Photo credit: Al Arena – Ignite Media / Mazda Motorsports
This past weekend was the finale for Battery Tender Mazda Global MX-5 Cup and IndyCar at the St. Pete Grand Prix. It was a funny feeling traveling back to St. Pete, since I have a very strong memory of being there when our year as we thought it would go changed completely. It was nice to be back there for take two at such an iconic street circuit—and this time with fans allowed and no cancellations!
This was the championship weekend for Global MX-5 Cup, so a lot was on the line. The points race going into this final event was really tight, and as it turned out, the top two drivers each won a race at St. Pete to make it even more exciting!
One of those drivers, Michael Carter, had a momentary car issue at the start of the second race that dropped him further back in the field. The other driver, Robert Noaker, was leading the race, which created enough of a points margin that even though Michael had won race one and was ahead in points going into race two, Robert was poised to win the championship. So that entire second race saw Michael fighting to climb back up the field to reclaim his chance at a championship.
With the dynamics of a street circuit and the walls being so close to the edge of the track, the risks and consequences were race-ending in scope: no one could afford to be off even an inch. It’s also very tricky to pass on a street circuit, which is an additional challenge when you’re trying to climb back through the field!
A full-course caution late in the race made for an exciting finish, and although Robert Noaker did everything he could by leading the race and gaining all of the extra in-race points (most laps led, fastest lap of the race), Michael gained one last position once the race when back to green to win the championship by a mere four points.
It’s incredible to think that after a full season of 12 races, just one or two positions on track in the final race ultimately made the difference in clinching a championship. It just goes to show how tight and competitive the Global MX-5 Cup Series really is!