LANGRIDGE SNATCHES POINTS LEAD AT WIGGIN SCORES A BRACE AT OULTON PARK

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Wiggin has now won five out of the last six races and is on a roll! - Photo: Jon Elsey

The race for the title in the 2019 BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship title took another interesting twist at the recent rounds at Oulton Park in Cheshire, with the top three in the standings eager to exercise any kind of advantage over the others as the end of the season draws near. Needless to say, the racing proved to be exceptional once again regardless of the results.

Qualifying would see once title contender Oliver Allwood showing flashes of getting back to his best with the fastest time over the two group sessions as well as within Group 1 itself. Snetterton’s hat-trick hero Joe Wiggin ended that session just over a tenth off the best time, followed by a fantastic effort from the returning Matt Luff, back on track and going 3rd quickest after a break to focus on exams. Points leader Will Blackwell-Chambers had to settle with 4th fastest almost half a second off Allwood’s best time with Masters contender Martin Tolley rounding off the top 5, with the second half of the top 10 comprised of Jack Brewer, Marcus Bailey, Ben Hancy, David Waters and newcomer Sam Attard, doing well to score a top 10 time in his first MX-5 qualifying session.

In the second group, John Langridge was able to just edge out Adam Bessell for the fastest time, with less than a tenth of a second separating them on the timing screen at the chequered flag. Matt Pollard showed a boost in form with the 3rd best time ahead of Steve Foden and Ben Short, and Masters points leader Jason Greatrex wound up 6th. Another debutant showed impressive pace from the outset as Ash Miller made an instant impact the 7th best time, followed by Jack Moody, Chalres Mugglestone and Willian Hayden.

Allwood’s fastest time was quicker than that of Langridge, meaning he would start the first Grpup A race from pole position. Off the start Allwood was able to hold on to the lead for the opening laps, before some kind of issue forced him to drop back with a reduction in his pace; whatever the issue may have been, Allwood was able to last the race distance and finish in a lowly 11th place. As a result, Langridge took over the lead before the end of Lap 4 but wasn’t able to keep a charging in-form Joe Wiggin behind him for long, as by the end of Lap 5 Wiggin was in front and back at the head of the field once again. By this time, the definitive lead group had formed with Wiggin and Langridge joined by Short, Blackwell-Chambers and Foden. The quintet were never more than 1.5 seconds apart between each other as they jostled for position in the second half of the race, but in the end no-one was able to make any big moves given how closely matched all involved were. Wiggin would end up taking his fourth win in a row with Langridge and Short completing the podium, with Blackwell-Chambers and Foden right on their tail to see the top 5 covered by a mere 1.3 seconds at the flag.

Further back, the next group covering the second half of the top 10 was headed up by Jack Brewer, who finished 6th ahead of Matt Pollard in 7th, Marcus Bailey in 8th and top Masters driver home, Jason Greatrex in 9th place and Adam Bessell slipping back down the order a little from his starting spot to claim 10th.

The first Group B race was rather eventful as Michael Knibbs and Charlie Rawles performed a race long dice for the lead. Rawles was able to take the lead from Knibbs on Lap 2 before the pair drove away in something of their own race while the rest of the pack fought over the last podium place. Try as Knibbs might, there was no way through to regain the lead and Rawles put up a stellar defensive effort to hang on to 1st place for almost the entire race and take victory after 10 laps of racing. Behind the top two, a big battle was taking place for that final podium spot with Adrian Burge, Alan Hawkins, Oliver Jenkins, Ivan Leary and Scott Leach all bidding for that coveted 3rd place as well as the remaining three promotion spots into Group A. All respective drivers would finish in that order with Burge the lucky one on the podium, with the cars behind Burge making up 4th to 7th places. Richard Wootten, Nick Le Doyen and Pete Lancaster completed the top 10.

Ben Short made one of his customary rocket starts at the beginning of the second Group A race, storming past both Wiggin and Langridge to lead by the end of the opening lap. From there, everyone else appeared to be chasing Ben’s tail as Wiggin first tried to stay with Short before Langridge found a way through and began mounting his own assault. Will Blackwell-Chambers stayed in touch in 4th place, while in 5th Oliver Allwood has swiftly made light work of the cars around him after starting in 11th and was able to make his way up on to the back of Bessell by Lap 5, before finding a way through two laps later. Allwood was then able to cruise onto the back of Blackwell-Chambers but unable to overhaul the double defending champion, seeing him end up with 5th place by the finish.

Ahead of them, the trio scrapping over the lead continued to circulate together and ended up in something of a stalemate for the remainder of the race, with Short able to see off the attentions of Langridge and Wiggin to claim victory. Blackwell-Chambers and Allwood duly rounded off the top 5, while Bessell was also able to fend off Jack Brewer in the closing stages to wind up in 6th place. Steve Foden took 8th place ahead of Matt Pollard in 9th, with Martin Tolley back to winning ways in the Masters contest with the final top 10 spot.

William Hayden ensured he was unstoppable in the second Group B race as he started from pole position and never looked back. Undoubtedly the class of the field on this occasion, Hayden was already almost 10 seconds ahead of 2nd place by the end of Lap 5 and by the end of the race this advantage had been extended to almost 16 seconds as he took the chequered flag with consummate ease. Matt Luff was able to put in an impressive drive to steadily make his way up the order from 7th place on the opening lap to an eventual 2nd place, with Scott Leach completing the podium in 3rd place. Stuart French and Bruce Robinson rounded off the top 5, followed by Richard Wootten in th position ahead of Dave Turton, Tim Dore, Nick Le Doyen and Ivan Leary.

With Short on pole again courtesy of his win in the second Group A race, it was no surprise to see him once again take the lead from the start in the final race. This time, Langridge went him on the opening lap, but Blackwell-Chambers appeared to have found some progress with his setup in between races and swiftly took over 2nd place from his main title rival before the end of Lap 2. In his efforts to harass and pursue leader Short, Blackwell-Chambers ensured he remained on his tail for the next few laps with Langridge and Wiggin in tow behind them, the latter steadily moving his way up the order after a poor start had dropped him back a few spots. By mid distance, all four cars were together but it was Wiggin who continued to advance up the order. Shortly after picking off both Allwood and Bessell, Wiggin found a way past Langridge and Blackwell-Chambers to move into 2nd  on Lap 6 and immediately set designs for the lead. A lap later, the top 3 had switched around as not only had Wiggin taken the lead from Short, but Blackwell-Chambers had also pressed his way through back into 2nd, leaving Short demoted down to 3rd place.

At this stage the top 5 were altogether as they had been in Race 1, also with Wiggin at the head of the field. From here, Joe was able to command the race from the lead and despite any late attempts from Blackwell-Chambers, it was not enough to deny Wiggin from picking up his 5th victory in six races to firmly catapult him even further into the title battle with two race meetings remaining. Blackwell-Chambers took a valuable 2nd place ahead of Langridge, who snatched 3rd place from Short in the closing laps to ensure he was right on the tail of WB-C at the end of the race. Short therefore managed 4th place with Allwood in 5th to see the top 5 covered by just under 1.7 seconds at the flag. Matt Pollard completed another solid race to score 6th with Jason Greatrex extending his Masters points lead further with 7th place overall ahead of Jack Brewer, Adam Bessell and Martin Tolley.

The final Group B race saw Dave Turton make a blinding start from the fourth row of the grid to move into 3rd place on the opening lap before picking off both Clive Chisnall and then leader Alan Hawkins in quick succession to take over at the front. Hawkins maintained his place on the tail of Turton for the majority of the remainder of the race, but only lost out on 2nd on the final lap to both Chisnall and Dore, although Chisnall was carrying a 10 second jump start penalty which would enable Hawkins to retain 3rd place in the result. Turton, meanwhile, picked up the final race win of the day with Tim Dore in tow, while Bryn Griffiths and Richard Wootten completed the top 5. The second half of the top 10 consisted of Rumsey, Le Doyen, Chisnall after his penalty had been applied, Fletcher and Burge.

After an intense day of racing, there’s a new leader at the top of the championship table as John Langridge’s strong run of results finishing ahead of Blackwell-Chambers has allowed him to take over at the top by just four points. Wiggin has also closed in too but will need more weekends like Snetterton and Oulton Park in order to stand a chance of causing an upset in the title race. Nevertheless, they will all get a chance to continue their charges next time out in just a couple of weeks’ time on the GP circuit at Donington Park on August 17/18. Don’t miss it!

Scott Woodwiss

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