BLAKE-BALDWIN, HARDING & HILLS SHARE VICTORY SPOILS AT ANGLESEY
For the first time this past weekend, the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 SuperCup joined forces with its sister series, the Mazda MX-5 Super Series, to race together on a combined grid at the coastal venue of Anglesey in North Wales. Both contests would start with a gap between the two grids to allow both to compete without too much disruption, but despite this the racing across the entire grid was fantastic as the battle for the SuperCup championship title rumbled on.
Amongst the combined qualifying session, Jack Harding would come out on top as the fastest SuperCup driver to take pole with double defending champion Luke Herbert set to line up alongside him on the front row for the first race. The returning James Blake-Baldwin and Aidan Hills made up the second row of the grid ahead of Steve Roberts and Will Stacey, followed by Patrick Fletcher, Jack Sycamore, Nick Rutter and Garry Townsend.
Harding was unable to hold his lead on the opening lap as a mishap would see him tumble down to 8th place by its conclusion, as Herbert headed the field from Blake-Baldwin and Roberts. Throughout the opening laps it appeared that Herbert was able to keep the chasing pack at bay as he stretched his leading margin to around 1.3 seconds, however the second half of the race would see JB-B pick up his pace and close on the bumper of the double defending champion. Sure enough, with just two laps to go, Blake-Baldwin made the move for the lead and demoted Herbert to 2nd place with the positions staying as they were until the flag. Blake-Baldwin collected his first win of the season and became the fourth different winner of 2019, followed in due course by Herbert as mentioned, while 3rd place saw Steve Roberts in the middle of what turned out to be a slightly spread out top 5. Aidan Hills collected a steady 4th place with Jack Harding only able to recover as high as 5th place behind him, with the top 10 completed by Will Stacey, Jack Sycamore, Patrick Fletcher, the returning Paul Sheard and Garry Townsend.
Thankfully, the conditions were much better on Sunday than they had been on the previous day. Dark clouds and a damp track were replaced with brighter skies, a dry surface and sunshine beaming down on the coastal venue. With the grid set by the second fastest times from the qualifying session on Saturday morning, Steve Roberts ended up on pole alongside Aidan Hills ahead of Harding and Race 1 winner Blake-Baldwin, with Herbert and Stacey lining up on the 3rd row. A mishap in the opening couple of corners left Roberts tumbling down to the back of the field, leaving Hills to assume the lead from Harding, Herbert and Blake-Baldwin, but racing was disrupted by the appearance of the safety car towards the end of lap 2 after two Super Series drivers ended up off the road. When racing got underway again just one lap later, Hills withstood advances from both Harding and then Herbert in his bid to collect his third race win of the year. However, entering the final lap in the lead and looking on course to achieve it, Hills made a mistake on the final tour of the International loop and slipped down to 5th place. In turn, this elevated Harding into the lead and subsequently the race victory, taking the win less than half a second ahead of James Blake-Baldwin in 2nd place. Just behind, Jack Sycamore put in a stirring drive to take his first ever SuperCup podium in 3rd place followed by Herbert in 4th and the aforementioned Hills in 5th place. Fletcher, Sheard, the recovering Roberts, Dunn and Townsend were the rest of the top 10 SuperCup drivers home.
Moving on to the final race of the weekend later that afternoon, the reverse grid draw allowed Patrick Fletcher to take pole position with Hills back on the front row once again in 2nd place. Herbert started a little further up this time in 3rd next to Sycamore on Row 2, with both race winners on Row 3 with Blake-Baldwin alongside Harding.
Fletcher struggled to hold his advantage from pole in the opening corners and by the conclusion of Lap 1 he had been shuffled back down to 6th place as Hills once again jumped into the lead, with the same four drivers that had chased him down in Race 2 right behind him. Herbert ended up taking the role of main pursuer in this race as he remained on Hills’ bumper for just about the entire race, ensuring that the likes of Harding and Blake-Baldwin were unable to get a look in. As the pair behind the leading two continued to constantly swap places in the fight for 3rd, Hills and Herbert maintained control of the race all the way through the 12 lap encounter. At times in the closing stages, Herbert looked as though he was ready to make an attack and made a number of attempts to take the outside line past Hills, but the 2017 rookie of the year remained unfazed this time was able to ensure he remained in the lead until the very end. Learning from his mistakes in Race 2, Hills remained in front and drove on to pick up the win he felt he’d missed out on earlier in the day. With Herbert already confirmed in 2nd place, the fight for 3rd eventually went the way of Harding as he was able to beat Blake-Baldwin to the rostrum on this occasion. Jack Sycamore again showed strong progress finishing in 5th, followed by Roberts, Fletcher, Sheard, Stacey and Townsend.
Next time out, the MX-5 SuperCup drivers will head to North Yorkshire as Croft beckons for the conclusion of the first half of what’s been a very thrilling and intriguing season so far, with no clear runaway favourite for the title at this stage!