Simon Baker has sealed the Mazda Racing Series National Championship with a superb display at Hampton Downs International Motorsport Park over the weekend.
Baker, who had previously won the title in the 2020/2021 season, led the series throughout and came into the final round at Hampton Downs with a 7-point lead over major rival Chris White Junior.
Baker placed third, third and fourth across the final three races of the championship while White Junior struggled all weekend with distributor and engine problems, only qualifying eighteenth and compiling results of thirteenth, twelfth and sixth across the round.
“Rapt, absolutely stoked,” said Baker as he stepped from his car after the final race in an interview on live television. “It is really hard to win championships, so you enjoy them when you do.”
The racing was absolutely superb all weekend long, with a massive field of cars and close, hard-fought racing, relatively free of incident.
Rex Edwards had taken the Premier Insulation Pole Position Award in qualifying on Saturday before winning the opening race that afternoon from Sam Dashfield and Baker. Defending National and North Island Champion Ben Stewart was fourth ahead in his one-off appearance, ahead of Auckland drivers Warren Crowther and Leo Bult.
Crowther won Sunday morning’s 10-lap, top-10 reverse grid race, making great progress from the middle of the ten to quickly take the lead and take his first win and, in fact, the first podium in the class. Crowther, Bult, Baker and Edwards were the big movers in the reverse top ten, finishing in that order in a frantic contest.
The finale saw Edwards win again from Crowther and Stewart while Baker came home fourth, taking the championship in the process. Matt Horne was fifth ahead of White Junior, who worked his way to sixth, while Bult finished thirteenth in 2017/2018 Champion, Andrew Jackson’s car after his own struck problems.
At the weekend’s conclusion, Edwards stood atop the podium for the round with Crowther and Baker on either side, the latter doing enough to take the big prize.
South Island Champion, White Junior, took the runner-up spot in the championship while Crowther, who was only ninth in the points coming into the round, had a stellar weekend to jump to third, three points ahead of Bult.
The MX5 Racing NZ Series also provided stunning racing in their own battles.
Dean Evans arrived at Hampton Downs with just a one-point lead over Marrku Braid and won all three MX5 battles, crossing the line side by side with Braid in the finale to win the MX5 title.
While the National Championship concluded this weekend, the Mazda Racing Series North Island Championship still has one round to run back at Hampton Downs over the weekend of 27/28 May.
Words and Images: Supplied
Additional Reporting: Matthew Sampson