The ninth consecutive season for the Pace Ward MLR Sprint Series got the green light on Saturday 11th April at Pembrey, the first time the Mitsubishi Lancer Register had ran an event at this South Wales circuit.
The event also represented another first for the organisers, who have this year combined the Whiteline 22B Sprint Series and the Litchfield GTROC Sprint Series into the programme, which sees an interesting mix of makes and models now running in the same field. Consequently, the competition for overall honours adds a new dimension to proceedings, although the battle to win the various MLR classes still holds the greatest prize for the Mitsubishi drivers.
Following showers overnight, competitors arrived at the venue labeled as ‘the home of Welsh motorsport’, pleased to find the track had been dried out by the prevailing wind - not an uncommon characteristic of a circuit that’s built on a former RAF airfield on the coast near Llanelli.
With Pembrey a new addition to the calendar, drivers paid a great deal of attention to the sighting laps and the subsequent practice runs in the morning. Following the lunch break, organisers made a few adjustments to the course that started from the pit lane exit and featured almost a complete lap of the 1.5-mile circuit.
In Class D - the category for the most modified cars - it was last year’s champion Anthony Lidster that claimed the win, also setting FTD in his familiar red Evo VI. However, it wasn’t until the fourth of the day’s six competitive runs that Lidster’s name appeared at the top of the Pace Ward MLR Sprint Series time sheets, as the day’s Class C winner Paul Allin had held that accolade until then, having found his pace in his equally familiar grey and bright green Evo V right from the word go.
Whilst Allin was unchallenged for Class supremacy during the event, the same could not be said for competitors in Classes B and A, where the lead for both categories was fiercely fought from beginning to end, with only fractions of seconds separating the front-running drivers.
In Class B it was a battle between the Evo VIs: Stephen Moore was fastest over the first two runs, but on the next three it was Steve Peel who held the advantage, setting the time that won him the top step of the podium on the fifth time over the course. Moore tried to pull it back on the sixth and final run, but after an heroic attempt, he just missed out by a slender 0.33 seconds.
For the class featuring cars that are nearer to standard specification, it was an even more fiercely fought affair. The first two runs saw Nick Greenwood put his Evo V ahead of the Class A field. In fact, he set what was to be the winning time on only his second outing. Evo VI driver Jamie Hollett did his best to fight back by being quickest in Class A on runs three and four, but fell 0.59 seconds short of the target before mechanical problems brought his challenge to an end on run five.
Not to be outdone, last year’s Class A champion Ian Fleming was the quickest over the final two runs in his Evo IX, but it was still not enough to topple Greenwood from the top spot by a margin of just 0.15 seconds.
In addition to the trophies for the top three drivers in each class, for 2015 the MLR has introduced a new trophy for ‘Best Rookie’, which is presented to the best first-time sprinter on the day. On round one, this was awarded to Jason Stott, who drove his Evo VIII to an impressive third place in Class A and therefore saw him take home two pieces of silverware from his inaugural event.
At the end of the day there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that 2015 has seen the Pace Ward MLR Sprint Series continue its tradition to provide value for money motorsport and huge entertainment for everyone involved.
Increasing the series’ profile this year, to keep everyone informed and entertained, is the addition of commentary throughout the day, together with television coverage featuring action from each of the season’s seven rounds that will be broadcast on Motors TV. This weekend's event at Pembrey will be aired on Friday 1st May in the evening (time dependent on TV schedules).
The 2015 Pace Ward MLR Sprint Series is sponsored by: Pace Ward performance insurance, SuperPro suspension parts, AP Tuning, Ross Sport and HKS Europe.