John Mickel (Horsham) successfully defended his MRF Legends Cars Championship crown on the final weekend of the season at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on Sunday, 5th November, to make it an incredible run of three back-to-back title victories in the all-action category, in front of thousands of spectators.
Chief rival Ben Power (Guilsfield, Powys) did everything he could to try and overturn his 240 point deficit to Mickel over the course of the weekend, and a spirited drive to sixth place from 25th on the grid in the last race of the year enabled him to close to within 150 points of the champion.
Steve Whitelegg (Bury), who claimed two victories at Brands Hatch to increase his tally for the year to nine, comfortably consolidated third in the championship ahead of Masters class champion Paul Simmons (Lingfield) and Rookie champion Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield).
John Mickel: “I always start off a season saying if you get 8,000 points you’ll win the title, but we didn’t even get that this year and that is why it’s been so tight. It’s what Legends racing is all about, if I’d had one DNF this weekend I would have lost the championship. It’s not how many races you win, it’s how many races you finish in the top three. Obviously, it’s nice to win three championships on the trot.”
Ben Power: “Even if I’d won the last race it wouldn’t have been enough, I couldn’t really have done any more. With 32 cars on the grid, in the wet on Saturday, you couldn’t go offline to pass too often and with 10 laps you don’t have enough time either. I’m happy with the season though, 14 wins but just too many DNFs – you’ve got to have the luck sometimes.”
Steve Whitelegg: “I think we were the fastest car of the weekend, it’s been strong for us and I’m delighted to clinch third in the championship. We’ve had a cracking weekend, Saturday’s conditions were very tough in the wet but I was very satisfied to win the Final from 23rd on the grid – for me it was one of the best races of the season.”
Away from the title battle there were some eye-catching firsts with returnee Connor Mills (Upminster) winning Heat Two on his first weekend back in a racing car in 12 months. Belgium’s Sebastien Kluyskens claimed a first win on Sunday while Will Gibson (Camberley) ended the season on a high with victory in the finale.
Conditions were very difficult for race one on Saturday but Guy Fastres absolutely revelled in the wet weather, storming to a sensational, and largely untroubled, win from Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) with Sean Smith (High Wycombe) third.
Mills was best of the rest in fourth, getting his Legends Cars return off to a terrific start, from Robert King (York) and Whitelegg, while in the championship battle Mickel edged further away from Power – the pair finishing 10th and 12th respectively.
In Heat Two, still on a wet track, Mills built on his excellent opening encounter performance to take a dominant victory almost five seconds clear. Ending lap one in fifth, Mills leapt into the top three on the third tour before hitting the front the next time around and charging into the distance.
King kept Whitelegg at bay for second place while Power stole something of a march on points leader Mickel with fourth place – Mickel ending the contest in 11th spot. Fifth went the way of Kluyskens while Gibson rounded out the top six.
Track conditions weren’t as wet for the opening day’s Final, but the circuit remained particularly greasy meaning another big challenge for the drivers. Daniel Budd (Ardley) led the way for the first five laps, before Simmons moved ahead. With just two laps to go Simmons was 2.4 seconds clear but on a dramatic final lap he was bundled back to fifth.
Whitelegg claimed his eighth win of the campaign a fraction ahead of the increasingly competitive Kluyskens, a superb drive in the wet from 23rd on the grid for Whitelegg, with King and Mills close behind. On the sprint to the flag, only 0.6 seconds covered the lead quartet with Simmons just 0.7 seconds further adrift.
Fastres was again in the thick of the action in sixth place, from Leggatt, Belgian driver Jean-Michel Poncelet, Power and Mickel. Once again taking a few points away from the series leader, Power ended the first day 190 points adrift.
Power does everything possible but Mickel wins 2017 title
Glorious sunshine, if chilly temperatures, greeted competitors on Sunday and Whitelegg chalked-up his second win of the weekend with a great drive in Heat One to see off Mills and Rudman. Daniel McKay (Edinburgh) led from the front initially, but Whitelegg soon took the lead and never looked back.
During the early going Mickel looked set to significantly increase his points lead, but an absolutely storming drive through the order from Power – in a race impacted by a Safety Car period which was triggered when Smith visited the gravel at Paddock Hill Bend – meant he was able to charge into fifth right on the rear bumper of Mickel. At the end of lap one, Mickel had been seventh and Power 17th.
With two races to go, Mickel’s lead in the championship was back up to 200 points and in the second of Sunday’s Heats he did what he needed to on the opening lap by surging through the order from mid-grid into the top 10 – only three spots behind Power.
Leggatt led away at the start and despite significant pressure from Kluyskens he held firm in pursuit of his first ever win. Championship returnee James Holman (Bury St Edmunds) moved past the Belgian for second on lap seven but then, at the end of lap eight, a dramatic tangle involving the top two led to them making contact with the barriers on the inside.
As a result, the red flags were shown with Kluyskens inheriting the victory, his first, while Masters ace Simmons was second. Power moved up from fifth to third to close to within 170 points of Mickel, who ended the race sixth behind Parker and Smith, ahead of the grand finale.
With rapidly fading light, the last race of the MRF Legends Cars National Championship season began with Mickel 24th on the grid and Power 25th but with the latter requiring a finish in the top two he realistically needed divine intervention of some kind.
Power certainly did everything he possibly could, reeling off a series of fastest laps as he charged through the order, and although getting ahead of Mickel and finishing sixth it wasn’t enough to prevent the 2015 and 2016 champion from defending his title successfully.
Gibson hit the front on lap seven and never looked back as he stormed to his second win with a tremendous performance ahead of Smith and a hugely impressive third place finish for Brands Hatch local Nathan Anthony (Horley) – who at one point managed to stall his Se-Van through Paddock Hill Bend! Fortunately, he re-started the engine without drama and secured a popular podium.
MRF Legends Cars National Championship Points:
CHAMPION: John Mickel, 7670pts
2nd Ben Power, 7520pts
3rd Steve Whitelegg, 6650pts
4th Jack Parker, 6055pts
5th Paul Simmons, 5600pts
6th Miles Rudman, 5565pts
MRF Legends Cars National Championship Masters Champion:
MRF Legends Cars National Championship Rookie Champion: