End of the season for BRSCC Mazda
The last race weekend for the BRSCC Mazda Mx-5 Championship was held at Donington Park on the 20th and 21st October. Matt had never previously driven on the track at Donington before so he booked a track day in the week before the race. On the track day he was met with rainy conditions which wasn’t ideal, but he took the opportunity to improve his wet weather driving. He was able to fine tune the setup of the Mazda MX-5 with the help of Ali Bray from AB Motorsport. Matt gained more grip and therefore more speed on the track, which in turn helped his confidence grow as the day went on.
BRSCC Mazda MX-5 at Donington Park
Here’s a shot of the 30 Mazdas on a murky but dry day at the Donington track. You can spot Matt to the far right of the photo coming around the corner hovering around the 12th position. The race weekend started with a test day on the Friday. The conditions were dry, which improved Matt’s times further having been used to a wet track. He even reached speeds of 105mph in the ‘Craner Curves’ section of the track. He made a last minute change in the pits which gave him confidence for the qualifying races on the Saturday morning.
The qualifying session went well with Matt finishing as 6th fastest in the end. He went out in the first group and found himself stuck in traffic and looking for a gap in the field. His first free lap gave him a position of 8th of 30, but Matt was still hungry for more. He concentrated on each section of the track in turn and managed to jump up to 6th position. The rest of the qualifying session was spent switching between 6th and 7th position – things were looking good.
The BRSCC Mazda racing begins
With his family watching, the pressure was on for Matt to perform well in the last weekend of the BRSCC Mazda season. In the first race he had to start in 14th position (after a three place grid penalty from Rockingham). He was confident that his quicker pace would allow him to make up positions as the race went on. He battled with Marcus Bailey, Seb Fisher and Scott Leach, pleased with how the race went overall.
Race 2 at Donington Park
In the second race though Matt made a mistake and snapped the exhaust! He had initially made a good start getting into position at the front of the second pack, but he ran over the curb coming out of ‘Old Hairpin’. Matt had been running over the same curb all weekend with no issue, but this time it pitched the car into a slide and across the exit curb. He ended up bottomed out on the ditch with a damaged exhaust. Of course the car was very loud for the rest of the race and the loss of power caused Matt to lose one position – he was glad it was not more!
For the rest of race 2 Matt focused on maintaining position as best he could with the car suffering. He still battled on with Marcus Bailey and Adam Craig until he was on the outside of ‘The Esses’ chicane and missed his braking point. With his focus on the other drivers as well as the chicane he managed to miss the first apex curb. For the next curb he wound up on the inside position the other side of the sausage curb, with the steering on opposite lock.
Despite his best efforts Matt ended up sliding backwards and forwards across the track losing four positions. This was not how he had planned the race to go, but he knew he needed to carry on without letting performance get the better of him. Learnings from his previous races and advice from Jack Sycamore now came in handy. It helped him to end the race holding off Seb Fisher and cross the finish line just ahead of him in a side by side finish.
Last race of the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship
After the mistake in race 2 Matt started in 17th position for race 3. This race would be the final race of the year and of the championship. So how did it go? Off the line Matt gained two positions quickly coming past Clive Chisnall and another driver. He was sat in the second group of the race in a good position and was battling with familiar names Scott Leach and Seb Fisher.
A few laps passed until Matt was approaching ‘Coppice’ and everything changed. Following Scott and Seb into the braking zone he saw them both lock up and start to head straight on. As he followed, the same thing happened and with a moment to think he realised that oil must have been dropped. He started to rotate but managed to avoid entering the gravel on the outside. That’s where half of the field were either trying to escape from or unfortunately fully stuck. Matt just managed to skirt around the outside as he had come off the brakes when he had realised what was happening.
Using the oil spill to his advantage
He knew that he had to make the most of the opportunity that had presented. He got back to full throttle but the race was then red-flagged. Waiting on the start to be re-gridded everything was unusually quiet. For the past ten minutes Matt had been racing as fast at possible and then he found himself sitting idling (in a much smaller group of drivers) on the grid in almost silence – bar the MX-5 engines. After a little while the cars were setup again and Matt was in a much better position on the grid (about 9th or 10th). He had made ground in the first part of the race, but had also benefited from the oil spill too.
Ending BRSCC Mazda on a high
This last race start wasn’t one of Matt’s best, it was on a slight incline so he had to keep a foot on the brake. If he came off the brake he was concerned about rolling and causing a false start, but it meant that the car was slow to get away. He held position in 6th ahead of Jack Moody and the rest of the race was quiet until Mike Comber passed him and he ended up in 7th position. This was his best finish of the season to come 7th in an A race and he was more than happy with his accomplishments to date.
The cherry on the cake was when he attended the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 ‘Night of Champions’ alongside competitors from the BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Championship, BRSCC Mazda MX-5 SuperCup and BRSCC Mazda MX-5 Super Series. We’re thrilled to report that Matt took home an award for ‘Rookie of the Year 2018’. Here he is pictured with BRSCC Chairman Peter Daly who presented Matt with his trophy.