Unmistakable Lincolnshire race track Cadwell Park provided the venue for six barnstorming MRF Legends Cars National Championship races over the weekend, 13th/14th May, with no fewer than three victories helping to keep Ben Power (Guilsfield, Powys) at the top of the driver standings.
Winning both of Saturday’s Heats and going on to taste more success in the second of Sunday’s races, Power’s lead in the coveted championship chase was assured as the Legends Cars provided a magnificent spectacle at Cadwell during the category’s first visit there in three years.
Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) claimed two excellent wins, in the opening day’s Final and Heat One on Sunday morning, and almost made it a hat-trick in the last race of the weekend before being pipped to the post by reigning champion John Mickel (Horsham).
Cadwell Park local Marcus Pett (Boston) took his maiden podium in Sunday’s opener, only his third race weekend at any level. He was also reprimanded for an incident in Sunday’s second Heat in which he made contact with Nathan Anthony (Horley), sending the latter heavily into the barriers.
Power and Parker take Saturday spoils at Cadwell
Power set the pace in qualifying on Saturday and in the opening Heat he was able to control the action from the front. Steve Whitelegg (Bury) finished in second place ahead of Parker, with Pett leading the next group of cars home in fourth place – his best result of 2017 to that point.
In Heat Two Power was again victorious to chalk-up his sixth win of 2017 but, in contrast to his earlier lights-to-flag performance, he had to work incredibly hard. Charging through the pack, the Welsh racer grabbed the lead from Parker on the penultimate lap while Mickel rounded out the podium ahead of Paul Simmons (Lingfield).
Gary Whitelegg (Handforth), enjoying his strongest weekend of the season, starred in Saturday’s Final and while the long-time race leader ultimately missed out on the top step of the rostrum he did secure a richly deserved first podium.
Leading until lap four, Whitelegg was then passed by the rapid Parker who went on to open a lead of around 1.6 seconds. Robert King (York) managed to close down Parker during the latter part of the race, but he held on by 0.3 seconds at the line with Whitelegg third.
Three races, three different winners on Sunday
Conditions changed markedly on Sunday morning with rain resulting in a highly challenging track surface for the competitors – it also provided their first outing in the wet on the new-for-2017 MRF tyres. Tom Grainger (Sidcup) got a handle on the grip levels quickest and moved into an early lead.
Holding a one second cushion into lap four, Grainger was gradually reeled in by his pursuers and his advantage was cut to just a few tenths as he tried to nurse his car to the finish as the gearbox began to leak fluid.
Although able to re-open his lead to 0.9 seconds into the final lap, Grainger was caught and passed by Parker – who had worked his way into third on the penultimate tour – who brilliantly stole the victory after usurping both Pett and Grainger in quick succession.
Prior to Heat Two, glorious sunshine appeared over Cadwell and provided a fully dry track. After getting ahead of pole-starter King, Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) led the early going from Parker, Sean Smith (High Wycombe) and Steve Whitelegg and the lead quartet managed to break away.
Power, working his way through the order, had moved into the top five by lap four but did have a significant 3.5 second gap to close down. It provided no barrier to success, though, as he swiftly set about the task in hand and climbed into the podium places on lap five. Building to a fantastic crescendo, he took second and then passed Parker at Barn. Rudman completed the podium.
Sunday’s Final was unfortunately red flagged following a three-car tangle at Coppice just after the start and before the action could resume, the Lincolnshire skies opened. Although the rain stopped before the race re-start, the track surface was very greasy. King initially led the way until a moment on lap two out of Hall Bends enabled Pett to slice past into the lead.
As a fantastic five-car battle developed, Parker moved into first on lap four ahead of Pett, Mickel, Power and Gary Whitelegg. Nothing separated the lead quintet for the entirety of the 10-lapper and it was Mickel who, having been suffering nausea all weekend, pinched the lead on the final lap to just see off Parker and Power on the sprint to the line – only 0.1 seconds splitting all three.
Ben Power: “It’s been a really good weekend, winning the first race on Saturday was good but I didn’t really expect to come through and win race two as well. I started quite a way back and it was just one of those races that fell right and I took advantage of it. We’re having a brilliant year so far.”
Jack Parker: “Compared to what we had back at Anglesey with a few problems, this has been a good weekend. We’re definitely getting there, you need to have so much consistency in Legends and make sure you’re in the top five all the while to claim those points. It’s all gone right for us really.”
John Mickel: “Every session I could do no more than three laps before feeling sick. If we’d been at a flat track like Silverstone it wouldn’t have been too bad but Cadwell is like Alton Towers! We got back on the top step in the last race though which is good.”
Tom Grainger: “It’s been my first time at Cadwell in a Legend and it’s been good, the more you stay out of trouble the more chance you’ve got – to finish first, first you’ve got to finish! I led the whole first race on Sunday and just messed up at the end, I’ve had a gearbox issue I’ve been nursing all weekend but it finally gave up and there was nothing I could do.”
Marcus Pett: “We came here on Friday, my first time at the track, did some testing and found some decent pace. It’s very full on, the twisty stuff at one end and the fast-flowing stuff at the other, but I seem to have gelled with it nicely.”
After three sensational race meetings to open the MRF Legends Cars National Championship season, there is now a lengthy seven week break in the 2017 calendar. The fourth event of the campaign will be held over the weekend 1st/2nd July at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire.
Provisional MRF Legends Cars National Championship Points:
1st Ben Power, 3070pts; 2nd John Mickel, 2940pts; 3rd Jack Parker, 2665pts;
4th Steve Whitelegg, 2340pts, 5th Paul Simmons, 2325pts; 6th Miles Rudman, 2060pts
Provisional MRF Legends Cars National Championship Masters Leader:
Provisional MRF Legends Cars National Championship Rookie Leader: