Harding and Roberts took the spoils of victory from North Yorkshire - Photo: Jon Elsey

An intense weekend of racing came and went in the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 SuperCup as the championship headed to Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire to conclude the first half of the season. With Luke Herbert, Jack Harding and Aidan Hills tightly locked together in the fight for the championship title, the tension at the top of the standings was set to heighten further.

Harding’s pace in qualifying saw him grab the fastest and second fastest times in Saturday morning’s qualifying session, with double defending champion Herbert ready to line up on the front row of the grid for Race 1. Steve Roberts would start 3rd alongside Hills in 4th on the second row, with Fletcher and Stephenson starting on Row 3 and Jack Sycamore and Garry Townsend on the fourth row.

Harding held the lead from the start with Herbert and Hills immediately looking to hunt him down in the opening laps. As the race ticked on, Harding was able to hold back the tide from those looking to overthrow his lead and kept the lead gap hovering around half a second for just about the entire race. Herbert was able to run in 2nd place for more than half the race until a surprise dive up the inside at Sunny In from Hills on Lap 9 saw the #8 slide through to take over P2, much to Luke’s surprise! Even so, Hills wasn’t able to close down Harding enough either, as Jack raced on the final laps to take another victory in 2019. Hills and Herbert filled out the podium, while Patrick Fletcher continued to make impressive progress in his first rear wheel drive season with a strong 4th place. Roberts completed the top 5, with the rest of the first 10 drivers home consisting of Stephenson, Sycamore, Townsend, Henderson and Rutter.

The cars lined up in effectively the same order on the grid as Race 1, with the line-up set by the second fastest times from Saturday’s qualifying. With Harding again on pole with Herbert alongside him once more, the battles effectively picked up where they’d left of from the day before, with Harding leading a five car group dicing over the podium places featuring Herbert, Hills, Roberts and Fletcher. The quintet remained in this order for the majority of the race, but the big change only came on the final lap when Hills decided to throw caution to the win at the same place he’d triumphantly passed Herbert for 2nd place in the first race. However, this time he was going for the lead and made an ambitious attempt at sailing down the outside of everyone which didn’t pay off. He ran wide at Sunny In and slipped down to 5th as a result, as Harding completed his second race win of the weekend from Herbert and Roberts, with Fletcher 4th and the aforementioned Hills rueing his last lap mishap. Stephenson took 6th although he, Fletcher and Hills were all given 5 second time penalties for track limits yet remained in their finishing positions. Townsend finished in 7th place, ahead of Henderson, Rutter and Kent.

For the reverse grid, David Henderson was the lucky man to draw pole position with the top 8 from Race 2’s result inverted for the final race of the weekend. However, drama came even before the race had started, as a rare mechanical issue forced Aidan Hills out on the formation lap, pulling off the track and losing valuable points to his rivals. From the start,Townsend did well to take and hold the lead for the opening lap before coming under threat from a fast starting Roberts who took over before the end of Lap 2. However, Townsend didn’t seem to know when he was beat and repassed Roberts before the end of Lap 3 to lead once more. Then, it all kicked off as the top 6 changed substantially – Harding stormed through to go from 6th to the lead in one lap with Townsend somehow holding on to 2nd place, while Roberts headed Herbert with a charging Jack Sycamore closing in on the cars in front. The next lap saw another substantial switch-around as Roberts moved back into the lead and taking Herbert with him, while Harding slipped to 3rd and Fletcher took 4th; as for Townsend, was now back to 6th and enjoying a good scrap with Sycamore over the last top 5 place. From there it was back and forth between Roberts and Herbert for the lead with Roberts just about keeping the double champion at bay. Despite some wheel to wheel racing and a little nudge between them here and there, Roberts held back the tide and drove on to clinch his first SuperCup win of the season. Herbert and Harding picked up 2nd and 3rd behind him, with the latter getting a 5 second penalty but still remaining on the rostrum. Fletcher took another 4th place on the road but he too also was given a penalty for track limits and tumbled down to 11th. So, as a result, Nick Rutter picked up a personal best result of 5th, with Sycamore 6th ahead of Stephenson, Henderson, Kent and Ray Worley, picking up 10th place on his return.

The second half of the season is all set to get underway with Brands Hatch at the end of the month in Kent the first port of call. Which direction will the title battle take this time?

Scott Woodwiss

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