Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres debutant Jordan O’Brien made a huge impression on his maiden outing in the category at Anglesey Circuit over the weekend, 26th/27th May, with two stunning race victories at the North Wales venue.
Competing in the fourth event of the year as a stand-in for the absent Miikka Riihimaa, American youngster O’Brien delivered a series of incredible performances – climbing the podium in the first race on Saturday and finishing on the rostrum in all but one of the event’s six encounters.
Championship leader John Mickel (Horsham), who bolstered his points advantage, took a pair of wins on Saturday under glorious sunny skies, in Heat Two of the day and the Final, with Steve Whitelegg (Bury) having earlier raced to his third victory of 2018 in Heat One.
Sunday’s weather was starkly different, rain showers persisting throughout the day, and after Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) claimed victory in Heat One, O’Brien – who as a championship newcomer had to start all of the event’s races from the back – won the two remaining contests.
“It’s been an awesome weekend! Anglesey is actually relatively similar to one of the circuits back home in the States so I wasn’t intimidated by it. It couldn’t have gone better, the car was great, the team with Matt Roach were so good – they couldn’t have done a better job. If the opportunity presents itself, and schedules and budgets permit, I’d love to come back and race in the UK again.”
“It’s been a steady weekend for us, Saturday was obviously a lot better than Sunday but I think we’ve increased the championship lead. The weather on Saturday was lovely, and it was good to take a couple of wins, but the showers stayed all day on Sunday so the track never dried which wasn’t ideal for us. We go back to Brands now where we’ll hopefully have a good weekend.”
Opening qualifying on Saturday morning certainly showcased UK debutant O’Brien’s considerable pace, the American lapping a superb second fastest on his maiden visit to Anglesey just 0.078 seconds shy of pace-setter Mickel.
In Heat One of the day, Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) made the early running and although never more than a few tenths of a second clear at the front over the course of the first six laps a first win of the year looked on the cards – until an excursion on lap eight led to retirement. Whitelegg, who had already grabbed the lead a lap prior, went on to win by just 0.171 seconds from Mickel.
The battle for third was just as intense and O’Brien, starring as he carved his way through, bested former champion Stephen Treherne (London) on the 10th and final lap to climb the podium. Paul Simmons (Lingfield) and early podium challenger Sean Smith (High Wycombe) were fifth and sixth.
Heat Two produced a faultless drive from Mickel who dominated, going on to win by 3.3 seconds from Parker who hit back strongly from his race one disappointment. Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) finished third with Neil Shenton (Middlewich) a very strong fourth, ahead of Whitelegg.
Saturday’s Final was an absolute barnstormer at the front, even by Legends Cars standards, with the 12 lapper coming down to a four-way battle between Mickel, Parker, O’Brien and Whitelegg – little more than a second separated the quartet at the chequered flag.
Will Gibson (Camberley), who encountered a variety of car issues and contact earlier in the day, led at the end of lap one but his woes continued with an enforced retirement on lap two. Marcus Pett (Boston), therefore, led the way from Rudman before the latter moved to the front on lap three.
He stayed there until lap six, when demoted by Mickel, and during the second half of the race the reigning champion had to soak up immense pressure as Parker and O’Brien closed in and traded second late on. O’Brien took the place ahead of the final lap but Parker hit back to finish runner-up.
Dark clouds awaited competitors on Sunday morning where, in a rain-affected qualifying, Rudman set the pace a tenth of a second ahead of Mickel with Pett third fastest from Parker, Paul Simkiss (Ripponden) and Rickie Leggatt (Worthing).
Rain remained a factor and in Heat One Parker, a wet-weather specialist, made the break to open a lead of 1.4 seconds. Initially leading the Se-Van of Nathan Anthony (Horley), Parker maintained his advantage before Rudman started to advance after taking second. Swarming all over the leader by lap seven, Rudman also had to contend with significant pressure from O’Brien.
Rudman soon passed Parker for first place and O’Brien demoted Parker to third on lap eight, before mounting a major push for the win on the run to the flag on lap 10 – O’Brien just missing out by a mere 0.083 seconds on the drag to the line. Parker had to settle for third from a charging Smith, with top Rookie Sy Harraway (Weston-super-Mare) fifth and Anthony sixth.
Heat Two showcased a truly sensational battle over the podium between Smith, Rudman and O’Brien. During the early exchanges Smith headed Gibson and Rudman, with nothing between the trio, but Rudman moved into second on lap two and then O’Brien came into the reckoning.
Rudman and Smith battled hard for the lead during the second half of the race, as O’Brien shadowed, and as the finish neared Rudman was just 0.1 seconds ahead of O’Brien. On the final lap, the American hit the front and claimed his memorable maiden win by 0.2 seconds with Rudman second and Smith third, a long way ahead of the next group of Mickel, Pett and Whitelegg.
Mike Schlup (Cuckfield) led Sunday’s Final early on before the ever-improving Simkiss grabbed the lead on lap two. Smith, charging through the order, rocketed towards the podium placings and after taking third on the second tour he then grabbed the lead on lap three. Quickly pulling clear, Smith’s lead was 2.5 seconds by lap five but the advancing O’Brien was, by then, up to second.
On lap five the second placed driver lost a lot of time after contact and a spin, which gifted Smith an immense advantage of 5.5 seconds, but O’Brien closed back in and brilliantly passed Smith for the victory on lap 12. Rudman put together a strong race to finish third with Mickel fourth, lead Rookie class runner Harraway was fifth and Lee Bourner (Bishop Middleham) rounded out the top six.
There are now just two weeks to wait until the fifth race meeting of the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres season, the huge American Speedfest VI event at Brands Hatch in Kent, on 9th/10th June.
Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points (after Rd7):
1st John Mickel, 3655pts; 2nd Miles Rudman, 3225pts; 3rd Steve Whitelegg, 3205pts;
4th Jack Parker, 2755pts; 5th Sean Smith, 2725pts; 6th Neil Shenton, 2470pts
Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Masters Class Leader (after Rd7):
1st John Mickel, 3655pts
Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Rookie Class Leader (after Rd7):
1st Sy Harraway, 1745pts