A mixed weekend at Cadwell Park saw an unusually small Paul Sheard Racing team tackle the tricky Lincolnshire circuit for the third round of the Mazda MX-5 SuperCup. Plagued by incidents all weekend, the four drivers deserved better than the results they ended up with, but with five rounds remaining in the championship there is still plenty of time to make amends.
Qualifying on Saturday morning began two days of stress for drivers and mechanics alike. Overnight rain had left the track damp but it was sure to dry out during the 20-minute session. Faced with a tricky choice of which tyres to use, the 4-car team all decided to risk the greasy track on dry tyres in the hope that they could make the most of the extra grip in the final laps. As predicted, conditions steadily improved with each lap, and each driver had one final lap on an almost-dry track with which to set their fastest time. However, none were able to make the most of the opportunity. Brands Hatch race winner David Chapman could only manage 4th on the grid after being balked by traffic, though he was lucky to be out there at all - a power steering pump failure before qualifying was swiftly fixed by the mechanics with just 15 minutes to spare. Next along was Paul Sheard in 7th place, also unable to make use of the dry circuit. He shared his row of the grid with Clint Bardwell in 8th who had his final lap time disallowed due to exceeding the track limits. Darren Standing, visiting the circuit for the first time since 2012, qualified 12th, but was confident he had the pace to move up in the races.
Race 1 took place on Saturday afternoon and though the sun had been absent all day the track had dried completely. At the start David Chapman made a sluggish getaway and was swamped by the following drivers, making contact with Abbie Eaton and then running wide at Park corner, which left him tucked in between Paul Sheard and Clint Bardwell. This wasn’t to last long though, as Clint was pushed off the track by a following driver and found himself facing backwards while the entire pack drove by. While the leaders made a break at the front, Sheard and Chapman got involved in a 4-car dice for 3rd place. Both were struggling with a lack of grip and Sheard was also suffering with brake problems, which eventually caused a spin on lap 8 which hampered both drivers’ races. From there, Chapman had a lonely race to finish 5th while Sheard was on course for a 6th place until being punted wide by Abbie Eaton in a yellow flag zone on the final corner. Despite the infringement, no penalty was awarded, leaving Sheard in 8th place just behind Darren Standing who had worked his way up the field and eventually benefitted from Sheard’s bad luck to take 7th. Clint Bardwell recovered well from his spin to claim 10th place, having been in 18th at the end of lap 1.
Sunday morning brought the same difficult conditions as Saturday - mixed grip levels and damp patches on the track. Once again tyre choice was important, and Paul Sheard was the one to gamble on dry tyres while the rest of the team played it safe with wets. Unfortunately Paul’s race was over before it began, a broken suspension arm on the warm-up lap rendering the car undriveable and forcing him to return to the pits. Darren Standing built on his progress from the first race by making a flying start, jumping to 5th at the first corner, but he and Clint Bardwell were both balked by a half-spin for Matt Davies at turn two. David Chapman settled into 3rd place early on, which would soon become 2nd when leader Tom Roche lost his exhaust and retired. Chapman was unable to challenge for the lead though, as the heavily-treaded wet tyres began to overheat on the mostly dry track, leaving him to settle for 2nd. Clint Bardwell had a fairly uneventful race to take 5th, but the same couldn’t be said for Darren Standing. Trying different racing lines due to the changing grip levels, he ran wide at the Gooseneck and found himself on the lethal combination of a steep hill and wet grass. The car made heavy contact with a tyre barrier and damaged the front and a rear bumper, but fortunately Darren was unhurt and the car damage was mainly cosmetic. It was hastily repaired thanks to some excellent work by the team mechanics, and a few hours later was ready for the final race of the day.
With Paul Sheard, Darren Standing and Tom Roche all starting from the back of the grid due to non-finishes, race 3 looked set to be full of action. The track had dried out so without tyre choice to worry about, the drivers could focus on changing their setups to improve on performance in dry conditions. Starting from 2nd place, David Chapman made the most of his opportunity to latch onto the back of pole-sitter Mike Comber and the two circulated at lap-record pace for most of the 20 minute race. Both were so evenly-matched that Chapman never had a chance to overtake, and with 3 laps to go his tyres began to overheat. A lurid slide approaching the Mountain for the final time put an end to any chance of a win and he had to settle for 2nd. Clint Bardwell spent the early laps in a battle for 3rd with Liam Murphy, but contact between the two put Bardwell off the track and he fell to 8th by the finish. Paul Sheard and Darren Standing gained several places from their starting positions of 18th and 16th, but the narrow circuit made overtaking almost impossible. Paul managed to claw his way up to 10th, still suffering with the same brake problems as the first race, while Darren took 13th in his battle-scarred machine.
1st 58 Mike Comber 403
2nd 19 David Chapman 396
7th 34 Clint Bardwell 364
8th 18 Paul Sheard 360
10th 17 Darren Standing 348
15th 6 Julian Taylor 300
21st 27 Jim Hart 252
22nd 16 Adam Brindle 236
25th 68 Justin Newnam 166
By David ChapmanBack