DONINGTON RACE REPORT
BIZ Karts-backed Max Bladon narrowly missed out on this year’s MINI CHALLENGE JCW Rookie Cup title after a technical failure robbed him of the chance to finish as the year’s top newcomer.
Bladon went into the final two races of the season at Donington Park recently in a confident mood, having returned to the podium places during the penultimate meeting at Oulton Park.
Mid-season technical trouble had effectively ended his chances of the overall title, but the Rookie Cup was still on, despite him trailing rival Reece Barr ahead of the season finale.
Max started out strong, by leading the early stages of qualifying, before disaster struck. A suspension component failed at high speed when Max was on his best lap, which pitched him off the track. Fortunately there was no further damage, but he was resigned to starting ninth after a session that promised so much more.
“I was on two personal best sectors then hit a bump going through the chicane and it just went,” said Max. “It’s just another example of the bad luck that seems to be hanging over me over the second half of the year. But it is what it is and we’ll just move forward from here.”
Bladon’s Excelr8 team repaired the damage ahead of race one and Max was keen to put in a strong performance, with Barr starting ahead of him in fourth.
Max got a good launch to stay with the lead pack and held off an attack from Mark Wakefield into the Old Hairpin. Max then picked up a spot when Charlie Butler-Henderson ran wide at McLeans. Max pushed hard, but something still wasn’t feeling right with his JCW.
“When we were repairing the suspension we noticed that the track rod end was bent too, but perhaps there was more damage than we found,” he said. “The car’s balance just didn’t feel right and I was struggling to lean on it through the faster stuff.”
Max finished seventh in his ill-handling car, but was bumped up to sixth when Butler-Henderson was judged to have passed Max under yellow flags as he recovered from his earlier off.
That result left Max just outside of the reversed grid places, with only the top four being reversed for the season finale.
Max again got away well and was involved in a tight battle with George Sutton over fifth place, but was shuffled wide at the Montreal Hairpin when Butler-Henderson dived inside Sutton and left Bladon with no option but to run around the outside of the corner.
With his car still not truly comfortable, Max brought it home in eighth. That cemented a top six finish in the championship and second in the Rookie Cup standings.
“It was a disappointing weekend, but it’s been the tale of the latter half of my season,” said Max. “Luck just hasn’t been with me much, but I can’t let it get me down. This year has still been a real success – I’ve won races outright, which is a great achievement in my debut season in the turbocharged JCWs, and even led the championship overall at one point.
“Congratulations to Reece, he’s been a great rival all season and we’ve had some great racing between us. My focus is now on 2018 and seeing what we can put together.
“I’d like to give a big thanks to BIZ Karts for the amazing support and opportunity they have given me this year, and I really hope the relationship can continue.”