The 2017-18 SBMRL season wrapped up recently and it certainly lived up to expectations. The season took shape even before the race with a number of changes to the competitors. Regency Motors and Scandinavian Blitz were the only two teams returning, accompanied by newcomers Force Ravenswood and Sprite Racing. Furthermore, the reigning driver champion, Launch Bornado, had jumped from Regency Motors to Force Ravenswood. The league boasted two rookie teams and four rookie drivers, but Osito Racing Company had already proven that inexperience didn’t mean lack of success.
The opening race in Portland saw the league open the season on one of five new tracks on the calendar. Force Ravenswood experienced some growing pains as Launch’s engine failed halfway into the first lap. Perennial favorite Jaap Snellrijder then proceeded to school the rest of the field for an easy victory. Behind him, Sheila Dinkum and Bubba McQueen proved that the rookies would be no pushovers. Meanwhile, two-time team champions Regency Motors took a dominating 1-2 to kick off their title defense.
The second race of the season was held at Circuit of the Americas, one of two tracks that would see the SBMRL visit for a third straight season. After his DNF in Portland, Launch got the start on pole position, cemented a lead early in the race, and then managed to hold on the rest of the way. However, Force Ravenswood suffered a second straight DNF when Bubba’s suspension broke. Sheila, who was 2nd in Portland, came through the field to repeat that accomplishment in Austin. Jaap’s effort to win consecutive races were already not going well when his tires gave out late in the race.
Perhaps the most dramatic race of the season came at Suzuka. The Japanese circuit was expected to be difficult. What was less expected was that some drivers would simply get it right. In Suzuka, those drivers were Bubba and the Stig. While the two entertained from the front, the rest of the field stratified into groups of cars that had similar races. The Regency Motors pair of Jaap and Sheila were at the far tail end, with Captain Slow, Stevie, Whiplash, and Launch making up the middle pack. It didn’t appear that anything would upset the balance until the final corner of the race. The Stig, unsatisfied with 2nd place made a last minute push to pass Bubba. However, his engine gave out in the final corner. To make matters worse, Captain Slow, suffered the same fate just moments later, leaving Scandinavian Blitz reeling.
The difficult first third of the season left the Stig in last place in the driver standings and on pole for Monaco, a track that he had previously won from pole two seasons ago. However, just a year prior, Scandinavian Blitz had recorded a double DNF. The two red cars occupied the front row and got off to a flying start as the pair battled for the race lead throughout the first lap. When Captain Slow headed into the pits and the Stig didn’t, the race was essentially sealed. The other story of the race was Sheila’s second lap charge. She was in last place to start the second lap, but fought all the way up to finish in second place. Bubba just barely edged out Captain Slow to complete the podium.
Despite victory in Monaco, the Stig was still only up to 6th place in the driver standings for Interlagos. Captain Slow’s chances of victory went down the drain with a stall at the start, allowing nearly the entire field to pass him, but it was pole starter Stevie who dominated the first lap. The Stig’s pit crew got him the lead at the start of the second lap and he never looked back for a second straight win. Whiplash finished second after opting not to pit, with Launch Bornado rounding out the rostrum. The Stig’s back-to-back wins vaulted him all the way to the top of the standings.
In India, the Stig was once again on a charge early on. He was up from last to 3rd place by the middle of the first lap. Launch and Stevie battled it out for first lap supremacy while the rest of the field just tried to keep up. The second lap saw the Stig pass Launch in Turn 4, and that would be enough to stay in the lead for a record setting 3rd consecutive win. Force Ravenswood saw Launch and Bubba score a double podium, while Captain Slow became the first DNF since Suzuka.
Heading into Melbourne, Launch, Bubba, and Sheila were all tied for second place in the driver standings. Jaap and the Stig got off to flying starts but the first lap was extremely competitive. Bubba and Stevie both held leads, with only two drivers not running in the top two. Jaap fell as far back as 7th in the second lap, but put on a clinic over the final half to take a narrow victory. Stevie made a less dramatic but similar late run to take 2nd, while Launch took a 3rd straight podium.
Launch’s consistency on the year left meant just a 10 point gap to the Stig. Certainly surmountable over two races. In fact, the top 6 in the league all were within shouting distance. The team standings had Regency Motors just a single point ahead of Force Ravenswood.
The penultimate race of the season was in Shanghai, where most drivers struggled to get to grips with the odd characteristics of the circuit. Whiplash ended up taking a lead early on, and despite having to wrestle with what was one of the more difficult tracks on the calendar, he stayed in front of his challengers the rest of the way. Captain Slow, Jaap, and the Stig were the ones who put up the biggest effort to spoil his day. Jaap’s second lap was quite possibly his worst stretch of driving ever, but Captain Slow and the Stig took home a double podium for Scandinavian Blitz.
The Stig’s third place in China left him largely in control of his fate in Barcelona. However, all four teams entered the race within 12 points of each other. It was truly anyone’s for the taking. Five different drivers held a lead, but it was also the case that every driver except Jaap spent time in 7th and 8th place. Not unrelated, it was Jaap who took control of the race in the second lap and took home victory. Behind him, Launch, the Stig, and Captain Slow battled for 2nd, with the three finishing in that order.
After three seasons in the league, we’ve now got three different drivers champions. The Stig became the first to represent a team other than Regency Motors and he did it in fine fashion. His 3 straight wins were utterly dominant and came on the heels of his elimination in Japan, which was likely the lowest moment of the season for any team. On top of that, it left him at the bottom of the driver standings.
Jaap, who finished second, also collected three wins on the year, but he also struggled mightily at times. He was as low as 6th with just three races to go. Launch continued to collect podiums, but only won once, and finished 3rd.
Unlike previous seasons where the team standings diverged into contenders and non-contenders, this year the team standings converged. Just a handful of points separated all four teams heading into the final race in Barcelona, resulting in the closest finish we’ve ever seen.
Scandinavian Blitz couldn’t pull off the team title after Captain Slow finished in last place. Instead, Regency Motors took that honor in a very close race. Force Ravenswood was the runner up, and put the 4 point deficit squarely on the feet of Bubba, who only needed a 6th place finish in Shanghai to make up that deficit. Instead, he was last. Scandinavian Blitz was a further 2 points back.
- All three of the Stig’s victories came on tracks where he had previously raced.
- All three of Jaap’s victories came on tracks new to the league.
- The Stig’s second lap in Brazil was the fastest lap the SBMRL has seen, taking only 11 turns to complete.
- Bubba’s first lap around Suzuka was the fastest first lap we’ve seen, with the Japanese race being the shortest overall.
- Despite 3 podiums, Sheila was the only driver never to lead a race.
- The only driver to spend more time leading a race than Captain Slow was the Stig.
- The Stig accounted for 61.43% of Scandinavian Blitz’s points this year. This after their driver’s had the smallest percentage difference last year, at 50.97%. This year’s Sprite Racing was at 57.56%, which is the only other time a team has had over 55% from one driver.