BRANDS HATCH INDY RACE REPORT
Max Bladon has set his sights on securing a top-three finish in this year’s MINI CHALLENGE JCW Championship after a damaging weekend at Brands Hatch when two mechanical failures severely dented his title hopes.
Max has been one of the stars of the JCW season so far, having secured two race wins and been a regular fixture in the podium places. Ahead of the three races in Kent he was second in the points and aiming to unseat Brett Smith at the top of the standings.
However, motorsport can be cruel, and Max felt the full brunt of its dark side with two major issues undoing much of his strong early-season work.
Qualifying didn’t go to plan, and the car issues began to surface early on.
“I don’t think the car has really been right for the last few rounds,” says Max. “At the start of the year it was quite easy to get the lap times from, but recently it’s been getting harder and harder and I’ve felt I’ve been driving harder and getting no reward.”
The lack of performance was evident when Max was mired in the midfield and lost his best lap in traffic at the end of the session. A grid penalty from the last rounds at Silverstone compounded that and meant he started down in unfamiliar territory in 17th.
Max put in a real charge in race one to climb to 12th, but it again showed he was carrying an issue.
“After race one we studied the data and found a turbo problem, where it was gradually losing pressure,” explains Max. “That was sapping the power, so we changed the entire assembly to get back on track for race two.”
The fix clearly worked, as Max flew up the order to run eighth and looked set to make further progress before disaster struck and a driveshaft gave way, forcing him out of the race.
“It was gutting,” he says. “The car finally felt back on song and I was making some really good progress and aiming toward getting a great starting spot for the reversed-grid third race, then the driveshaft just went. There’s nothing you can do about these things. It’s just plain old bad luck.”
At least with a patched-up car Max could show his overtaking prowess in the final race, scorching from 25th on the grid to finish an eventual 11th.
“Race three was really satisfying, but also really disappointing,” he said. “It’s hard to overtake around Brands, so to make up 14 places meant it was action-packed and great fun, but it also showed that I had the pace to achieve a lot more if I hadn’t had the earlier problems.”
Max now sits fifth in the championship, but is just 29 points behind second-placed David Grady.
“Brett [Smith] has a decent gap at the front but there’s still a lot of races to go and he also has a touring car seat to focus on now too, so it’s not over,” says Max.
“The fight over second is incredibly tight so it sets up a grandstand finish to the season. I know that when the car is right, I can win races. I’m fully focused on getting that runner-up spot in the championship. I’ll just regroup after this one, forget the troubles, and get back out fighting for the big points again.”
The next round of the MINI CHALLENGE JCW Championship takes place on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit on August 5/6. The two races run in support of the British GT and Formula 3 championships and live coverage will be available on the Front Runner digital TV channel.