Monticello, New York (September 29, 2018) – Manny Martinez won the battle, but the war went to Spec MX-5 Challenge East Series point leader Jason Connole on Saturday at Monticello Motor Club.
Martinez flew away from the field in his Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5 on Saturday after starting on pole position, and led all 12 laps of the caution-free race for his second win of the regular season.
However, a lap one incident cost Martinez four championship points. The winner was penalized four points for a driving infraction on the opening lap that caused Nick Bruni to run off track and spin. Bruni recovered and put in an impressive drive back through the field, turning the fastest lap of the race before a second off-track bobble left him in sixth place at the finish.
Martinez crossed the stripe 10.501 seconds in front of his closest competitor, Peter Ensor.
“The car was behaving great,” Martinez said “The Yokohama Tires were consistent throughout the whole race, from start to finish. This is a great facility, and it was awesome being alongside the Global MX-5 Series. I had a good start, and was able to pull a gap. I just tried to run with it and formed a gap over (second).”
The first lap incident began when Bruni, running third, got a run in the draft down the backstraight. Bruni was forced off the track on the right, and spun back across the track to the left – barely missing the trailing train of Peter Ensor and also slowing the momentum of Jason Connole and Justin Tracy.
That created a gap that left Ensor alone in second, but too far behind to challenge a lightning fast Martinez for the win.
“I had a decent start,” Ensor said. “I was in fourth going down the back straightaway, and there was a little incident with one of the cars going off track. I came out of that in second place, even though I had a little contact with the car behind me. I had a little bit of tire rub so I had to run a little conservative. I just didn’t have the pace to match Manny today. I ran a pretty lonely race to second.”
Needing to finish no worse than one position behind Ensor to hold the regular season title, Connole first had to move his ProTech Bedliners/Trimark Digital MX-5 around Tracy, running at his home track. That took five laps; but Tracy stayed right on his tail.
Even in front, Connole’s challenge wasn’t over. The battle with Tracy allowed John Allen’s iRacing/Defined Autoworks MX-5 to catch up, move around Tracy, and spend the final circuit battling with Connole for the final podium position.
Allen moved alongside Connole on the final 3-mile loop, but couldn’t complete the pass and settled for fourth.
The finishing order left Connole and Ensor tied in the point standings, with the tie breaker going to Connole on the strength of three season wins (to two for Ensor).
“It’s been a tough two race weekends in the Series for me,” Connole said. “There’s been a lot of adversity that we’ve had to overcome. Some stuff happened on lap one, and I just tried to keep an even keel. I was able to hold suit in fourth. I had to battle with Justin, and he’s really tough here. That got John Allen back up to us, and it was a tough fight to the end.”
Allen and Tracy completed the top five in Saturday’s race, followed by Bruni, Ari Strauss, Assen Rachev, Tyler Harrell and Jackson Robillard.
The next appearance for the Spec MX-5 Challenge will be at Road Atlanta, for the Spec MX-5 Challenge Championship. Points will be reset, with Connole (20 points), Ensor (19), Martinez (18), Bruni (17) and Allen (16) amongst the top contenders from the East. Likewise, the top regular season finisher from the Central Series, Tom Martin, will begin the championship round with 20 points, with Noah Grey bringing 19, and Matt Million 18.
“We came out on top by a tiebreaker, really, so I’m really glad to have the 20 points going into the championship round,” Connole said. “That’s a positive with how that weekend is set up.”
Each doubleheader race at Road Atlanta will be worth 20 points for the win and score for the following positions just as the regular season did. The Championship winner will earn a scholarship worth $100,000 to run the 2019 season of the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup.
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 Saturday’s Spec MX-5 Challenge race, Round Ten for the East Series, with finish position (start position), Name, sponsor and car.
- (1), Manny Martinez, Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (4), Peter Ensor, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (5), Jason Connole, Protech Bedliners/Trimark Digital/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (6), John Allen, iRacing/Definied Autoworks/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (2), Justin Tracy, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (3), Nick Bruni, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (10), Ari Strauss, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (7), Assen Rachev, Stable Energies/Possien-Hall Motorsports Development/BGN Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (8), Tyler Harrell, JTC Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
- (9), Jackson Robillard, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5