Alton, Virginia (May 13, 2018) – Choosing which openings to let go and recognizing the opportunity to strike can make or break a race. Jason Connole played each to perfection on Sunday at Virginia International Raceway, capturing a win in Round Four of the Spec MX-5 Challenge East Series and reclaiming the championship point lead.
After riding tightly in a pack that stretched the full field of nine cars early in the race, Connole’s Protech Bedliners/Trimark Digital/Atlanta Speedwerks MX-5 patiently followed Manny Martinez until a real opening presented itself, this time through turn four on lap seven of the nine-lap race.
Though Martinez brought his Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5 back to fight for the final three laps, Connole retained his stoicism and kept his car on the point to the checkered flag.
“It’s my home track here, and it was a great race,” Connole said of his early-season success. “I tried to work with Manny to run away from the field, but there’s no getting away from this field. Not today, not any day in this Series. We battled, but he made a mistake that I was able to capture first place going into Turn Four.”
At the stripe, Connole was just 0.205 seconds ahead of Martinez, with another 0.205 second gap from Martinez to Peter Ensor in third.
The weekend ended on a high note for Martinez, who began the weekend feeling under the weather and saw a potential runner-up finish on Saturday dashed in the final corner.
It was a great race,” Martinez said. “I came into this weekend with a fever and sinus infection, but had a strong weekend. I was on pole yesterday and led most of the race today. The Yokohama tires held on considering this heat, but it was still greasy out there and I made a little mistake that Jason capitalized on. I’m very happy with the results today.”
Qualifying issues plagued Ensor, but after starting eighth, he found himself in third by lap six. Both Nick Bruni, who most likely will use this race as a point drop after his race ended on lap five with a mechanical failure, and Zack Month had lost touch with the lead group – now down to four including polesitter John Allen – leaving Ensor to try to reel in the top two.
“I had an excellent end to the weekend,” Ensor said. “I got a good start and moved up a couple of spots on the first lap. John Allen and I worked together to catch back up to the leaders, and I can’t say enough about the help he gave me. We couldn’t have done it if we hadn’t worked together, because they had about 15 car lengths on us.”
It wasn’t exactly an altruistic move from Allen because, once the pair got back to the lead pack, he pulled out of line to pass Ensor for the final podium spot with one to go. The pair went side by side for four corners, until Ensor reclaimed the spot permanently and closed the gap back to the leaders in the final circuit.
Allen led the opening two laps from the pole, but one little bobble in the turns three and four complex cost him six positions on that lap as the field freight trained around him.
Ensor and Allen would hold their position at the checkered flag, with Tyler Harrell coming home fifth.
Ensor took the Winding Road Racing Hard Charger award after starting eighth, improving five positions in the race. Connole’s successful weekend gives him a 74 to 71 lead over Martinez for the season with Ensor (70), Month (69) and Allen (66) just behind.
Alton, Virginia – Official Results of Sunday’s Spec MX-5 Challenge East Series Round Four, with finish position (start position), Name, sponsor and car.
- (3), Jason Connole, Protech Bedliners/Trimark Digital/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (2), Manny Martinez, Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (8), Peter Ensor, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (1), John Allen, iRacing/Definied Autoworks/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (7), Tyler Harrell, JTC Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (4), Assen Rachev, Stable Energies/Possien-Hall Motorsports Development/BGN Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (6), Zack Month, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (9), Jose Garcia, KEEM Corp./Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (5), Nick Bruni, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5