Monticello, New York (September 28, 2018) – A cold, wet morning translated to a wild, unpredictable race on Friday afternoon, closing the Spec MX-5 Challenge point race with just one regular season race to go –Saturday morning at the same Monticello Motor Club that created Friday’s chaos.
Nikko Reger, running the Spec MX-5 doubleheader concurrently with the finale of the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup, proved a formidable benchmark for the series regulars. Starting fourth, Reger found the lead by the end of lap two and steadily began to climb to an 8.450-second margin of victory in the 10-lap, caution-free race.
The run was impressive through changing conditions. Though the rain had stopped by late morning, several corners of the track still held puddles, and the field went on track on the Yokohama slicks.
“It was an awesome race,” Reger said. “It’s my first time with the Series, and these guys are a lot of fun. The race started off just a little wet, and I have more track time than everybody and I think that gave me an advantage. I pulled a couple of passes and got out front, then just tried to stay consistent and run my race.”
The unexpected began at the green flag, as point leader and typically stoic Jason Connole slid off course in the opening corners in his ProTech Bedliners/Trimark Digital Mazda MX-5, after starting seventh.
Up front, polesitter Nick Bruni, second-starting and championship co-leader Peter Ensor, and Reger snuck away from the field.
By mid-race, it became clear that Bruni and Ensor were in a battle for second, as Reger had built a sizable advantage.
Bruni marched around Ensor on lap seven, but the pair remained practically attached at the bumper. That lasted for two more laps until Ensor’s car, giving chase, broke loose and spun into the wet Monticello grass. The incident ended Ensor’s day two laps shy of the finish, negating any advantage to be gained from Connole’s bad day.
All alone, Bruni held on for second and the top point finish of a series regular.
“It was a drying track, with streams running across,” Bruni said of the difficult conditions. “All in all, it was a good points race for me. I made up some points and brought it home for a clean second-place finish. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow, hopefully it’s a completely dry track.”
The day also turned into a success for Manny Martinez, who piloted the Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks MX-5 to a third podium finish – his fourth of the season. Martinez held off Justin Tracy at his home track, and took advantage of Ensor’s misfortune to land the podium. Martinez also turned the second-fastest lap of the race, and will start second for Saturday’s finale.
“It was definitely a tough day,” Martinez said. “It was a good race. I lost the draft on lap one, and struggled to catch the front runners. Nick and Peter stuck together, and I was out of the draft. I had my own race and stayed smooth, and Peter had his off so I was ended up getting on the podium.”
Tracy and John Allen, in the iRacing/Defined Autoworks/Atlanta Speedwerks MX-5, placed fourth and fifth.
Including the allowed drop, Connole enters the regular season finale with a one-point advantage over Ensor, 146-145. Martinez (143) and Bruni (142) remain within striking distance of the ten-race regular season. Points will be reset entering the Spec MX-5 Challenge Championship doubleheader at Road Atlanta, with the regular season leader beginning the event with 20, followed by 19 for second, 18 for third, and so on through the field.
“Tomorrow is going to be a battle,” Martinez said. “We’re super close in the Championship points.”
The field will line back up on Saturday for a 30-minute race.
More information on the Spec MX-5 Challenge can be found on the Series’ website at www.SpecMX-5.com.
Monticello, New York – Official Results of Friday’s Spec MX-5 Challenge race, Round Nine for the East Series, with finish position (start position), Name, sponsor and car.
|1. (4), Nikko Reger, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|
|2. (1), Nick Bruni, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|
|3. (3), Manny Martinez, Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|
|4. (6), Justin Tracy, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|
|5. (5), John Allen, iRacing/Definied Autoworks/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|
|6. (8), Assen Rachev, Stable Energies/Possien-Hall Motorsports Development/BGN Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|
|7. (7), Jason Connole, Protech Bedliners/Trimark Digital/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|
|8. (2), Peter Ensor, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|
|9. (9), Tyler Harrell, JTC Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|
|10. (10), Jackson Robillard, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5|