Bowling Green, Kentucky (March 25, 2018)
The Spec MX-5 Challenge held its first race in the Central Region this weekend in Bowling Green at NCM Motorsports Park across from the National Corvette Museum. This impressive new facility, with inch-perfect replicas of several corners at the famous Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans, set up some impressive racing.
After some testing work on brake pads with engineers from Spec MX-5 partner Pagid Racing, series driver coach Scott Adams got down to work in Friday’s practice sessions recording baseline data for the weekend. As luck would have it, conditions for qualifying and racing on Saturday were tough, with steady rain through most of the day. In wet qualifying, Noah Grey of Dana Point, CA, showed impressive car control skills to take pole, followed by Matt Million of San Marcos, CA and Tom Martin III of Austin, TX. Grey commented “I really don’t have much rain racing experience, but I figured it would be fun to find the limit of the car and it was.”
In similar wet conditions, Race 1 unfolded as a two car battle between Grey and Million, with Martin and Harry Voigt of Lone Tree, CO battling for 3rd. Grey made a small mistake mid-way through the race allowing Million to establish a gap which Grey was unable to close during the latter stages of the race. Martin held off Voigt to take the third step on the podium.
Million was pleased with his debut in Spec MX-5 Challenge:
On Sunday, conditions were completely different for Race 2, with dry but chilly weather. Qualifying saw Martin lay down down the fastest lap, followed by Million and Voigt. Immediately after taking the green flag, Million followed Martin through NCM’s replica of the tight Playstation Chicane at Le Mans without incident, yielding a collective sigh of relief from many spectators. Million then stuck to Martin’s bumper for a few laps, before setting up a clean pass to move into the lead. Now it was Martin’s turn to fill Million’s mirrors. While they ran cleanly, their battle allowed Voigt to close in and the gallery were treated to a three-way fight. Martin repassed for the lead, but then lap traffic bogged the two leaders and Voigt pounced, taking over the lead. On the final lap, Martin used the draft on the second of NCM’s three long straights to set up a pass, and held on to it through NCM’s “Faux Rouge” curve to take the win. A shifting problem let Million and Clayton Cavell of Indianapolis, IN get past Voigt, who was nonetheless thrilled with the on-track action (captured in the live stream — fast forward to about 9:30 for the pace lap):
Tom Martin (pace lap at about 9:30)
Posted by Spec MX-5 on Sunday, March 25, 2018
Martin commented “that was one of the tightest races I’ve ever been in, with what seemed like two car lengths – and usually two feet — separating P1 and P2 for the entire race. The Spec MX-5 race car is so drivable, and the Yokohama tires are so progressive, that it really encourages racing hard. Mistakes hurt you as in any race car, but they aren’t punished too severely so you can recover.”
NASA Great Lakes and NCM Motorsports Park proved to be excellent co-hosts for the event, with a great mix of southern hospitality, midwestern friendliness and a strong sense of professionalism. Spec MX-5 drivers were also treated to an overview of how NCM came into being presented by track operations manager Matt Busby.
The Spec MX-5 Challenge travels next to Circuit of The Americas, in Austin, TX for event 2 of the Central Region series on May 4-6.