A return to Snetterton in Norfolk for the final rounds of the 2016 Lotus Cup & Elise Trophy championships saw three champions crowned on the tight and technical 300 configuration, an extension of the 200 circuit used for the season opener back in March. With multiple drivers in contention for titles, the racing was set to be dramatic on this unseasonably warm October day.
Adam Mackay won the opening two races here in March and came into the finals weekend just nine points adrift of leader Ryan Savage after a dramatic encounter at Silverstone last time out. With two points on offer for pole, the 30-minute qualifying session was the most crucial of the year, especially with just one race to decide the title as Snetterton saw the return of the single 60-minute race format which was last used at Oulton Park in July.
Mackay had 30kgs aboard his www.track-club.com Exige V6 after his second place at the last race back in September, whereas Savage's 10th place after contact meant he carried nothing into the weekend.
However neither championship contender would end up on pole and gaining the two additional points...
Savage led the early running in his Perry's 2-Eleven with a 2m01.835s before Mackay piped that by just 0.032s, giving a promising outlook on the competitive nature of the day. Jason Baker was also in contention and put his Peoplesource Elise S2 to second, splitting the championship contenders.
The frantic lappery was halted briefly at 22 minutes for the recovery of Seth Walpole's stricken Production class Elise at Oggies. At the restart Mackay's first flyer was ruined by a lock-up into the final corner at Murray's, but an improvement to 2m01.467s next time round put him 0.164s up on Baker.
A resurgent Savage then jumped back to second- 0.062s behind Mackay!- and Baker also improved to make a top three covered by a mere 0.120s, an incredible feat on a - circuit!
With ten minutes left on the clock Baker then set a blistering 2m00.865s, some five tenths clear of Mackay, with Savage (who had a lap disallowed for track limits) a further 0.4s behind. Following that, improvements were hard to come by, thus giving Baker his fourth pole of the year following Snetterton (200), Brands Hatch Indy and Brands GP.
Adam Balon was fourth in another track-club Exige V6, having also had one of his laps removed for disrespect of track limits. Andrew Wright was next up in his Honda-powered Exige S1, with Rob Myers (track-club Exige V6) rounding out the top six. The AbleCare Exige V6 of David McInulty was seventh ahead of Bob Drummond (track-club Exige V6) and Ian Fenwick's Poolcare Leisure Exige S1 completed the top nine. Further down the order were debutant John Atherton in an S1 Elise and the Andrew Hamilton/Steve Parrott Motorsport Elise.
John LaMaster took Production pole in their Datum Motorsport S2 Elise, a 2m10.306s putting them nearly half a second clear of James Little's Elise Cup R). Mark Richardson (Hangar 111 Elise S1) held third for the majority of the session before a last-lap flyer from Silverstone winner Jason McInulty (AbleCare Elise Cup R) demoted the S1 Elise to fourth.
Championship contender Stuart Ratcliff rounded out the top five aboard the track-club Elise Cup R, followed by David Alexander (Densy Developments Ltd Elise S1), Simon Oakley's SO Motorsport Elise Cup R, Steve Summers (Datum Motorsport Exige) and Axel van Nederveen's Matthew Bentley Racing Elise 111R shared with Classic Formula Ford champion Adriano Meideiros. Mads Peterson rounded out the top ten in the www.scangroup.co.uk Elise S2.
Seth Walpole stopped early in the session with the www.plant-tech.co.uk Elise 111R and completes the 11 Production-class runners.
One hour would decide whether it would be Mackay or Savage crowned 2016 Supersport champion. Reverting back to the 60-minute format for the final race was a big aspect to take into account, with just one chance to score the necessary points instead of two. Pit-stop strategy was also a big factor, having been absent from the 30 minute sprint races.
The race got underway with Snetterton basking in sunshine, polesitter Jason Baker launching into Riches in the lead ahead of Mackay and Savage; the top three having stayed close but relatively calm. This would prove to be the order of the opening few laps, but as the first 10-20 minutes unfolded there was a clear pattern emerging as Baker pulled away from Mackay, who in turn was pulling clear of third-place Savage.
As the top three remained in position, most eyes were on the battle from fourth to eighth which was very close as Adam Balon fended off a train consisting of David McInulty, Rob Myers, Andrew Wright and Bob Drummond.
Myers grabbed fifth from McInulty on lap six, before the AbleCare Exige found a way back past and the pair continued an exciting tussle. This was in turn allowing Balon to pull away, giving him a comfortable gap in fourth.
Back up front- and with the pit window opening at 25 minutes- it was still Baker leading Mackay and Savage, with reasonable gaps between the trio.
Baker was the first to pit, coming in on lap 13 as Mackay and Savage continued circulating. Savage came in three laps later, whilst Mackay was the last to stop and did so on lap 17.
The order played itself out exactly how it was before the stops, with Mackay rejoining around four seconds behind Baker, with Savage third and now in need of some trouble ahead to clinch the championship.
However, that trouble came to Savage himself, who stopped again on lap 21 and lost out on the final podium spot to Adam Balon. This essentially guaranteed Mackay, who was now closing in on leader Baker, the title.
The gap between the top two came down rapidly within the final few laps but ultimately Baker held on to win the final race of the year, just 0.895s ahead of new champion Mackay at the flag. Balon secured third ahead of Savage and Wright.
Myers, McInulty and Fenwick rounded out positions six to eight ahead of Bob Drummond. John Atherthon and the Hamilton/Parrott Motorsport Elise were the other Supersport finishers.
Stuart Ratcliff clinched the Production title with a measured drive to fifth, whilst John LaMaster/Luigi Mazza secured the final win of the year and second place in the standings.
Mazza started the Datum Motorsport S2 Elise and dominated the first half of the race, creating a sizeable gap over James Little before the pit window opened.
Mazza handed over to LaMaster and a charging Little eventually drew in, taking the lead on lap 18 and bringing the silver car home with 14 seconds in hand. Jason McInulty took third, some way behind LaMaster. David Alexander and champion Ratcliff were the only other Production finishers, as Seth Walpole, Mark Richardson and Mads Peterson all retired.