Championship Leaders Surge Forward at Barber

This past weekend, Round 13 of the 2023 Spec MX-5 Challenge Series presented by Toyo Tires, visited Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Hosted by the Tennessee Valley Region SCCA, the event marked the first time Spec MX-5 visited the stunning vistas at Barber, where the track became an instant favorite among the 14 drivers in attendance.

Like most races this year, weather again played a starring role as drivers fought to keep cool and stay hydrated in temperatures above 90 degrees and humidity sapping the last of their energy. A shipping error led to a scramble for trophies, making for unique podium celebrations that energized everyone involved.

Series frontrunners Nathan Nicholson, Westin Workman, and Alex Bertagnoli would finish on the podium in identical positions for both races, while Workman and Nicholson swapped pole positions – inserting themselves as Championship favorites as the 2023 regular season nears its climax.

With no test day, many drivers participated in morning time trials to familiarize themselves with the track, which quickly became a favorite with the flow of the track and unique art placed among the immaculate facility.

Ethan Jacobs made his Series debut at Barber in his stunning number 199 Green Machine

The first qualifying session marked yet another pole position for Workman as he continued his late-season domination, besting Will Robusto by just two-hundredths of a second. Rounding out the second row was Mazda Spec MX-5 Shootout winner Chase Jones, with Nicholson in fourth. 

Westin Workman with yet another impressive pole position

The weekend’s first race began as the sun baked the track on Saturday afternoon. Workman led the group four-wide into the first turn, leading to disaster for Series newcomer Cam Ebben. Ebben was forced to watch the race from his car until the checker after retiring early and wisely pulling safely off the track. Subsequent laps recorded Workman, Jones, and Nicholson swapping podium spots, allowing Robusto and Bertagnoli to catch the front pack. An exhaust failure would force the number 86 of Jarrett Jones to retire, with Chase Jones falling back as he battled rising engine temperatures. Workman and Nicholson continued to battle ferociously, being ever-mindful of traffic with out-of-class Spec Miatas, ultimately seeing Nicholson emerge victorious over Workman and a hard-charging Bertagnoli. With cult favorite convenience store Buccee’s just outside the track, the Series decided to have a little fun and awarded various plushies as temporary trophies until the winners would receive them at VIR later in September.

Alex Bertagnoli, Nathan Nicholson, and Westin Workman with their improvised Buccee’s Trophies

The second qualifying session was more of the same as the front two rows included the same players from the day before, setting the stage for a scorcher of a rematch. Nicholson bested his previous time to claim pole with a 1:41.234, while everyone worked to stay hydrated and levelheaded before the race.

With the weekend’s second race again taking place during the hottest part of the afternoon, the possibility of attrition was again high. With Cam Ebben and Jarrett Jones making heroic efforts to get their cars back on track and rookie Ethan Jacobs joining the fray, all drivers except Chase Jones took the green flag. Nicholson walked the field as Workman and Bertagnoli battled hard for P2, which created a domino effect, allowing Nico Bratz to threaten them for third place and Robusto to work some magic. A smoking rear differential spooked driver Austin Hill, who could not pull into the pits, and a full course yellow ended the race three laps early. The results were a weekend sweep for Nicholson in P1, Workman in P2, and Bertagnoli in P3.

Workman, Nicholson, and Bertagnoli repeated their podium positions during Sunday’s race

This weekend sees a coast-to-coast double-header to close out the 2023 Spec MX-5 Challenge regular season, featuring the penultimate round at Sebring, and the Series return to the West Coast for Round 15 at Sonoma. The Driver Standings are getting incredibly close at the top. Who will reign supreme this time next week to take home the $5,000 regular season crown?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: