Brands Hatch 3rd August 2013

Biggest grids yet but more change at the top of the leader board....

Brands Hatch saw the biggest grids yet in this growing championship and provided an eventful days racing that showed how you can never predict what's going to happen in the MX-5 SuperCup. At a meeting where his previous nearest rival Matt Davies wasn't competing, a retirement for championship leader Paul Sheard in race 1 nearly put him out of contention for the championship altogether! However, the same great racing that we have come to expect from the SuperCup means that the championship battle is really on as we go into the deciding round at Oulton Park. Read the full report below.

Race Report

      

Qualifying

A compact timetable, with rounds 13 and 14 of the MX-5 SuperCup at Brands Hatch both taking place on the Saturday, forced an early start for the teams and drivers as the cars would be first out onto the circuit.

The skies were overcast and producing the occasional spots of rain  adding to some damp patches still remaining from rainfall overnight as the SuperCup drivers headed out onto the Indy circuit early on Saturday morning for the 20 minute qualifying session. There was limited testing available prior to the meeting meaning that many of the drivers were having to get a feel for their cars and the circuit during the opening laps of the session, so the first few laps were completed cautiously while the drivers built up their speed to try and challenge for the pole position.

It was championship leader Paul Sheard who set the early pace in the session being the first man to break under the 57 second mark, closely followed by Clint Bardwell. With 5 minutes of qualifying remaining, MX-5 SuperCup returnee Melvyn Hodgson lost control of his car on the entry to Paddock Hill bend and entered the gravel trap backwards. With his car stranded in a dangerous position, this brought the red flag out in the session but Melvyn's lap time was still good enough for P10 overall. When the cars made their way back to the pits during the halt, there was much confusion amongst the drivers as nobody knew if the session would be restarted to see out the minutes left on the clock. 

When the session was restarted, some drives geared up and headed back out while others decided not to. Of those who did, it was another driver returning to the championship for the first time since 2012, David Chapman who was the only man to improve his time. Having steadily upped his pace over the session, he clinched his maiden SuperCup pole position on his final lap with a 56.257 second lap, narrowly edging ahead of Paul Sheard and Clint Bardwell.

Abbie Eaton followed on from her successful return at Donington Park and a had another strong qualifying, taking fourth spot on the grid just in front of previous race winners from this season Andrew Clarkson and Mike Comber.

Race 1

Conditions improved during the morning so that by the time the drivers lined up on the grid to take their starting positions for race 1 the sun was shining and the track had completely dried.

As the lights went out, Paul Sheard got the better start of the two front row men and took the lead from David Chapman on the run towards Paddock Hill Bend. As the cars went round the first corner, Clint Bardwell starting from third on the grid was caught out by cold tyres and lost the rear of his car and spun towards the gravel on the exit. Chaos unfolded in the mid pack, Will Chappell was able to squeeze round the outside while Andrew Clarkson had to take to the gravel trap to avoid the incident. Unfortunately Bardwell was collected by Mike Comber as he spun across the nose of the number 58 car, making contact with the right rear corner of Bardwell’s machine. Both cars were able to resume racing but Bardwell headed for the pits at the end of the lap as the impact from Mike had knocked his suspension out of alignment.

As the leaders began the second lap, Abbie Eaton made a move up the inside for second place on Chapman going into the first corner and set about harassing Sheard for the lead of the race. On lap 3 Eaton dived up the inside of Sheard at Clearways and took first position momentarily but a slide on the exit caused her to lose out on the run along the start finish straight. On the following lap, Chapman got the better run going onto the Brabham Straight and crossed the line side by side with Eaton before snatching back second place under braking for Paddock.

The tight 3 way tussle for the lead between Sheard, Chapman and Eaton continued while behind them Mike Comber was moving up the order following his incident on lap 1. Comber was gaining places and had made it up to seventh position while lapping faster than Darren Standing ahead before being forced to retire. Comber’s impact with Bardwell on the opening lap had caused the battery cable on his car to become disconnected and this led to his eventual retirement from the race on lap 9.

As the front 3 drivers entered lap 13 of the race they were still covered by little over a second!  On the run up the hill to Druids, Paul Sheard suffered a very rare engine failure while in the lead of the race. Chapman and Eaton who were following close behind Sheard were able to make it safely round Druids but unaware of the fluids which had been dropped onto the track, Will Chappell and Andy Clarkson in fourth and fifth positions spun simultaneously on the slippery track surface. Clarkson was able to get going and rejoin the race but Chappell’s car became beached in the gravel at Druids and he was able to go no further.

From that point on Chapman was able to maintain a steady gap over rival Eaton and mark his return to the championship with victory in race 1. Clarkson took the third podium step at the chequered flag, some 30 seconds back after recovering from his spin just ahead of Darren Standing in fourth. Geoff Gouriet and Ray Worley completed the top 6 in the race.

Race 2

Unable to repair his own car in time for race 2 in the afternoon, David Chapman generously agreed to lend Paul Sheard his car so that he could compete in the race and hope to gain some vital championship points to keep him in contention for the championship title.

With Chapman not contesting race 2, this elevated Eaton to pole position on the grid with Clarkson starting alongside her on the front row. Eaton made the best start of the two and led the opening lap ahead of Clarkson and Standing in third. Paul Sheard who was starting from last place on the grid after his earlier retirement made a lightning start, overtaking 5 cars by the time the field had made its way round onto the Cooper Straight.

Eaton and Clarkson pulled a slight gap on the chasing cars and then had a tense battle for the lead, never separated by more than a second! On lap 5, Clarkson dived up the inside of Eaton into Druids to move up into the lead of the race but Eaton fought back and repeated Clarkson’s own move at Druids  on  lap 8 to retake first place. Meanwhile behind the leading duo, Paul Sheard was continuing his progress up the order, taking Darren Standing and then Will Chappell to move up to third position. Chappel held Sheard at bay for four laps before a fast exit from Clearways gave Sheard the optimal inside line for Paddock Hill bend. 

Sheard was gradually closing on the back bumper of Clarkson, helped by the battling pair ahead and lapping of the back markers. With just two laps left of the race, Eaton made a small mistake going through the left right of Surtees and McLaren, losing the rear of the car and spinning off onto the grass. This gifted the lead of the race to Clarkson and promoted Sheard to second. Sensing that a win might be possible, Sheard pushed hard over the final lap closing half a second on Clarkson and  crossed the line just 0.2 of a second behind the race winner. Having come from the back of the grid and recording fastest lap of the race in the process!

Other chargers from the tail end of the grid were Clint Bardwell and Will Chappell, taking third and fourth respectively following their retirements from race 1. Standing, Gouriet, Hodgson, Worley and Brindle rounded out fifth to ninth positions.

With an impressive entry of cars for the Brands Hatch rounds, the SuperCup looks to be going from strength to strength with yet more cars expected again next time out. As we now look towards the final rounds of the season at Oulton Park on the 14th of September, Paul Sheard retains his place at the top of the championship standings but it's now Andrew Clarkson who is his nearest challenger. Matt Davies would appear to be too far back in the points table to worry Sheard but as we have seen at Brands, the result is never certain in the MX-5 SuperCup!

 

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