ROCHE BRANDS THE REST AT THE HATCH

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Simon Baldwin (#48) made a welcome return to the podium in Race 1A - Photo: Jon Elsey

Once again, there appeared to be no stopping points leader Tom Roche as the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship rumbled in to the Brands Hatch Indy circuit this past weekend as the second half of the season kicked off in earnest.

Cloudy skies met the drivers by the time qualifying came around, with Roche being the only man to set a sub-57 second lap time and topping his group by just over half a second. This left him on pole for Group A’s first race with James Harris marking a successful Mk1 return after his Mk3 one-off appearance at Oulton, lining up on the front row. Simon Goddard took 3rd quickest overall alongside Stuart Symonds, while Simon Baldwin and Michael Fisk made up row 3. The 4th row was occupied by an improving Paul Tucker and Oliver Allwood, with Clive Powles and Martin Tolley completing the top 10.

By the time the first race came around, a fine but steady rain shower had made track conditions tricky, meaning Roche would have to drive well in order to hold off those pursuing him. No sooner has the lights gone out than Stuart Symonds ejected himself from the race in the first few corners, bringing the safety car out for a couple of laps. Harris has managed to squeeze himself into the lead when it arrived and held on through the restart, though no sooner has things gotten underway again than Paul Maguire also fell foul of the wet conditions and retired, causing another appearance from the safety car. Roche made it back in front before this and from there remained in the lead for the rest of the race. While Harris and Michael Fisk scrapped amongst each other for 2nd, Roche’s Blendini teammate Simon Goddard crept up on the pair and ended up usurping both before making a last minute charge after Roche.

At the flag, Roche was only able to clinch his 7th win of the season by 0.354 from Baldwin, making it a handy Blendini 1-2. Fisk got the better of Harris in the end to take the final podium place ahead of Harris, with Simon Baldwin taking 5th in his green and yellow machine after his regular car from this season suffered damage from its Oulton Park incident. Oliver Allwood couldn’t replicate the pace that had earned him a spot in the European MX-5 Final with 6th, ahead of Paul Tucker, Clive Powles, Lewis Field and Paul Bateman.

The first Group B race featured Adam Craig on pole alongside Jack Brewer, with Richard Collins and Anthony Hutchins lined up behind them. Craig’s start was good enough to hold the lead on the first lap before Hutchins made the move to take over at the front. Brewer, meanwhile was quietly picking off the cars around him and on lap 7 made the move on Hutchins to become the race’s 3rd different leader. Fortunes then took a downturn for several drivers as a multiple collision took place on lap 11, forcing Adam Craig, Danny Green, Michael Lawson and Ivan Leary all out at once. With Brewer extending his lead lap by lap, this left a large train of cars battling over the podium places.

 Eventually, Brewer’s gap was more than enough to take the win followed home by Richard Collins and Paul Austin. Go4It Racing saw both of its rookie drivers score well with Andrew Adams taking 4th place ahead of teammate Jack Warry. All of the top 5 drivers would subsequently be promoted up into the second Group A race later that day. Simon Orange took 6th, ahead of Joshua Jackson, Oliver Robinson, rookie Scott Ferguson and Matt Pickford. There was a top 10 finish on the road for Patrick Collins, however he was unfortunately disqualified due to driving standards.

For the second race for Group A, the sun had started to poke through the clouds and the conditions were vastly improved compared to the race earlier in the morning. Roche and Goddard locked out the front row ahead of Fisk and Harris, with Baldwin and Allwood on Row 3 and Tucker and Powles on the 4th row. Thanks to the now completely dry track, Roche was able to properly stretch his legs and once again take up what was now starting to become his customary place out in the lead – extending his advantage by a few tenths every lap. Harris and Fisk got the better of Goddard on lap 2 and began to edge away from the #46 with the pair remaining around half a second from each other for the remainder of the race. Behind them, the fight for 4th remained intense all race between Baldwin, Allwood, Goddard and Powles with Baldwin seeing off the other 3 by the flag.

Speaking of which, Roche racked up his 3rd clean sweep of the year in the Mk1s with Harris eventually holding Fisk for 2nd by 0.142. Baldwin, as mentioned, was 4th with Allwood, Goddard and Powles in tow from 5th to 7th. Paul Tucker, Jake Bailey and Race 1B winner Jack Brewer was best of the rest of the top 10.

For the final race of the weekend, Race 2 for Group B, the conditions were at their best and thanks to the top 5 having moved into Group A for the race prior, it left Bryn Griffiths to take up pole position alongside the #107 of Sam Bailey, Jake’s father. Martin Tolley and Paul Maguire appeared to find themselves in unfamiliar territory in this group, starting on the 2nd row as did Stuart Symonds in 5th as he shared Row 3 with Simon Orange.

Tolley crept forward just a little too much at the lights which eventually led him to get a 10 second penalty further throughout the race. Despite this, he was able to maintain his place out in front with Symonds initially dropping back but then closing in once he’d found the groove. Symonds took the lead from Tolley on the road after 1/3 of the race and began extending his own advantage from there. Joshua Jackson had been running in 3rd for most of the race as he held off the attentions of Orange, Maguire, Bailey et al, however he was unable to see the end with retirement just a couple of laps from the flag. Maguire also faded away leaving Orange and Bryn Griffiths to scrap for the final podium place all the way to the end.

Symonds and Tolley were very much in a class of their own out in front with the former holding on to the lead and therefore the win, while Tolley was far enough ahead of the battle for 3rd that his time penalty didn’t change his result and therefore he still remained 2nd. Austin eventually got the better of Griffiths to take the final podium place and Sam Bailey put in a commendable drive for 5th, but an impressive effort from new boy Scott Ferguson saw him place 6th. Patrick Collins recovered well from his first race exclusion to finish 7th ahead of Anthony Hutchins, Danny Green and Clive Chisnall.

Thanks to his consistent dominance, Tom Roche now has a rather impressive 46 point advantage over 2nd placed Allwood, who appeared to be in damage limitation mode after seemingly struggling with car setup all weekend. Simon Baldwin is just two points back in 3rd with Michael Fisk the only other driver to be relatively close in 4th, exactly 60 points away from leader Roche on dropped scores. Paul Tucker impressively moves into 5th now ahead of James Harris and Simon Woods also pushing deep into the top 10 as he sits in 7th. Paul Bateman, Clive Powles and Martin Tolley round out the top 10 in the standings.

There’s now a break of just over a month and a half before the next two rounds take place at Donington Park on August 27/28, the scene of the championship decider for the last couple of seasons. One wonders if there’s anyone who can stop Tom Roche as every time he jumps into the #125 Mk1, he just keeps on winning!

You can find the full breakdown of the results via TSL Timing HERE. A full, detailed report will be available in due course.

Scott Woodwiss

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Last Race

Donington Park 14th - 15th Oct 2017

Current Standings

Driver Accrued Points Adjusted Total
1 Will Blackwell-Chambers 2218 2044
2 Oliver Allwood 2130 2000
3 Joshua Jackson 2168 1976