Mini man Bladon makes big jump to Day­tona As­ton

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It was quite a jump by any stan­dards. Last year Max Bladon was rac­ing a 130bhp front-wheeldrive Mini and this year he started his sea­son at the wheel of a 400bh­p­plus As­ton Martin Van­tage GT4. But the Sunoco 240 Chal­lenge gave the 20-year-old just that chance.

Bladon’s prize drive came in the four-hour Con­ti­nen­tal Tire Sportscar Chal­lenge opener, the tra­di­tional Fri­day af­ter­noon sup­port race to the Day­tona 24 Hours. And the me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent, who won his seat cour­tesy of a dom­i­nant sea­son in the Mini Chal­lenge UK Cooper Class, proved more than ca­pa­ble of mak­ing that jump.

It wasn’t a straight­foward tran­si­tion for Bladon. The As­ton he first sam­pled at the of­fi­cial pre-day­tona test – the so-called ‘Roar be­fore the 24’ – at the start of Jan­uary was of a dif­fer­ent spec­i­fi­ca­tion to the one he raced. The try-out came in a later-spec Van­tage with pad­dle shift, but for the race he was in an older car with an H-pat­tern gear­box.

“It was a bit frus­trat­ing not hav­ing the pad­dleshift, which is def­i­nitely worth time around here, but the tran­si­tion to rear-wheel-drive wasn’t too bad be­cause I’ve only re­cently come out of karting,” says Bladon. “Other peo­ple made more of the switch from front-wheel-drive than I did. The As­ton def­i­nitely feels much more of a race car than my Mini.”

Bladon qual­i­fied the As­ton, run by Rac­ers Edge Motorsports, 15th and was up to 12th by the time he got out of the car af­ter an hour and a half in the cock­pit. Team mates Ramin Ab­dolva­habi and Chris Bea­u­fait brought the car home in 11th, though a top 10 looked a pos­si­bil­ity be­fore a spin and a late punc­ture.

Bladon was con­tent with his per­for­mance.

“I’m quite happy with 11th and feel I learnt a lot,” he says. “I set my fastest lap of the week­end in the race, which proves I was get­ting quicker and quicker as I be­came more com­fort­able in the car. I just wish I could do it all over again.”

Bladon got to grips with As­ton Martin Mini Chal­lenge star on big stage

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