Rounds 6, 7 & 8 - Cadwell Park - 22/23rd June 2013 Race Report

James Blake-Baldwin ended Tom Roche's dominance at Cadwell Park Photo: www.ajbphotographic.co.uk

The BRSCC Mazda MX5 Championship continued its quest to crown the best Mazda MX5 driver with a triple-header event at Cadwell Park on 22nd/23rd June 2013.....

This was the second of three scheduled triple-header events of the season and would see any potential race winner cement their place in the championship order.

With the BRSCC accepting 34 entries for the event and with the maximum starting grid only being 28 cars, this would mean like Rockingham for the opening rounds, the event would see A and B races. This would also see competitors being split into two groups for qualifying with the fastest 17 competitors taking their position in the A races and the remainder in the B races. Again to add further spice and reward good results, the top 5 in the B races would be promoted to the following A race with the corresponding last 5 in the A races being demoted onto the B grid. All qualifying sessions and races were for 20 minutes in duration.

The weather for both days was changeable with heavy showers forecast.

Qualifying

With qualifying being split, the odd number competitors in championship positions went out in the first qualifying session. The full list of competitors was Roche, Blake-Baldwin, Atherton, Leach, Roberts, Powles, Hart, Kinghorn, Smith (Brett), Prescott, Charman, Bishop, Goddard, Craggs, Baldwin, Jackson, Woods, Edwards, Liversidge. With a very wet track but thankfully not raining, it was Blake-Baldwin who set the fastest opening lap, followed by Smith, Roche, Charman, and Leach.

With competitors trying to find the limit of grip, laps times improved for the 2nd full lap, but it was still Blake-Baldwin who maintained the lead with a time of 1:49.652 followed now by Charman, then Smith, Roche and Goddard filling out the top 5. Lap 3 would again see times improve with Roche now moving into second with Smith into third. Lap 4 would see Blake-Baldwin post a 1:48.686 to maintain his position, but it would prove to be his last lap in qualifying as on the next he ran wide at Park corner and had a heavy impact with the tyre wall.

With 5 minutes remaining in the session, Blake-Baldwin still had the fastest time with Roche 0.279 off the pace, Charman + 0.455 and Smith now 1.420 off the pace. Charman was on a mission and moved into second place just 0.175 behind the retired Blake-Baldwin. However, not to be outdone Roche topped the times with a 1:48.201. Charman responded and moved into second with a 1:48.661 demoting Blake-Baldwin down to third. However, on the final lap of the session Roche demonstrated his mastery of the wet conditions by posting a 1:47.691 - almost a second quicker than his nearest rival. We would have to wait and see whether this would give him pole position in the A race as the faster qualifying session would take pole.

With competitors in the second group taking to the track under a blue sky and a dry track, they knew that a good lap time here could see them take pole in the first A race of the afternoon. The full line-up was Collins, Horalek, Gay, Phillips, Smith (Sam), Preston, Blackwell-Chambers, Hughes, Tucker, Robinson, Gendy, Clements, Henderson, O’Connor, Yeomans and Rogers.

It was Preston who drew first blood topping the time sheets with a 1:49.342 but still some way off the 1:47.691 posted by Roche in the first session. He was followed by Gay, Henderson, Blackwell-Chambers and O’Connor. On the next lap, Gay topped the times with a 1:49.079 followed by Henderson who had moved above Preston. With the track drying, these three all move into the 1:48’s with Henderson fastest followed by Preston and then Gay.

With lap times improving further, Henderson would set his fastest lap of the session on his next passing lap with a time of 1:47.946 only for Preston to pip him by 0.070secs to move into the lead. With only Preston and Henderson managing to get into the 1:47’s, it was Gay who would settle for third place. Try as he might Preston did improve his time to go quickest but his fastest time of 1:47.774 fell short of Roche’s quicker time in the first session. Just behind the top 3, there was a fantastic battle between Clements, Robinson, Blackwell-Chambers and Rogers, who was competing in his first event in the championship. With Clements having posted his fastest lap very early in the session, it was a storming last lap by Rogers, which saw him take fourth place, followed by Clements, Blackwell-Chambers and Robinson.

With the chequered flag coming down on the second qualifying session, the grid for Race 1A would be Roche, Preston, Charman, Henderson, Blake-Baldwin, Gay, Smith (Brett), Rogers, Baldwin, Clements, Leach, Blackwell-Chambers, Goddard, Robinson, Craggs, Edwards and Kinghorn. Race 1 B grid Bishop, Gendy, Hart, O’Connor, Roberts, Phillips, Liversidge, Smith, Atherton, Horalek, Woods, Hughes, Powles, Tucker, Prescott, Yeomans and Collins.

Race 1B (20 Minutes) Saturday 22nd June 2013

Prior to the start of the 1B race, whilst the cars were stationary on the grid, a minute silence was held for Mark Robinson, the marshal who was killed at the Canadian Grand Prix. After competitors completed two formation laps due to the track now being wet, there was drama at the start when a lights failure meant that the Union flag was used to start the race. With the disrupted start, it was Sam Gendy who got off the line quickest followed by Bishop and Chris Hart, off to a flyer from the second row. However, a contact incident between Gendy, Hart, and Bishop resulted in the latter leaving the track to then re-join in last place. It was Gendy who lead at the end of the first lap followed by Hart, O’Connor and Roberts. 

Sam Smith also had a blinding start, which saw him move from the 4th row of the grid up to fifth place. Despite Gendy building a gap to Hart in second, he seemed to struggle on the countryside of the circuit (rather than the woodlands end) and Hart closed right up going into Mansfield. However, it was Sam Smith who was moving towards the front taking Alex Roberts and fourth place through Park and then dispatching O’Connor through Gooseneck and Mansfield to move into third place. With Hart looking as if he made a mistake going up Mountain, Smith moved into second place. With Smith on a charge and his sights now firmly set on Gendy and the lead, a move round the outside of Gendy at Mansfield and the drag down to Mountain Bottom saw him take the lead. An almost identical move by O’Connor say him overtake Hart to take third. The run between Mansfield and Mountain was proving to be a good hunting ground for O’Connor who moved into second on the next lap despatching Gendy back into third. Hart dropped back to seventh just in front of Yeomans who was up to eighth position having started on the eighth row of the grid.

With Smith having built a huge gap of 11 seconds on Lap 6, it was the third place battle between Gendy, Phillips and Roberts, which took centre stage. A black and orange flag displayed for a loose exhaust was a blow to Phillips, but in any case, he span at Park, which saw Roberts and Atherton move up and he dropped back to sixth. Roberts then closed on Gendy and took third place on the inside line down into Mountain Bottom. Meanwhile the unfortunate Paul Bishop moved back up into eighth place. With Phillips pitting on the next lap due to his loose exhaust, all those behind him moved up a position with Bishop now in seventh just behind Hart, trying desperately to get back into the top 5 for promotion into race 2A. Gendy who lost his third place to Roberts earlier applied the pressure in Park Corner and it worked as Roberts span at Chris Curve and watched as both Gendy and Atherton pass him. He got the car pointing in the right direction and crucially re-joined in the all-important fifth place. With positions maintained for the completion of the next lap, the chequered flag was shown to Smith some 21 seconds ahead of O’Connor in second and Gendy in third. The top five was completed with Atherton in fifth and Roberts in sixth.

Race 1A (20 Minutes) Saturday 22nd June 2013

As Race 1A made its way to the grid the track was now dry. With the lights going off to signal the start of the race, Roche assumed his normal position and took the lead in Coppice followed by Preston, Charman, Henderson and Smith with Blake-Baldwin back in sixth. On the second lap, the battle for third was tight with Henderson very close into Coppice behind Charman. Blake-Baldwin moved up to fifth place having been side by side with Smith on the run up to Park and Chris Curve. The next lap saw Blake-Baldwin continue his charge and take fourth place from Henderson. Preston also closed the gap on Roche to half a second.

Further back down the field JJ Clements span onto the grass out of Charlies and lost a position to Dan Rogers. Also on the same lap, Blake-Baldwin continued his excellent drive and moved up to third place having overtaken Charlie Charman. In doing so Blake-Baldwin also set the fastest lap of the race so far.  Smith then took fifth place from Henderson completing a move over the top of the Mountain. On lap 6 Smith repeated the exercise and took fourth from Charman, completing the move in front of the cafeteria on the run into Hall Bends. Having taken third place four laps earlier, Blake-Baldwin made it a three-car battle for the lead on lap 7. As the three ran nose to tail down Park Straight, Preston moved to the outside of Roche in Park corner to try and take the lead, but in doing so left the door open for Blake-Baldwin who took second. Blake-Baldwin was now nose to tail with Roche through Gooseneck, Mansfield and down into Mountain Bottom. Side by side the two protagonists battled for the lead up Mountain and it was Blake-Baldwin who got ahead when Roche went onto the grass through Hall Bends. Preston also took advantage moving into second, demoting Roche back to third.

Meanwhile further back down the field Ed Gay had moved back up to eighth having dropped to thirteenth despite starting the race on the third row. He was now in a 3-way battle for sixth place between Charman and Goddard. Gay then ruined his chances of sixth by running wide at Charlies and dropping valuable time. Charman and Goddard went side by side down the long stretch of Park Straight and Goddard took sixth into Park. Roche was still trying to get back up to the leaders but lost valuable time when running wide at the Gooseneck and on Lap 10 he was almost 2 seconds behind Preston in second.

With Blake-Baldwin approaching the start/finish on Lap 11, the flag marshal had the chequered flag in his hand, but didn’t show it and it was the correct decision as Blake-Baldwin went through with just 1 second left on the clock. Roche gained 0.4 seconds on Preston during the penultimate lap but was still 1.4 seconds behind. Roche had a good run through Coppice, Charlies and Park Straight and was right behind Preston as they went into the Gooseneck and Mansfield. Side by side they went underneath the new footbridge and Roche had the inside line to take second place into Mountain on the last lap. It was Blake-Baldwin who took the chequered flag having also done the fastest lap, which means he scored maximum points. Roche was second, Preston third, Smith fourth with Henderson completing the top five.

Race 2B (20 Minutes) Sunday 23rd June 2013

The importance of doing well in the A races was ably demonstrated with the last 5 placed competitors in race 1A being demoted onto the front of race 2B. Therefore, in pole position was Callum Edwards, with Matt Robinson joining him on the front row. The rest of the grid was Leach, Craggs, Kinghorn, Bishop, Hart, Yeomans, Tucker, Collins, Woods, Powles, Prescott, Hughes, Phillips, Liversidge and Horalek.

It was raining as the cars lined up on the grid and with issues with the starting lights for this race, it was Robinson who took the lead into Coppice from Edwards and Leach. Also making a good start was John Kinghorn who got ahead of Stephen Craggs. Paul Bishop again lost places on the start to Chris Hart. At the end of the 1st lap, Edwards was nose to tail with Robinson with a gap to 3rd place, which was a close run battle between Leach, Kinghorn, Craggs and Hart. Craggs applied pressure to Kinghorn through Park and Chris Curve and the pressure told as Kinghorn went off onto the grass and lost his position to Craggs. Craggs continued his charge and also overtook Leach in third place. At the end of Lap 3, Hart also managed to get ahead of Kinghorn whilst at the front in his pursuit of Robinson, Edwards posted the fastest lap of the race so far. Back in the midfield, Phillips was in a terrific fight battle for eighth with Yeomans. Phillips started the race on the eighth row of the grid due to mechanical issues in his first race, and while trying too hard he had a huge moment at Charlies but did well to keep his position.

Meanwhile Robinson stretched his lead to 1.7 seconds but it was Stephen Craggs who posted the fastest lap in his pursuit of Edwards in third place. They seemed to be trading fastest laps on the next lap, Edwards retook the accolade and reduced gap to Robinson to just over 1 second. However, on the next lap Edwards lost all his good work as the gap to Robinson widened to 4.2 seconds. Robinson, Edwards, Craggs, Leach and Hart were the top five after 7 laps with Kinghorn chasing hard just 1.8 seconds behind Hart. Lap 9 and Kinghorn reduced gap to Hart to 0.6 seconds in the battle for fifth. Liversidge spun at the bottom of the Mountain on the last lap, but it was Robinson who took the chequered flag. In second place and with fastest lap of the race was Edwards. Third was Craggs, fourth Leach and holding on to the last promotion spot was Hart, just 0.6 seconds in front of Kinghorn.

Race 2A (20 Minutes) Sunday 23rd June 2013

With the grid for this race being the result of Race 1A with the addition at the rear of the field of the top 5 from Race 1B we were in a for a cracking race. However, as the cars made their way onto the grid, it started raining which meant that the drivers would need to be extra careful on the very slippery surface. From the start Roche took the lead from pole sitter Blake-Baldwin and such is his ability in the wet he was some 6-car lengths in the lead by the time they reached Gooseneck on the first lap. At the end of that lap the order was Roche, Blake-Baldwin, Smith, Preston and Henderson. Lap 2 saw Smith close right up on Blake-Baldwin through Mountain but they maintained position.

Meanwhile, it was Gay who was on the move and he overtook Charman and Baldwin on the run down into Mountain, moving up to seventh place having dropped back to ninth on the opening lap. Blake-Baldwin went the other way and finished the lap in tenth. On lap 4 getting a good run out of Barn, Smith took a look down the inside on the run down to Coppice but backed out and remained in third. Meanwhile Preston joined the queue for second and we now had 3 cars in a battle for the runner up spot. With the pressure mounting behind him, Smith took second place from Blake-Baldwin emerging ahead of him out of Park corner. Completing lap 4 Roche had a commanding lead of almost 6 seconds and having lost a place on that lap, Blake-Baldwin fell back into the clutches of the fast charging Preston.

Meanwhile at the back of the field there was a fight to maintain position as dropping into the last five places would see those drivers running in Race 3B. Sam Smith was in the last relegation spot but Rogers was only 0.5 seconds in front of him. Rogers was in his own battle with Clements and got in front of him on Lap 6, with Sam Smith now just 0.111 seconds behind Clements. Lap 7 saw Gay get ahead of Goddard and next in his sights was Henderson who was trying to hang onto the remaining trophy spot in fifth. Brett Smith was now getting the most out of the drying track and posted a fastest lap of 1:59.965 on Lap 7. He further improved the fastest lap time on Lap 8 to 1:59.651 and on Lap 9 reduced it further to 1:58.121 to reduce the gap to Roche down to 2.645 seconds.

Preston, over the same laps was very close to the tail of Blake-Baldwin but was unable to find enough grip to get ahead of him. On the last lap it was a Blackwell-Chambers and Goddard who were side by side on Park Straight, then Park corner and it was Blackwell-Chambers who emerged out of Chris Curve ahead of Goddard to take 7th place. It was Roche who took the chequered flag but only by 1.180 seconds as Brett Smith posted yet another fastest lap of the race, scoring two championship points as a just reward. On the run to the line Blake-Baldwin maintained his third place finish but only just as Preston followed him home by 0.136 seconds. Henderson completed the top 5.  Gendy, Roberts, O’Connor, Atherton and Smith (Sam) were relegated to Race 3B.

Race 3B (20 Minutes) Sunday 23rd June 2013

Following the completion of Race 2A, Sam Smith was on pole and he was joined by Atherton, O’Connor, Roberts, Gendy, Kinghorn, Bishop, Phillips, Collins, Horalek, Hughes, Prescott, Tucker, Yeomans, Powles, Woods and Liversidge. With Smith comfortably having won Race 1B, could he go for the double?  With the track dry but the weather still changeable it was Atherton on the front of the grid who made the better start and took the lead into Coppice. It was then 3 abreast as Atherton, Smith and O’Connor went through Park and Chris Curve and it was the orange car of O’Connor who appeared in the lead ahead of Atherton in second.

O’Connor maintained his position and, almost like Roche in the earlier 2A race, he pulled out a 2.6-second gap at the end of the first lap. His job was now to maintain it. Atherton appeared to have a torrid time through the Hall Bends section and dropped to fifth place. However, Phillips who crossed the line in front of Atherton made a mistake and dropped to seventh position with Atherton moving back up to fourth. On the line Sam Smith pulled a second out of O’Connor’s lead and was now just 1.5 seconds behind. However, it was Kinghorn in third who was the fastest posting 1:54.166.  In a battle for fifth place it was Collins, Bishop and Phillips who tried to go three abreast on Park Straight, which is probably the narrowest part of the circuit. Deciding that it wasn’t the best idea, they retreated to nose to tail. However, a couple of mistakes by Bishop saw him spin at the bottom of the Mountain and for the second time over the weekend he found himself at the back of the field.

Keeping himself out of trouble, Atherton was back up to third position ahead of Kinghorn. But Kinghorn applied the pressure in Park corner and got ahead of Atherton for the second time. But it was now Phillips, who charging hard in fifth, posted the fastest lap of the race in trying to catch Kinghorn and Atherton in third and fourth. Meanwhile, O’Connor who was being reeled in by Smith, posted two very quick laps and increased the gap between him and Smith to 5 seconds. On Lap 6, with Smith still charging hard, it was now a four-car train into the bottom of Mountain headed by Smith in second place, followed line a stern by Kinghorn, Atherton and Smith.  Kinghorn emerged first out of Barn and moved up to second place, but the leader O’Connor was already 6 seconds down the road. Phillips was now very close to the back of Atherton in the fight for fourth place and he had a look down into Coppice but Atherton closed the door.

A mistake by Smith into Barn saw him drop behind Phillips and Atherton and then on the run into Coppice Phillips took third place. But Smith wasn’t far behind these two and the next time into Park he took the inside line and fourth place from Atherton at Chris Curve. In probably the longest battle during the race Collins and Roberts were never more than a couple of car lengths from each other in sixth and seventh. Roberts seemed to try and get past him into Mountain bottom over a number of laps but Collins always maintained his place. Roberts then had a look into Park corner, but Collins stayed in front, before going onto the grass at Gooseneck and Roberts was through into sixth place. To add further misery Collins dropped another place and recovered behind Hughes into eighth. So at the chequered flag it was O’Connor who crossed the line first, followed by Kinghorn, Phillips, Smith and Roberts. The fastest lap went to Phillips.

Race 3A (20 Minutes) Sunday 23rd June 2013

The final race of the weekend would yet again see the best Mazda MX5 competitors in the UK battle it out over 20 minutes round the undulating Cadwell Park circuit. The grid certainly showed the talent on display. On pole was Roche, then Smith, Blake-Baldwin, Preston, Henderson, Gay, Blackwell-Chambers, Goddard, Baldwin, Charman, Rogers, Clements, Robinson, Edwards, Craggs, Leach and Hart. The weather had improved over the day with the track dry but it was still cloudy.

With a good start from both front row protagonists, it was Smith who held firm and took the lead after running side by side with Roche through Coppice and Charlies. Behind them, Preston managed to get in front of Blake-Baldwin who was closely followed by Henderson. Despite the best efforts of Smith and Roche to try to pull a gap on the chasing pack, it was suddenly five cars fighting for the lead as they approached Mansfield on the second lap and Blake-Baldwin got in front of Preston. The front three pulled slightly ahead of the chasing pack and Roche came under huge pressure from Blake-Baldwin who was the fastest man on the circuit. But despite Blake-Baldwin looming large in his mirrors, Roche took a look at Smith into the Gooseneck with the cars side by side. There was contact between Blake-Baldwin and Preston and then Roche as they came into Mansfield. This resulted in Preston going onto the grass and dropping out of the top ten. Completing the lap, there was nothing between the top five. Roche tried to get by Smith on Park Straight on either side of his car and in the meantime he had to defend his position with Blake-Baldwin all over the rear of his car. As they battled against each other the fight was joined by Gay and Goddard so any mistake would almost certainly see someone drop completely out of the top 10. This almost happened to Roche as he got two wheels onto the grass coming into Gooseneck, losing a couple of car lengths but he still stayed ahead of Blake-Baldwin.

On the following lap both Smith in the lead and Roche went wide at Gooseneck and Blake-Baldwin, sensing an opportunity, went for the gap. The cars ran side by side from Mansfield and braking later than Roche was Blake-Baldwin who moved up into second place. On the same lap a mistake by Henderson saw him drop back to sixth place with Gay and Goddard moving up a place each. Despite Smith taking a one second lead on Lap 6, a fastest lap by Blake-Baldwin saw him close right up as both cars came down the hill into Mansfield. The other charger on that lap was Preston, who had dropped back to 13th place, but on Lap 6 he despatched both Clements and Rogers to move back into the top 10. On the next lap Preston was all over the back of Blackwell-Chambers as they headed into Coppice and on the run up to Charlies Preston took ninth position. 

There were battles all the way down the field with Blake-Baldwin attacking Smith for the lead, Gay having a couple of stabs at Roche for third and Goddard, Henderson and Charman in a fight for fifth. On Lap 9 there was a change of lead as Blake-Baldwin emerged out of Charlies in front of Smith but Smith wasn’t giving up easily and tried to retake the position into Park corner but Blake-Baldwin held firm. Trying too hard to get away Blake-Baldwin went sideways on the grass as he exited Barn, but he maintained his leading position. A train of four cars was headed by Roche in third with Gay and Henderson nose to tail as they went into Park. Henderson emerged in fourth place ahead of Gay as they came out of Chris Curve. 

Meanwhile Preston continued his recovery and moved to seventh place ahead of Baldwin and Goddard. With the last lap board being displayed Blake-Baldwin and Smith had pulled a gap but the battle for third was by no means finished with Roche, Henderson, Gay, Charman and Preston, with an unbelievable drive, joining the fun. The quintet circled almost as one on the final lap with each trying desperately to get ahead of the other but up front it was Blake-Baldwin who took the chequered flag for the second time. He was followed in a very strong second by Smith and in the race long battle for third, Roche led home Henderson and Gay. The fastest lap of the race also went to Blake-Baldwin on Lap 6 when he really chased down Smith to set up a passing move, which led to his victory.

The results from Cadwell Park saw the momentum in the championship swing towards Blake-Baldwin who came away with two victories and fastest laps in each of those races. Tom Roche scored a solitary win but Brett Smith took the fastest lap. With eight rounds completed and a chance now to see the effect of dropped scores, it means that Roche leads on 510 points, followed by Smith in second on 488 with Blake-Baldwin now third on 484 points.

The next event will be a double header on Snetterton 300 circuit on 20th/21st July 2013.  With a massive grid capacity of 45 cars, the BRSCC Mazda MX5 Championship will surely entertain the spectators yet again.

 

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