Bladon crowned 2017 Sunoco 200 Challenge champion
Max Bladon has won this year’s Sunoco 200 Challenge after his only remaining rival, Steve Burgess, fell short of the points required in his final Radical Challenge outing of 2016 at Snetterton.
Bladon’s average, which currently stands at 109.9, would drop to 91.58 points if he failed to score at the Mini Challenge Snetterton season finale on October 29/30. But that would still be 4.19 more than runner-up Rick Parfitt Jnr’s total after the British GT driver jumped Burgess in the final reckoning.
It means the 2016 Cooper class champion has become the first driver to win the Sunoco 200 Challenge with a race weekend to spare. The 19-year-old, who follows in the footsteps of previous winners Aaron Steele, Lawrence Davey, Lewis Plato, Oskar Kruger and Paddy McClughan, can now look forward to contesting the Rolex 24 At Daytona’s 4-hour, support race on January 27 at the wheel of a Sunoco-sponsored Ford Mustang.
Bladon is certainly a worthy champion having utterly dominated the Cooper class with Excelr8 Motorsport in his second season of Mini Challenge and car racing in general. 12 victories, two second places and a fourth from 15 outings helped him lead the standings from late May and become the first Mini Challenge driver ever to win a Sunoco Challenge title.
167 drivers competing in 12 categories across six Sunoco Racing Fuels-supplied UK championships signed up for a chance to win the fully funded Rolex 24 At Daytona support race prize drive at the start of 2016. They joined the 465 others that have attempted a similar feat since the competition was first held in 2011.
Max Bladon, 2017 Sunoco 200 Challenge winner:
“Honestly, this is the biggest achievement of my career to date. It’s looked more and more likely over the past couple of months and I’ve been trying to keep my feet on the ground. Continuing to win in Mini Challenge and wrapping up the title would help the Sunoco 200 Challenge take care of itself, and that’s exactly what happened. But when I received the phone call from Anders [Hildebrand] there was definitely a moment of ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ I’ve never had a phone call like it!
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity but one we didn’t set out to achieve at the start of the year. I’m just so glad we signed up, and that the Cooper class was included in the competition for the first time. There was nothing to lose and now I’m racing at Daytona! It’s going to be a big step, of course, transitioning from the front wheel-drive Mini to a rear wheel-drive Mustang with a lot more power. But I’m only two years out of karts where the philosophy is similar, so hopefully I can apply some of that thinking.
“GT and endurance racing have been my goals since starting in cars and this prize is just what I need to help make the step. Who knows where it might lead.” Anders Hildebrand, Anglo American Oil Company Ltd (Sunoco UK) Managing Director:
“I’m delighted that Max has won the 2017 Sunoco 200 Challenge with one round still remaining. He has been incredibly quick and consistent this year and demonstrated great speed and maturity. Jumping from a front wheel-drive 1.6-litre 135bhp Mini to a 5-litre 500+bhp rear wheel-drive Ford Mustang will certainly be an eye-opener for him! Plus he will have to cope with Daytona’s famous 31-degree banking and the endurance racing element. But I’ve no doubt Max will acclimatise quickly and have an amazing experience. He’s absolutely earned it.” Antony Williams, Mini Challenge Promoter:
“The Sunoco 200 Challenge is an incredible prize, of which Max is a more than worthy winner. He has been dominant this season in the Cooper class, showing the raw pace and most importantly consistency to take the title and now the Sunoco 200 Challenge. The prize will give Max an opportunity to broaden his motorsport experience by racing in the States and set him up for the next stage of his motorsport career.”
With the 2017 Sunoco 200 Challenge settled, attention now switches to the Sunoco Whelen Challenge. British GT’s Seb Morris currently leads the race to win a fully funded seat aboard a Whelen-sponsored Chevrolet Corvette sports-prototype in January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona, but can still be overhauled by Marco Cencetti. The Italian has one final chance to bridge his 4.69-point deficit when the 2016 Radical Euro Masters SR3 campaign concludes at Jerez on October 29/30. Click here for the updated Sunoco 200 Challenge points. What are the Sunoco Challenges?
The Sunoco Challenges provide an accurate assessment and comparison of performances across multiple championships during any given season. Points are awarded for qualifying and race results, including fastest lap, which are then converted into an individual average score for each competing driver over the course of a full campaign.
That means each race weekend offers drivers an equal chance to climb and drop down their respective Sunoco Challenge table. It also ensures that performances are taken into consideration across an entire season while placing less emphasis on one-off or unfair results.
As in previous years this season’s Sunoco Challenge champion will win a fully funded drive aboard a Whelen-sponsored prototype in the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Meanwhile, Sunoco’s 200 Challenge champion will contest the 4 hour Daytona support race held over the same January weekend at the wheel of a Sunoco-liveried Ford Mustang.