Penalty robs Boston of hat-trick after Cadwell masterclass

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Rob Boston leads Luke Herbert and the rest of the field away at Cadwell Park. Pic: JON ELSEY

The lure of racing at Cadwell Park, dubbed the UK’s ‘Mini Nurburgring’ proved irresistible for 34 competitors who formed the largest-ever entry of Mazda MX-5 Mk3 race cars to grace the Lincolnshire circuit. As such it was perhaps a little unsurprising that the resulting triple-header meeting didn’t fail to disappoint.

Things got off to a stunning start for double Brands Hatch race winner Rob Boston. The former champion from Gainsborough made the most of his local knowledge to secure pole position, despite only completing three flying laps. His time of 1:40.756 was an incredible 0.6 seconds faster than next car driven by another former champion Luke Herbert.  While that might not sound a lot to the uninitiated, to put Boston’s performance into context, the next ten cars of Herbert, Jack Harding, Tom Roche, Brian Chandler, Richard Styrin, James Blake-Baldwin, Ben Short, Mike Comber, Steve Roberts and Jon Greensmith were covered by 0.4 sec.

With an entry of 34 cars, but a grid capacity of just 28, the split-grid system would be employed for the second meeting in a row. The top 28 qualifiers raced in the ‘A’ races and the balance joining forces with the BRSCC’s sister MX-5 Mk1 cars to form the ‘B’ contests. A system of promotion and relegation ensured all were kept on their toes.

Pole-sitter Boston revealed: “I did actually have an issue at the start of the session, I started my first flying lap and came out of Mansfield and all the electrics cut out. The dashboard went off and I lost all power. I pulled over, got out of the car, checked the battery leads, and had a wiggle of the master switch, switched if off and on again, the dashboard lit up again, got strapped back in and off I went.

“At that point it was a case of trying not to panic, I knew I’d still got a good chunk of time left, so I found myself some track space and went for it. I only actually did two proper flying laps.”

For Race 1A Boston picked up where he left off in qualifying and took a dominating lights to flag victory. The 35-year-old crossed the line a staggering nine and a half seconds ahead of a great scrap for second which featured Herbert, Roche, Harding, Greensmith and Short. Greensmith’s tilt at a podium taking a dent on lap nine when the Yorkshireman took a high-speed excursion across the grass at copse corner.

Bragging rights in the race within a race for Masters competitors went to Simon Orange, whose 15th position over all was enough the secure the honours for the ‘over 45s’.

Boston said: “It went to plan really, I was sitting in the collecting area before the race and I was visualising how the start and the first lap was going to go. Get to the first corner first and then break Luke by the end of the first lap. Once that was done I knew they’d be scrapping behind so it was just a case of getting my head down.”

Victory in the opening ‘B’ race of the weekend went to George Grant who had a great tussle with David Willoughby and Jim Hart, all three leading the race at various points, before errors from the latter pair handed a thrilled Grant the win.

Race 2A was over-shadowed by a prolonged ‘Code 60’ period to allow the recovery of Richard Wicklen and Ben Short’s cars plus barrier repairs following two separate opening lap incidents. This effectively distilled the 20-minute race down to a three-lap sprint.

Just prior to the pink and black flags coming out Herbert had taken the lead when Boston ran deep entering the mountain section.

Herbert held on to the lead for just over a lap following the restart, before Boston made his move with a well timed move around the outside at Copse.

He maintained the advantage to the flag with Roche completing the podium coming home a relatively comfortable third. Chandler just held off Harding to take an impressive fourth with Greensmith sixth.

Garry Townsend’s 15th position overall secured him the Masters series win.

After chalking up his fourth win of the season Boston commented: “I spent three quarters of that race driving around in second gear! In my opinion ‘Code 60’ has no place in club sprint racing in the UK. It’s a great tool for endurance races where drivers have radios and telemetry on their dashes to let the driver know what’s going on. It’s cheating spectators and competitors of good racing and it adds an element that doesn’t need to be added. Your nerves are absolutely at their top the entire time because you have no idea when it’s going to go green. So as a result you end up driving around at 60kph in second gear just not knowing. It’s just not fair on anybody really. It’s a bad tool being used badly.”

Taking about the handful of racing laps he added: “I did make an error on the first lap, there was cement dust down on the approach to the mountain and I just over committed a bit and lost the back end which let Luke through and almost Tom as well.”

He tells how he regained the lead: “I didn’t want to finish second, so I had a good run out of Barn and thought I’d hang it out around the outside of Copse, which is not a usual overtaking place. I’ve got a lot of respect for Luke and knew he’d leave me four wheels worth of room, and he did. That’s win number 12 for Rob Boston Racing in 2017 – across four different formulas so it’s a very exciting year.”

Runner-up Herbert said: “It was a little frustrating to get a lead over Rob, and see him battling behind with Tom. I thought I was going to be able to drive away from them. Only to then see that ‘Code 60’ flag…!

“I had a speedometer set up on my data-logger so I was bang on 60kph all the way, but naturally any driver is going to close up the gap anyway. Then when the green flag came out, I thought ‘this is okay’ and pulled a car length on Rob through the Mountain and Hall bends but he got a massive tow from me down the start/finish straight and I had to decide whether to defend right or left. I chose to take the inside but he just drove around the outside of me. Fair game, Rob’s a good driver and he’s rapid around here, but at least this time I managed to stay with him.”

He added his thoughts about the Code 60 ruling saying: “It would be alright if they managed to recover the cars quicker. The marshals are doing the best they can and we appreciate their work but for some reason it seemed to take a ridiculously long time. I think we only had three or four racing laps. I would have preferred a red flag in that incidence. Having said that, had it stayed ‘code 60’ to the end I’d have loved that even more.” He laughed.

Third placed Roche said: “It probably is better than a safety car really, but it makes you on edge all the time because you have no idea when the race is going to start again.”

He cheekily suggested: “Maybe they could introduce an ‘inbetween flag’ a kind of a get ready flag because otherwise everyone just spends the whole time staring at the marshals. And you never know when it’s going to go green.”

Talking about the race he said: “Rob’s driving really well. I mean Luke got in front but it didn’t look likely to last. Rob got a run out of the last corner and just went around the outside of him into turn one. It was an awesome move.

Before joking: “Bloody Luke, I said to him after the race: ‘You spent all that time defending against me and the first time Rob has a go you let him through!’.

Race 2B featured Blake-Baldwin, Styrin and Roberts who all failed to finish their first encounter. Blake-Baldwin looked an easy bet for victory as he pulled clear off the start, but Roberts kept him honest and as the pair started to battle Styrin hauled himself into contention, creating a three way lead fight during the middle of the race. In the end Blake-Baldwin’s class shone through and the reigning champion took the victor’s laurels. 

The final ‘A’ race of the weekend appeared to be going the way of the others when Boston pulled clear at the start to build a close to two second lead over second placed Roche by lap four. But as the race progressed Roche began to reel in the leader homing in on his tail and the pair were virtually inseparable by lap nine. Roche’s constant hounding was rewarded when Boston was handed a five second time penalty for exceeding track limits. This took the pressure off Roche who eased back from Boston. Although the leader could not let up as third placed Greensmith was less than five seconds behind him. So Boston needed to continue pumping in the quick laps. In the end he succeeded by just under four tenths of a second.

So thanks to the time penalty, Roche took his first SuperCup win of the season. Despite crossing the line first Boston had to settle for the second step of the podium with Greensmith giving a great drive to claim third. Boston’s disappointment was offset somewhat by receiving not only the extra point for fastest lap, but the honour of setting a new lap record with his time of 1:40.587.

Once again 15th proved to be the lucky position as this time Simon Fleet took the top Masters points.

Race winner Roche said: “That was really good, I’m pleased because I really feel we’ve made some progress. The car’s felt good all weekend, I just didn’t quite get qualifying right.

“I mean, I set my fastest lap on lap eight and normally I’m quick at the beginning and then find myself struggling. But in that race, the car just seemed to get better as the race went on, which is what it needs to do.

“It was nice to get clear of Luke and give chase to Rob. I felt pretty confident that I could get past him but then I saw the five second penalty board being shown to him so I thought ‘Oh I don’t need to pass him now’ which made that job easier. Although I have to admit that I did spend half a lap wondering ‘Is Rob number 92?’ I had to wait for the hairpin so I could see it with my own eyes!”

He continued: “It’s been a good result for the championship and it remains to be seen whether Rob will do the whole season. I know he says he’s got commitments elsewhere but he is building himself a new car. Would he be doing that if he was only going to do half a season?”

First on the road Boston said: “I had my first minor problem of the year and had a little bit of an issue with the brakes. Basically the rears started locking just before mid-distance which was hampering me somewhat. I was coming into Mansfield and the base of The Mountain several times with the rears locked. It was manageable and I worked out a way to drive around the problem. I was left foot braking and blipping the throttle with my right foot in the middle of the braking zone.

“Then Tom caught me up and as a result of us scrapping I ended up putting a few wheels off track now and again, which obviously was spotted and got me the penalty. I’m not disappointed with the weekend. It’s a good haul of points and I got fastest lap and a new lap record. It would be nice to think that that would stand for a while but there’s a lot of quick lads coming into the championship so this time next year it will probably be toppled.’

Ben Short dominated Race 3B taking the flag 16 seconds ahead of nearest rival Richard Wicklen. Jim Hart came home in third.

After the dust had settled it was Boston who made the short trip home the happiest, as he now headed the championship standing by 20 points. The battle for second position being somewhat tighter with one point separating Luke Herbert from Jack Harding and Tom Roche.

Can anyone halt the Boston express, Silverstone awaits for the next instalment of the 2017 BRSCC Mazda MX-5 SuperCup.

Jon Elsey

 

Full Cadwell results can be found HERE

Latest Championship table can be viewed HERE

Gallery of images from the event can be viewed HERE

A detailed meeting review from ALEX SOAR will be available shortly.

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Last Race

Donington Park (National) 14th - 15th Oct 2017

Current Standings

Driver Accrued Points Adjusted Total
1 Luke Herbert 2227 2055
2 Tom Roche 2264 2042
3 Jack Harding 2199 1923