters driver, while Ben Short was unable to close down the Welshman in the end and took 4th after battling with Matt Luff in the opening laps, which in turn lost him time to the cars in front. Steve Foden would collect a strong 5th place finish ahead of Joe Wiggin in 6th, with Ben Hancy, Adam Bessell, Jack Brewer and Tom Smith completing the top 10. Matt Luff had been running strong early on before a mechanical issue forced him out of the race just 4 laps from the end.

For the first Group B race for the second half of the entry, Bryn Griffiths would line up his blue and gold #31 on pole with returnee Oliver Robinson in the ex-Paul Tucker car alongside him in 2nd. Michael Knibbs and Thomas Jenkins made up the second row from Nick Le Doyen and Charles Mugglestone on Row 3, followed by Oliver Jenkins, Alan Hawkins, Richard Wootten and Graham Rumsey in the top 10 starters. In addition, Adam Craig had to start from the back of the Group B grid after a problem with his car forced him to miss the Group A race.

Griffiths immediately jumped into a 2 second lead which the cars behind found difficult to keep up with and therefore reel in over the opening laps. This left the frontrunners scrapping over 2nd place downwards behind him, with Robinson, Le Doyen, the two Jenkins siblings, Hawkins, Mugglestone and Knibbs all fighting amongst each other for position. For the most part, Thomas Jenkins would be the one leading the charge to catch Griffiths and at one stage he was able to bring the gap down to less than a second before seeing it extend back to more than 3 on the next lap. But shortly after this, the safety car was prompted to make an appearance as at the end of Lap 9, Chris Molloy lost the back end of his car on the exit of the final corner at Honda Curve and the resulting spin into the pitwall saw his and Matthew Fletcher’s weekend come to a premature end.

With the race temporarily suspended under the safety car, Griffiths’ lead was eradicated meaning he’d have to spend the final laps of the restart looking in his mirrors. Indeed, when racing got back underway with just three laps to go, Griffiths immediately sought out pulling away from the two Jenkins siblings albeit Thomas was quickly passed by Oliver just a few corners in. Nonetheless, their efforts weren’t enough to steal the lead away as Griffiths reeled off the remaining laps to take the win with Oliver Jenkins fending off Thomas as they took 2nd and 3rd. Adam Craig’s drive to 4th place from the back of the grid could have seen him on the podium had he not been tagged into a spin at the start of Lap 3 at Hatchets Hairpin, but he was comfortably back into Group A for the next race. Michael Knibbs took the final promotion spot in 5th, ahead of Hawkins, Mugglestone, Le Doyen, Clive Chisnall and Graham Rumsey.

John Langridge would again start on pole for the second Group A race by virtue of his win the previous afternoon, albeit this time he would have Will Blackwell-Chambers for company on the front row and on the run to the first corner. Greatrex and Short would be on the 2nd row together ahead of Foden and Wiggin on Row 3 from Hancy, Bessell, Brewer and Smith. The top 10 just about retained that order in the opening two laps, but it would be Lap 3 when Blackwell-Chambers was able to find a gap fast enough and big enough to slip past Langridge into the lead. Over the next few laps, WB-C did all he could to pull away in the lead while Langridge began to find himself in something of a “catch 22” situation. While trying to stay in touch with the lead, Langridge also had to keep an eye on a charging Ben Short behind, who eventually was also able make a move for 2nd place on Lap 10. By this point, however, Blackwell-Chambers was already a couple of seconds up the road and managed to eek out the gap throughout the second half of the race to finally take his first win of the season. Short maintained 2nd place and was able to pull a 1.4 second advantage over Langridge in 3rd by the chequered flag, while Jason Greatrex was again top Masters driver in 4th place. Steve Foden took another P5 from Allwood in 6th, followed home on this occasion by Bessell, Smith, Waters and Wiggin respectively.

With Matt Luff having retired from the first Group A race the day before, many saw him as a favourite to claim a win in the second Group B encounter of the weekend. At the head of the grid Richard Baxter would start on pole from William Hayden in 2nd, ahead of Scott Leach and Luff on Row 2 and Dave Turton and Alan Hawkins on the third row. Charles Mugglestone and Nick Le Doyen made up the 4th row ahead of Chisnall and Rumsey completing the top 10.

Baxter was able to maintain his lead in the opening two laps from the start, before Luff eventually worked his way through the frontrunners to take the lead on Lap 3. This would turn out to be a lead he wouldn’t lose for the remainder of the 20 minute race, as he spread-eagled the field by at least a second a lap throughout. Once again, that meant that those from 2nd place downwards would have to fend for themselves and battle for the remaining podium positions. Baxter found himself dicing with Dave Turton over 2nd place as the two drivers swapped places lap after lap. Also in the hunt was Scott Leach as he watched the pair in front battle for position, until he decided to throw himself into the mix when Baxter made a mistake and dropped to 4th place behind Turton and Leach. By this stage, all this scrapping was just allowing leader Luff to further extend his advantage and he dutifully took the chequered flag by the end by an astonishing margin of almost 19 seconds. Turton would win the 2nd place battle ahead of Leach in 3rd, with Baxter coming home in 4th place after dropping back a little. Graham Rumsey was 5th from Oliver Robinson and Charles Mugglestone, followed by Alan Hawkins, Richard Wootten and Nick Le Doyen.

For the final Group A race, Blackwell-Chambers would start from pole with Langridge alongside once again, albeit positions swapped on the grid this time. With Short starting a little higher in 3rd from Greatrex, Foden and Allwood, it meant that whoever could get the best start would certainly be in the prime position come the early laps. Indeed, that was the case for Short as he rocketed off the line from P3 to take the lead by the end of the opening lap from WB-C and Greatrex, while Langridge dropped to 4th by the end of Lap 1, but quickly began making up time and moved back into P2 by the completion of Lap 2. As Short continued to lead in the early lap, Blackwell-Chambers found himself dropping back as far as 7th, then back to 6th, before an engine issue caused by selecting the wrong gear forced him into the pitlane and retirement at the end of Lap 6. Crucial points lost for Will, but it did mean that he already had a round to use as a dropped score going forwards.

Back in the race, Langridge wasted no time in hunting down leader Short and his efforts came good on Lap 10 when he found a way through and hit the front. From there Short ensured the #5 wouldn’t leave his sights has he hounded Langridge for the remaining laps, however he was unable to make it back through and was resided to 2nd place as Langridge secure win number 2 of the weekend and the season. Behind them Steve Foden was ecstatic with his first podium finish of the year with a hard fought 3rd place, followed home by Greatrex (again completing a clean sweep of the Masters) and Bessell in the top 5. Allwood was again 6th from Smith and Brewer, followed by Wiggin and Luff in the top 10.

The final Group B race saw Jack Moody start from pole alongside Thomas Jenkins, then Michael Knibbs and Bryn Griffiths ahead of Oliver Jenkins, Robinson, Mugglestone, Hawkins, Wootten and Le Doyen. Moody quickly got away from pole to lead from Knibbs, who in turn lost 2nd place after a couple of laps to Thomas Jenkins, and from there the front three were in something of a race of their own. Even though Jenkins was able to keep Moody within his sights to as little as half a second at one stage, he was unable to overhaul the #544 but still managed to keep Knibbs at bay for the rest of the race to hold 2nd place. Moody would indeed complete a lights-to-flag victory from Jenkins and Knibbs, however one of the main talking points was events behind them. After a problem in Race 2, William Hayden had been forced to start from the pitlane for the final race, but with clear track he wasted no time in charging his way up the order. Carving his way through the pack, Hayden was rewarded with a brilliant 4th place finish for his efforts, heading Oliver Jenkins in 5th at the flag. Hawkins again too P6 from Oliver Robinson in 7th, ahead of Griffiths, Joseph Willmott and Mugglestone in the top 10.

Short’s results over the weekend allowed him to increase his championship lead to 46 points with Joe Wiggin moving into 2nd place and Allwood into 3rd, ensuring that consistent points scoring helps them remain towards the sharp end. Adam Bessell and Steve Foden also do the same as they sit 4th and 5th, ahead of Jason Greatrex in 6th while defending champion Blackwell-Chambers has work to do from 7th thanks to his retirement from the third Group A race. Martin Tolley and Adam Craig are 8th and 9th, while Langridge climbs into the top 10 after losing points at Brands Hatch. His two wins and 2nd place were more than enough to see him catapult back up the rankings.

In the Masters, Greatrex’s domination of the competition sees him progress to the top on overall accrued points ahead of Martin Tolley and Scott Leach, however at the time of writing Brian Trott is scheduled to reappear on the grid for the following rounds, so perhaps his advantage may not stay there for long.

Speaking of the next rounds, they take place at another firm favourite for the drivers. The winding twists and turns of the awesome Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire play host to Rounds 7, 8 & 9 of the 2019 season, where Ben Short will be hoping to retain the points lead for a third weekend in a row. However, with Trott expected back in the paddock, an in-form Langridge and a resurgent Blackwell-Chambers, Ben’s trip to the “mini-Nurburgring” may not turn out to be that simple!

You can find the full break down of the results from Pembrey via TSL Timing here -

Scott Woodwiss

Next Race

Brands Hatch - 24th - 25th Oct 2020

Last Race

Donington Park 22nd - 23rd Aug 2020

Current Standings

Driver Accrued Points Adjusted Total
1 Joe Wiggin 494 494
2 Oliver Allwood 490 490
3 Will Blackwell-Chambers 481 481