Mini man Bladon makes big jump to Daytona Aston
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.”