Race ace Bird makes major progress in Mini championship
Max Bird was runner-up in the 2021 Mini Challenge JCW championship following a year long battle that saw the title swing back and forth throughout the season, much like the F1 championship.
The Mini Challenge JCW championship is part of the British Touring Car package, with races televised live on ITV4 and watched by some 1.7m TV viewers per round and with a trackside audience of around 50,000 per event.
The Mini JCW car looks like a normal road-going Mini but there the similarity ends.
It has a highly-tuned turbo charged engine giving 275 horsepower in a lightweight body shell, with full race suspension, uprated brakes and a six-speed sequential racing gearbox which means the car is capable to lapping within two to three seconds of a racing Aston Martin or Mclaren GT car.
Being a one-make championship with strict technical regulations the cars are all very similar in performance and with 30-plus cars taking part it makes for very close and exciting racing.
Bird, a 21-year-old from Chidham near Chichester, joined Excelr8 Motorsport for 2021, the championship winning team from 2020.
The season started at Snetterton in Norfolk, with a pole position and two podium finishes.
Moving on to Brands Hatch for round two, once again Bird was fastest in qualifying and went on to win the first race and was winning the second when he was taken off the track by another driver. Despite this he came away in the lead of the championship.
Round three was at Oulton Park in Cheshire, and again Bird qualified fastest and won race one, finishing sixth in a shortened race two after it was stopped following a bad accident.
Round four in Scotland was a low point for Bird. A problem with the car in qualifying meant he could only qualify seventh fastest. He managed two third places, but lost the lead in the championship.
At Croft, in Yorkshire, Bird started a comeback. With fourth and second place finishes he closed the gap to the championship leader.
Round six at Donington saw Bird qualify second to put him on the front row of the grid, and he took a win, a second and a third which meant he went into the final race at Brands Hatch just four points behind the leader.
Round seven and the final race of the season was very tense and Bird out-qualified the championship leader and beat him in the first two races to lead the championship going into the last race. But a reverse grid for race three meant he had to start behind his rival and, despite a valiant effort, he was unable to pass him in the race. As a result he lost the championship by just a few points.
After a season of racing, and everything that goes on behind the scenes with exercise, diet and training on the track and on a simulator, it was disappointing to be so close to winning.
Overall Bird was on the podium 11 times during the season, taking three wins, three second places and five thirds.
He also was on pole position in qualifying three times and set two fastest laps, which made it his best season yet in the Mini Challenge JCW and has put him into an excellent position for 2022 when he expects to continue to be a frontrunner as he tries to win the championship.
Bird said: “I fought very hard throughout the year and came so close to the title.
“I had a great team behind me and I was able to make significant progress with the Mini and feel very strong and confident and I am ready to win again in 2022.” Bird received support in 2021 from Orbx Flight Simulation Systems and local companies including Bluebird Developments, Artec Engineering, Core Results, Game Set and Match and Goodwood Health Club.
Anna Cicognani of Orbx said: “We were very impressed with the tremendous results that he achieved.”
The 2022 series will once again be part of the British Touring Car series, with live ITV4 coverage, large trackside audiences and a social media following in excess of three million people.
It’s a fantastic opportunity for companies to promote themselves and Bird is looking to form commercial partnerships with five local organisations for 2022 who will benefit from exposure to promote their business and brand through media coverage, promotions and trackside hospitality.
Anyone interested in growing their business in 2022 can contact Max by email at [email protected] to discuss working together.