Peter Ensor was what he called “aggressively patient” on Saturday at Road Atlanta, taking the Spec MX-5 Challenge race win and putting himself in position to claim the $100,000 prize on Sunday.
Ensor, championship co-leader Tom Martin, and Nick Bruni held off a six-car pack for most of the race and were left to their own devices on the final, 13th lap to settle the podium order.
Bruni had the point down the long back straight, with Ensor on the inside as the pair went side-by-side under braking. Ensor slipped by into the lead and Martin, hanging back and watching the action unfold, went with Ensor to also get around Bruni.
The trio continued the strong run down the hill to the checkered flag, crossing the stripe three wide with almost no space between them. Ensor was less than a tenth of a second in front of both Martin and Bruni, in order, at the finish line.
Ensor got to the front after an electrical issue in his Mazda MX-5 left him eighth on the grid. He steadily climbed the ladder during the race’s early laps, and by showtime was right in position.
“I had to be patient at the start, wait for things to calm down, and then take opportunities as they presented themselves,” Ensor said. “I made it up to the front, and then it was just a battle with Nick and Tom for the podium.”
Martin and Ensor will enter the Sunday round with a four-point cushion on Bruni. The highest finisher between the two, provided they finish fourth or higher, will clinch the big prize.
“It went really well,” Martin said. “I wanted to run in the top three for most of the race and be in the top three on the last lap. There’s a lot of draft on the back straight, so as long as you’re there you’ve got a shot at it. We raced really clean to the finish.”
Bruni ran up front for most of the race, and though hoping for a win, was pleased with Saturday’s race.
“It was a lot of fun,” Bruni said. “I finished third, but I can’t really be upset with my finish because it came down to the wire. I just about cleared Peter, it was close. We left each other room, we were respectful of one other, it was clean. All in all, it was a fun race. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
John Allen, in the iRacing/Defined Autoworks MX-5 made a last lap pass around Manny Martinez’ Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks machine to finish fourth.
While it would take a unique situation for many of them, eight drivers remain mathematically in contention for the Championship. Bruni trails Martin and Ensor by four, followed by Martinez and Noah Grey (both -5 from the leaders), Jason Connole and Allen (-6), and Matt Million (-7).
The Spec MX-5 Challenge Championship finale will run at noon ET on Sunday, with a $100,000 prize on the line. While the 2018 season is ending, applications and inquiries are now being accepted for the 2019 season at SpecMX-5.com.
Unofficial results from Saturday’s 13-lap Spec MX-5 Challenge Race at Road Atlanta, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, name and sponsor/car:
1. (8), Peter Ensor, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
2. (3), Tom Martin, Winding Road Racing/WindingRoad.com Mazda MX-5
3. (7), Nick Bruni, Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
4. (2), John Allen, iRacing/Definied Autoworks/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
5. (6), Manny Martinez, Island Motor Cars/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
6. (4), Noah Grey, Winding Road Racing Mazda MX-5
7. (1), Matt Million, SCR Performance/Winding Road Racing Mazda MX-5
8. (5), Jason Connole, Protech Bedliners/Trimark Digital/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
9. (9), Harry Voigt, Winding Road Racing Mazda MX-5
10. (10), Assen Rachev, Stable Energies/Possien-Hall Motorsports Development/BGN Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
11. (12), Jose Garcia, KEEM Corp./Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5
12. (11), Tyler Harrell, JTC Racing/Atlanta Speedwerks Mazda MX-5