As we look forward to the final showdown in the Spec MX-5 Challenge to take place during SCCA’s ARRC event at Road Atlanta next weekend, we look back on how we got here.
Sharing the Monticello Motor Club weekend with the Battery Tender® Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BGGoodrich Tires, the Spec MX-5 Challenge East Series completed the final regular season rounds before moving on to Road Atlanta with a $100,000 prize and a seat in the Global MX-5 Cup for next season on the line.
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 during Friday’s race. 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.”
Nick Bruni and Manny Martinez completed the podium in Friday’s race, setting the stage for Saturday’s regular season finale.
Once there, Martinez won the battle, but the war went to Spec MX-5 Challenge East Series point leader Jason Connole.
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.
“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 Cup 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).”
With Peter Ensor behind in second, Connole needed to finish third to claim the regular season point title. Connole battled first with Justin Tracy, then with John Allen, but stayed just in front to earn the points he needed to take the regular season title.
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 finisher from the Central Series, Tom Martin, will begin with 20 points, with second scoring 19, and so on.
“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® Global Mazda MX-5 Cup.