The 2016 Pace Ward MLR Sprint Series kicked off on Saturday (2nd April) in southwest Wales, where competitors braved the elements at Pembrey Circuit for the start of the series’ tenth consecutive season.
Setting the fastest time of the day and winning Class D was last year’s Champion of the category, Anthony Lidster, bringing his now familiar bright red Evo 6 home ahead of the field. An incredibly tight battle for Class B honours saw Stephen Moore finish a slender 500ths of a second ahead of Steve Peel - both of them also in Evo 6s - with Alex Bones claiming the Class A top spot in his Evo 5.
Situated about a mile inland from the Carmarthenshire coast and approximately 10-miles west of Llanelli, Pembrey circuit is built - like so many of the UK’s motorsport venues - on the site of a former RAF airfield. The 1.456-mile track was first opened in 1989, with the sprint course utilising almost a full lap of the circuit.
All those who attended this season-opener might have been forgiven for thinking that now April had arrived Spring was in the air, as they were greeted by something a little more than an April shower. And whilst the Pembrey asphalt is consistent in its nature, the patches of water on the surface meant that grip levels were far from it. Consequently, there was err of caution by competitors - a factor that was shown in the times - as they embarked on the morning’s three practice runs.
With the competitive runs starting immediately after practice and no signs of brightness showing through the black clouds, the organisers and drivers persevered. Unsurprisingly, it was Lidster that set the pace, managing to harness the power of his Mitsubishi on the still sodden track.
But it was the battle behind him that was generating the heat of the day, with Moore, Peel and Nick Greenwood - also in an Evo 5 - swapping fractions of a second. First it was Moore, then it was Peel, then it was Greenwood, then it was Moore again...and so it went on. Predictably, it all came down to the seventh and final run. Moore had posted a time of 53.60 on run six, so there was just one last chance left for the others to challenge for supremecy.
Giving it all he could, Peel stopped the clock stop agonizingly close at 53.65 - just 0.05 seconds off Moore’s former time. For Greenwood, it was his 53.92 on run five that rewarded him with his best time of the event. Again, it was close, but on this occasion he would have to settle for third. It was a great battle for the Class B podium positions that proved just how close things can be within each of the series’ four classes.
Whilst all this was going on in Class B, Alex Bones was busy climbing up the leaderboard in his Class A (the category for fast-road cars) Evo. He went on to claim his fastest time of the day - a very respectable 56.35 - on the final run, which was enough too see him finish in seventh place overall.
Lidster continued his domination in Class D and saved the best till last; his 48.16 on the seventh and final run not only securing his overall position, but establishing the fastest time of the day in the process. Needless to say, he was delighted to start the new season, exactly as he had finished the last.
The second event in this year’s six-round Pace Ward MLR Sprint Series takes place on Sunday 1st May at Snetterton Circuit in Norfolk.
Increasing the series’ profile this year is the addition of live commentary and video filming at every round that will be broadcast throughout the season on social media.
The 2016 Pace Ward MLR Sprint Series is sponsored by: Pace Ward performance insurance, SuperPro suspension parts, AP Tuning, Ross Sport, Turbosmart and HKS Europe.
Round 1 Class WinnersClass Class sponsor Driver Car TimeA SuperPro Alex Bones Evo V 53.92B AP Tuning Stephen Moore Evo VI 53.60C Ross Sport - - -D Turbosmart Anthony Lidster Evo VI 48.16