HERBERT SIGNS OFF 2018 WITH BACK-TO-BACK MX-5 SUPERCUP TITLES

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Herbert was jubilant in claiming his second career SuperCup crown - Photo: Jon Elsey

In another nail-biting final weekend, the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 SuperCup came to a close at Donington Park in Derby with two drivers heading into the finale almost level on points at the top, but only one of them able to leave as champion. And, as per usual, it really did come down to the last race of the season.

Saturday morning’s wet qualifying session set the tone somewhat for the rest of the weekend, with the forecast prediction that conditions weren’t likely to get much better for the duration. As it was, however, the advantage initially seemed to firmly lie with defending champion Luke Herbert as he and running mate Aidan Hills positively blitzed the rest of the field by a least a second to lock out the front row for Race 1 with their fastest times. In turn, their second fastest times were also good enough to make it two front row sweeps, again ending up at least over a second ahead of the second row and beyond. As for fellow title contender Jack Harding, a mix up on car setup severely hampered his chances of a good starting position and he ended up forced to start Race 1 in 14th place, while Race would see him line up a little better but still in 11th.

The weather had significantly improved by the time the cars lined up for the first race of the weekend on Saturday afternoon, with clouds still hanging in the sky causing overcast conditions but circuit having significantly dried out. Herbert and Hills took their places on the front row ahead of Will Stacey, Steve Roberts, an impressive 5th place start for Will Stephenson and former champion James Blake-Baldwin.

Herbert got away from pole cleanly followed by Hills and Blake-Baldwin, but racing would only go green for just one lap before the safety car made its first appearance of the weekend, thanks to first lap retirements for Jonathan Greensmith and George Grant. After just two laps of running at reduced speed, the safety car pulled in and the leaders immediately took off with Herbert retaining 1st place from Hills, Blake-Baldwin and 4th placed Steve Roberts. However, it was the action behind them that was grabbing the attention of the spectators as from 14th on the grid, Jack Harding was carving his way through the pack to reach the front and put the pressure on the leaders. On the restart he was 7th, but by lap 8 he’d stormed up to 2nd place and firmly had his sights on catching Herbert. In the closing laps, Harding was all over the rear bumper of the #1 as he continued to press, but try as he might there didn’t seem to be any avenue through. 

In the end, all he could do was settle for the points for 2nd place as Herbert went on to take victory from pole. Steve Roberts was able to break away to take the final podium place in 3rd, followed by the siblings Blake-Baldwin and Baldwin in 4th and 5th. Hills would have been disappointed to slip to 6th place ahead of Jack Sycamore in 7th, with Colin Bysouth, James Harris and Masters champion-elect Garry Townsend completing the top 10.

Come Sunday morning for the second SuperCup race and the weather could only be described as treacherous. Heavy rain meant that visibility was at a premium and drivers would have to take great care not to fall foul of the conditions. Unfortunately, some drivers were about to find out just how bad those conditions really were.

The race didn’t manage to complete a lap before problems arose, as a spinning Sam Tatler on the approach to Schwantz Curve sadly left cars behind him with nowhere to go. Contact was made with both Bysouth and James Kell, while others took to the grass and skated across in avoidance. With cars every which way on the infield, there was no choice but to throw the safety car. The brilliantly trained marshals and medical teams attended to the scene in seconds, where attention was given to both Tatler and Bysouth. The former required a trip to the hospital where has since been recuperating in hospital due to back injuries sustained, while the latter was shaken and bruised but was able to leave hospital not long after being checked in. We wish both drivers the speediest of recoveries and send our love and support to them and their families while they heal.

As for the race, the red flag was thrown after completing just four laps due to the severity of the incidents and coupled with the increasingly poor weather, the organisers had no choice but to abandon a restart. Therefore, a result was declared with Hills taking his second win of the season followed by Herbert and Blake-Baldwin; the 2nd place for Herbert turned out to be crucial as it gave him vital points to take the lead of the standings heading into the final race. Will Stacey collected 4th place from Greensmith, Roberts, James Harris and an aggrieved Jack Harding who had to accept 8th place thanks to the circumstances. Townsend and Will Stephenson completed the top 10, as the final race of the season loomed.

Fortune did decide to favour Harding somewhat, however, as thanks to the reverse grid draw working out in his direction, he would start the last race of the year from pole position. With the track now significantly drier than earlier in the afternoon but still fairlt damp, this would be the perfect chance for Harding to go all out and hopefully steal away Herbert’s championship chances, especially with the #1 starting back in 7th. Despite this, things didn’t quite go to plan at the start as Roberts stole away the lead from the front row and Harding was shuffled down to 5th in the opening corners. Then to make matters worse, Herbert found a way past to demote him to 6th, which then became 5th again after Harris lost a couple of spots.

Harding, ever the fighter, was in no mood to give up and spent the next few laps not only repassing Herbert but also chasing down a podium place. With Greensmith in his sights, he gave it his all and while he did manage to slip by to claim 3rd place, he could only do so on the last lap. For Jack, despite his herculean effort all weekend, his title challenge once again was over. As it was, Roberts crossed the line for his second SuperCup win of the season followed by fellow double top step visitor Hills in 2nd place. Harding’s 3rd place was a valiant effort, ahead of Will Stacey who clawed his way into 4th place behind him. Harris secured 5th place, but it was the main behind him that would steal the headlines again.

Despite finishing 6th, it was all Luke Herbert needed to become the 2018 BRSCC Mazda MX-5 SuperCup champion and with it become the first driver in the championship’s history to not only win more than one title but to also do it back-to-back too. Greensmith, Stephenson, Alec Livesley and Kristian White completed the final top 10 of the year, while just behind them Garry Townsend’s 11th spot clinched him his second consecutive Masters crown too.

Looking at the final standings of 2018, Herbert was able to cling on to his title by a mere four points from Harding in the end, which was fairly representative considering that throughout the final few race weekends of the season the lead had been traded back and forth by just a couple of points each time. Harding will be determined to secure the title he so dearly covets, should he return next season, while Aidan Hills broke out of his Rookie of the Year status and came of age as a true title contender for 2019 with a superb 3rd place. James Blake-Baldwin will reflect on what might have been and will promise to bounce back next year, while Jonathan Greensmith can’t be too disappointed with 5th after a season of ups and downs. Steve Roberts, Carl Garnett and Simon Baldwin all had steady campaigns to reach positions 6th through to 8th, while Sam Tatler and rookie Kristian White rounded off the top 10.

So, another season of sensational SuperCup action has drawn to a close with another battle for the title that went right down to the wire once again. Thank you and congratulations to every single one of our drivers and teams for taking part and making it a superb year and here’s to more of the same in 2019!

Scott Woodwiss

Next Race

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Last Race

Donington Park (National) 13th - 14th Oct 2018

Current Standings

Driver Accrued Points Adjusted Total
1 Luke Herbert 2130 1862
2 Jack Harding 2128 1858
3 Aidan Hills 2072 1814