Braselton, Georgia (July 26, 2018) – The Spec MX-5 Challenge season point total went two different directions after Sunday at Road Atlanta, with the Central Series falling squarely into Tom Martin’s favor while the East Series tightened well beyond the recommended torque settings.
Peter Ensor’s 2.243-second win over Nick Bruni, coupled with Jason Connole’s third place finish, left Ensor and Connole tied at the top with just two races remaining in the regular season.
Though the Series’ $100,000 prize will be distributed after the Championship doubleheader during the SCCA ARRC weekend in November, that regular season title is important as the points will reset based on the standings. The leader will enter the finale with a point advantage while looking to advance his career.
Martin, who along with his Central Series cohorts joined the East Series for a championship preview, finished fourth overall on Sunday but first among the Central drivers to score his fifth win in six chances in the regular season.
Ensor successfully negotiated mixed-class company to pull away for the win, his second of the season. Starting from outside the front row, Ensor, polesitter Bruni, and Martin launched away from the start and opened up a gap. The trio caught the mixed class of SCCA cars just a few laps into the 14-lap race, however, which allowed a train of five additional cars to come up to the front of the field.
Further tossing the pack into chaos, the field was working its way around slower traffic when the quickest cars in the run group came through at the same time. That scattered the pack once again, allowing Ensor back around Bruni for the final time.
“I got a good jump on the start and got a good lead out of turn one,” Ensor said. “About five laps into the race, I got held up big time and passed by Nick. Tom was side by side with me, but I managed to hold onto second. A couple of laps later, Nick made a mistake and I got by him. I got past a lapped car that held up Nick, and that created the gap that held on to the finish.”
Martin fell victim to unusual traffic pattern, falling from third to eighth overall. That not only moved him out of the overall podium, but also behind Noah Grey and Matt Million in the Central battle.
The veteran used a steady pace to climb back through to his Series lead, working back around Grey and Million in the closing laps for his full point score.
“We had a pretty good three-car breakaway going, and that was shaping up to be a nice, clean easy race because that put me first in my division,” Martin said. “We caught a slower car at the same time the faster Trans-Am cars were going by us, and it dropped me back down to eighth. I was just trying to fight my way back, it was a hard-fought race. It made it more exciting to pass everyone, and ended up fourth overall. I’m happy.”
Bruni, who earned Saturday’s win in a caution-shortened race, landed on the podium for the fourth-consecutive race and climbed to fourth in points.
Connole, who started eighth in both races after a flat tire in qualifying, salvaged a podium finish but never really had a chance to challenge Ensor for the win.
Following Martin overall and landing in the top five was Manny Martinez, who saw Grey, John Allen, and Million just behind.
Factoring in each racer’s one allowed drop, Connole and Ensor sit atop the Eastern standings with 132 points each. Martinez (125), Bruni (123) and John Allen (116) land in the top five through eight of 10 regular season races. In the Central, Martin holds an eight-point advantage over Grey and Million through six of 10 races, without a drop yet included.
More information on the Spec MX-5 Challenge can be found on the Series’ website at http://www.SpecMX-5.com.
Braselton, Georgia – Unofficial Overall Results of Sunday’s Spec MX-5 Challenge combined East and Central Series race, Round Eight for the East and Round Six for the Central, with finish position (start position), Name, sponsor and car. Drivers running for Central points are denoted with an (*).
1. (2), Peter Ensor, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
2. (1), Nick Bruni, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
3. (8), Jason Connole, Protech Bedliners/Trimark Digital/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
*4. (3), Tom Martin, Winding Road Racing/WindingRoad.com Mazda MX-5
5. (7), Manny Martinez, Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
*6. (6), Noah Grey, Winding Road Racing Mazda MX-5
7. (5), John Allen, iRacing/Definied Autoworks/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
*8. (4), Matt Million, SCR Performance/Winding Road Racing Mazda MX-5
9. (11), Tyler Harrell, JTC Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
10. (12), Assen Rachev, Stable Energies/Possien-Hall Motorsports Development/BGN Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
11. (10), Jose Garcia, KEEM Corp./Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
*12. (9), Harry Voigt, Winding Road Racing Mazda MX-5