Storm-hit Pembrey Circuit in South Wales provided six unpredictable and highly entertaining Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres races over the weekend, 13th/14th October, where reigning champion John Mickel (Horsham) took another step closer to retaining his title.
With two victories, one other podium and a healthy haul of points, he goes into the season finale at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit next month 670 points clear of chief rival Steve Whitelegg (Bury) who ended the Pembrey event with his ninth win of the year in Sunday’s Final to keep his title bid alive.
Away from the interest of the championship battle, rookie Sy Harraway (Weston-super-Mare) stole the headlines on both days with a famous maiden race victory in atrocious conditions during Heat One on Saturday and he doubled-up with another victory in Sunday’s opening Heat. Jack Parker (Wolverhampton), meanwhile, made a welcome return to winning ways in Heat Two on Saturday.
‘Storm Callum’ fails to dampen spirits of Legends Cars stars
Saturday at Pembrey was badly impacted by Storm Callum hurling through Wales, constant rain and high winds leaving track conditions close to undriveable. As a result, the timetable had to be rescheduled with qualifying moved from first thing to midday in the hope of improvements.
In the end, conditions were still poor but qualifying got underway shortly after noon. Unfortunately, though, red flags were required inside a couple of minutes and when the 10-minute session resumed competitors circulated behind the Safety Car to chalk up their three required laps.
Heat One followed a couple of hours later and although the weather was better, the track was less than favourable – although that wasn’t a barrier to Harraway delivering a career best drive. Leading the way at the end of lap one, he boosted his advantage to 1.6 seconds by the start of the third tour.
Then coming under threat from the advancing Whitelegg, who was duly followed through the order by Marcus Pett (Boston) and Sean Smith (High Wycombe), there was little to split the lead quartet but Harraway held firm under pressure to win by 0.3 seconds. The top five was completed by Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield), who set fastest lap, and Mickel – Rudman taking fifth on the last lap.
In Heat Two, Parker – bouncing back from an unfortunate excursion in the earlier race – dominated after passing early leader Rudman on lap two. Untroubled thereafter, Parker pulled further clear to take his first victory since June. Whitelegg made it another podium in second from Matt Pape (Ilkley), with Rudman fourth after winning a terrific battle with Smith.
Mickel returned to the top of the heap in Saturday’s 10-lap Final, taking the lead of the race on lap two and proceeding to open a winning margin of 2.7 seconds with a dominant run to the chequered flag. Whitelegg charged through the order impressively to grab yet another podium and although fifth into the final lap, he was able to slice through to second over the final 1.45 miles.
Pape, who was part of a terrific battle with Parker, Smith, Pett, Rudman, Harraway and Nathan Anthony (Horley), completed the podium having earlier taken the fight to Mickel. Smith was fourth, just shading Pett by 0.058 seconds, with Harraway – who took fastest lap – in sixth.
Sunday marked a clear change in the weather, although the track surface was still wet to begin, and in Heat One Smith and Harraway made the early running as they battled wheel-to-wheel, trading the lead until lap six when the former was bundled back to fourth behind Gibson and Rudman.
Into lap eight, Harraway’s lead was up to a second and although this was whittled away he went on to chalk up his second win. Rudman and Gibson contested the runner-up spot to the conclusion, the former just shading it by 0.1 seconds, with Smith taking fourth and proving his pace with fastest lap on the final tour. Mickel and Anthony rounded out the top six.
Dry and bright conditions awaited the Legends Cars runners for Heat Two and a sensational battle developed at the front. Parker and Harraway traded the lead during the early going and they were joined by the advancing Whitelegg as the race approached mid-distance.
Then, on lap six, a dramatic tangle involving the lead trio turned the race on its head with both Parker and Whitelegg forced out. Harraway did recover to the track, and carved his way back through into the top six before the finish after a brief Safety Car period, while Mickel picked up the pieces and took a clear 1.5 second victory on lap 11 from Gibson and podium returnee Anthony.
In the Sunday Final, Parker and Whitelegg duked it out early on with Rudman, Pape, and Smith in close company along with Mike Schlup (Cuckfield). Whitelegg moved into the lead on lap two with Parker refusing to be dropped, ahead of a brief Safety Car period on lap six.
Racing got back underway on the seventh tour with Whitelegg leading the way but after being bundled back to fifth in a shake-up at the front – in which Parker dropped to the tail – the WTBS driver had to mount a big recovery. Smith emerged at the head of the lead train and another great scrap with Rudman ensued before the latter’s race ended with a late retirement to the pits.
Through it all, Whitelegg managed to carve his way back to the front to grab the lead from Smith on the 13th and last lap while Mickel secured third place ahead of team-mate Paul Simmons (Lingfield), Pett and Schlup with Anthony’s Se-Van just outside the top six.
“We just had to pick up the finishes this weekend, the No.66 car [Whitelegg] has got to do the winning so it’s good we were able to have a couple of wins ourselves. The weather was bad on Saturday, the first race was extreme with cars aquaplaning, but they wanted to race so we raced. Today was obviously much better and we’ve taken away some good points. It’s all down to Brands now, it’s not over until the title is yours so we’ll keep going, keep pushing to the end.”
“Initially I thought the weather on Saturday was bad news – there was a river running across the main straight – but, on the other hand, I didn’t have much choice for the championship so I had to race. Three second places on Saturday was brilliant, superb, and the team did an awesome job with the wet set-up for the car which gave me a lot of confidence. Sunday was a bit different, but to get another win was good. Never say never ahead of Brands, I’m still after him [Mickel]!”
“Having never seen the circuit and only having three laps behind the pace car to learn it, I was thrilled with my first win. The second win on Sunday was the sweetest, though, coming from the back and finishing one-two with Miles [Rudman] was a great result for team Pro24 Raceshop. My car was perfect all weekend and I can’t thank Craig Phillips at Pro24 enough – the last thing I said to him in the holding area before the second win was ‘see you in victory lane’. Coming from the back it was ambitious, but Craig maintains it was never in doubt!”
Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent will host the traditional ‘Bonfire Night’ finale to the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres season over the weekend 3rd/4th November, where the series will again run alongside the British Truck Racing Championship.
Provisional Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points:
1st John Mickel, 7480pts; 2nd Steve Whitelegg, 6810pts; 3rd Sean Smith, 5800pts;
4th Miles Rudman, 5675pts; 5th Jack Parker, 5605pts; 6th Paul Simmons, 5400pts