Miles Rudman stars at Brands to take points lead with double win
Two victories for equally impressive front-runner Ben Power
Stunning turnaround for Will Gibson with victory in Sunday Final
John Mickel makes first visit of season to top step of podium
Mixed conditions at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit over the Easter weekend only added to the incredible action of the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres, with no fewer than four drivers claiming race victories at the Kent venue.
Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) shone with star performances, claiming wins on both Easter Sunday, 1st April, and Easter Monday, 2nd April, to take the championship lead, while Ben Power (Guilsfield, Powys) also took a brace of victories on Sunday to celebrate his 28th birthday in style.
Monday’s action, which was impacted by wet weather, produced three different winners with reigning champion John Mickel (Horsham) beginning the day on top, Rudman taking his second success in Heat Two and then Will Gibson (Camberley) delivering an electrifying performance to win the Final – all after a huge accident in the day’s opener which required a swift rebuild of his car.
Birthday boy Power takes winning double on Easter Sunday
Rudman set the pace in the opening qualifying run of the weekend on Easter Sunday and during the subsequent grid-draw ballot for Heat One, the 2017 Rookie Champion took pole position for the first of the event’s six races.
Despite some ultra-close action on lap one at Druids, he came through unscathed to lead from Jack Parker (Wolverhampton), the points leader going into Brands, but Parker then usurped Rudman and stayed at the front for the next few laps. On the fifth tour Rudman hit back as Power moved into the podium battle and on lap seven he sliced through to the front.
With a true grandstand finish on the cards, a rare error by Power – he checked the wrong pit-board with two laps to go, and backed off a lap early as a result – gave Rudman a clear run to the flag. Paul Simmons (Lingfield) gladly took second, with Sean Smith (High Wycombe) third. Mike Schlup (Cuckfield) took a superb, career-best, fourth place while Power dropped back to 10th position.
Steve Whitelegg (Bury) made the early running in Heat Two and really stamped his authority during the early laps, leading by 1.6 seconds by the start of lap three. Around mid-distance, though, Power was up into second place from mid-grid and a titanic battle developed.
Into the 10th and final lap there was nothing between them, Whitelegg holding the inside line into Paddock Hill Bend. Power, though, nosed ahead out of Druids and went on to take his first win of the year by 0.3 seconds with Mickel rounding out the podium.
In the Final on day one Connor Mills (Upminster), hungry to bounce back after missing race two due to misfire problems from the opener, led for the first four laps but on the fifth tour Parker, also looking to make amends on a tough day, moved through as Mills’ frustrations continued.
Parker’s advantage into lap six was almost two seconds but Gibson, shadowed by Power, soon began to close that down. Power took second on lap seven and then hit the front the next time around, going on to take his second win of the day by 0.6 seconds from Parker with Gibson third.
Remarkable turnaround for Gibson in dramatic Brands finale
Damp conditions awaited competitors on Easter Monday morning and, as he so often does, Parker reveled on the slippery surface by posting the fastest time in day two qualifying, 0.3 seconds ahead of the equally impressive Rudman with Mills third.
Heat One was a classic, although proceedings were initially red flagged after a heavy collision on Brabham Straight involving Gibson and Paul Simkiss (Ripponden). When racing got back underway, Marcus Pett (Boston) led the early running before Whitelegg, Mickel and Power came through.
Into the closing stages the top 10 were nose-to-tail and the lead trio ran wheel-to-wheel to the flag, Mickel getting to the front when it mattered to win by just 0.1 seconds. Power was second and a late surge from Simmons meant he pipped Whitelegg for third on the run to the line.
The track was still wet for Heat Two which Parker led from pole ahead of Nathan Anthony (Horley), although his early lead was annulled by a Safety Car period a few laps in. Racing resumed on lap five with the top three nose-to-tail but Parker lost his lead after running too deep into Paddock Hill Bend, enabling Rudman to move through.
Thereafter, Rudman didn’t look back and despite significant pressure from Parker he was able to start edging clear during the final few laps, taking his second win of the event by two seconds. Smith was third with a sore Gibson, in a hurriedly rebuilt car, an outstanding fourth.
After lengthy delays due to stoppages in other races on the programme, the Final got underway an hour later than scheduled in wet conditions. Mills started from pole but his weekend of desperate woe continued when he slowed from the lead of the race into lap seven – unbelievable misfortune.
Gibson swept through into first and, such was his advantage, he stormed to a clear victory. Parker, who started near the back, did close rapidly with a few laps to run, reeling off a series of fastest laps, but after running wide on lap 12 at Paddock Hill Bend he slipped to fifth. Power, also from near the back of the grid, came through to take second with Smith rounding out the podium in third.
Miles Rudman: “It’s been a great weekend, it’s finally all coming together and hopefully we can progress through the season. I think it all comes down to confidence, last year we were learning and picked up bits along the way, and I’ve learnt all the tracks now too. Hopefully we’ll look to build on this for the rest of the championship.”
Will Gibson: “If it wasn’t for the Mickel Motorsport guys we wouldn’t have got the car out after the accident, so a big thank you to them. It shows you the great team work in the Legends paddock, even before I got back to the pits they were diving in to help. I didn’t look behind me in the Final, I just kept pushing – it’s fantastic to win. The car isn’t properly right, so we’ll jig it before Croft.”
Ben Power: “It all started really well in the first race on Sunday but then I made an absolute idiot, April Fool’s move and finished a lap early when I was in second! I fought back with two wins after that, which were great, and overall we’ve had a very strong weekend results wise.”
John Mickel: “It’s been a challenging start to the year for us, we’re still at the sharp end in the championship and haven’t had any DNFs which is important. We’ve just got to keep plugging away and if we come back here [Brands Hatch] in November with a shot at the title, it’ll be job done.”
There is now a three week break in the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres calendar with rounds four and five of the season taking place at Circuit Croft in North Yorkshire on 21st/22nd April.
MRF Legends Cars National Championship Points (after Rd3):
1st Miles Rudman, 1480pts; 2nd Ben Power, 1410pts; 3rd John Mickel, 1405pts
4th Steve Whitelegg, 1345pts; 5th Jack Parker, 1315pts; 6th Will Gibson, 1225pts
MRF Legends Cars National Championship Masters Class Leader (after Rd3):
1st John Mickel, 1405pts
MRF Legends Cars National Championship Rookie Class Leader (after Rd3):
1st Sy Harraway, 585pts