Renowned Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres racer John Mickel (Horsham) ensured his hopes of a landmark sixth title victory remain alive after a sensational weekend of racing at Pembrey Circuit in South Wales, the multiple champion taking four excellent victories
Claiming a brace of wins on Saturday, 9th October, and two more on Sunday, 10th October, Mickel is realistically now the only driver likely to prevent season-long points leader Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) from claiming his second Legends Cars crown.
Rudman racked up the points as usual during the penultimate event of the season, taking his 16th win of the year in round 14 Heat One on Sunday. Will Gibson (Camberley) bagged his sixth victory of 2021 in round 13 Heat Two on Saturday and was in the top three in five of the six Pembrey contests.
Away from the title fight, Mark Beaty (Gosforth) raced to a very popular and richly deserved maiden podium in the second of the weekend’s races while top Rookie class racer Andy Bird added another top three finish to his tally in Sunday’s opener. Jack Parker (Wolverhampton), meanwhile, enjoyed a successful visit to Carmarthenshire with three podium appearances.
Two wins for Mickel and more success for Gibson in Rd13
Gloriously sunny skies greeted the Legends Cars competitors on day one and Mickel got his weekend off to the best start with victory in Heat One, from chief rivals Gibson and Rudman. Parker made the early running, before Sean Smith (Marlow) moved ahead on lap two.
Rudman climbed neatly through the order into second place by lap four but a moment just seconds later dropped him to the tail of the top 10, with Parker slipping from third to fifth. Gibson then took charge at the front from Smith before Mickel moved into contention.
He took the lead on lap seven and stayed in control to the flag on lap 10 with Gibson taking a strong second, the top two well clear of the rest. Rudman recovered superbly to third just ahead of Parker, with Steve Whitelegg (Bury) fifth and qualifying pace-setter Beaty sixth.
It was that man Beaty who led proceedings in Heat Two, but with Rudman, Marcus Pett (Boston), Mickel and Gibson all close behind. Rudman wasted no time in moving to the front on lap two and opened an advantage of 1.5 seconds before the Safety Car was deployed on lap three.
After Bird’s stricken car had been removed, the action re-started on lap five with Rudman still leading. On lap six, though, Gibson – who reeled off fastest laps – passed the championship leader and he fended off close attention from Mickel during the latter stages to seal a superb victory.
On the 10th and final lap, Rudman slipped to fourth and so Beaty secured his deserved first podium finish. Smith finished the race in fifth position while a great see-saw battle just behind between Pett and Nick Bridgeman (Baldock) was settled in the latter’s favour.
Rookie class rivals Bird and Chris Brockhurst (Westgate) ran in first and second during the early stages of the round 13 Final, but it didn’t take long for the usual suspects to move through with Mickel, Parker, Gibson and Rudman wasting no time in surging towards the front.
Mickel grabbed the lead from Bird into lap five and Rudman took second, before Gibson and Parker moved ahead of Bird too the next time around. As the leader managed to keep his rivals at arm’s length, the scrap behind intensified with Gibson taking second from Rudman on lap 10 and Parker moving up into third on the 12th and final tour.
In the end, Mickel claimed his second win of the day by two seconds from Gibson with Parker shading Rudman for the final podium place. Bird took the flag in fifth position with Mike Schlup (Cuckfield) completing the top six finishers.
Mickel doubles-up again on second day as Rudman wins too
Day two qualifying pace-setter Rudman dominated the first half of round 14 Heat One, opening a huge lead of 1.8 seconds on the opening lap alone and then extending his advantage to 2.4 seconds by the start of lap four. Gibson did begin to chip away slightly at Rudman’s lead from the fourth tour but on lap seven the Safety Car was deployed and the race ended under caution.
Rudman claimed the victory from Gibson, top Rookie racer Bird, Mickel, Smith and Parker. Day one podium finisher Beaty had moved into the top six by lap five, but his retirement then triggered the Safety Car. Former champion Lee Fitzpatrick finished a strong 11th on his first race back in a decade.
Mickel took his third victory of the weekend in Heat Two on Sunday afternoon, moving to the front on the final lap of the race – having led early on – and taking the win by 0.7 seconds. Parker was second with Gibson just shading Rudman on the line by a fraction for another podium.
Making the running for the first couple of laps, Mickel headed the pack when the Safety Car was deployed on lap three. After racing resumed on lap five, Gibson started to make his move and he surged into the lead after setting fastest lap before Rudman did likewise on lap seven to lead.
Mickel, holding third into the final lap, wasn’t finished though and he sliced his way to the front as Rudman dropped back out of the podium placings. Bird claimed fifth, top Rookie once more, with Pett crossing the line in sixth place.
The final race of the weekend became an outstanding three-way battle for supremacy between Parker, Mickel and Rudman – Gibson’s challenge ending early with a snapped crankshaft. Parker led the way for the first few laps from Pett before Rudman moved through to lead on lap three. Pulling 0.6 seconds clear into lap six, Mickel then closed in after taking second and soon took the lead.
Into lap eight only 0.170 seconds covered Mickel, Rudman and Parker and the lead trio were in a race of their own, a long way clear of the rest. Rudman led again into lap nine before Mickel hit back with two laps to go, winning in the end by 0.7 seconds from Parker who sealed second on the last lap. Fourth went to Brockhurst, 12 seconds back from the podium, with Pett fifth and Bird sixth.
John Mickel – Rd13 Heat One and Final, Rd14 Heat Two and Final Winner:
“It’s been a good weekend, a great weekend, and the car was strong throughout. We could have done with Miles [Rudman] having a DNF to help us claw more points back, but four wins is good and we didn’t have any problems. Hopefully we can do the same at Brands and see what happens. It’s going to be hard to try and beat Miles to the championship, but we’ll do the best we can.”
Will Gibson – Rd13 Heat Two Winner:
“It was a really solid weekend, until the last race where we snapped a crankshaft unfortunately. We had brilliant racing both days, proper, proper Legends racing – it was great stuff. We took some great points away but I think we’ve resigned ourselves now we won’t catch the top two in the championship. We’ll regroup for Brands and see what we can do there.”
Miles Rudman – Rd14 Heat One Winner:
“It’s all been a lot closer at the front this weekend, it’s been good but quite tough as well! It was great racing all weekend, unfortunately we blew an engine on Saturday but we had a better day on Sunday. The racing with John [Mickel], Jack [Parker] and Will [Gibson] was fantastic. We’ve done alright points-wise and maintained a good position in the championship.”
There are now just four weeks to wait until the all-action Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres season finale, rounds 15 and 16, at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on 6th/7th November.
Provisional 2021 Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points:
1st Miles Rudman, 7090pts; 2nd John Mickel, 6700pts; 3rd Will Gibson, 6145pts; 4th Jack Parker, 5655pts; 5th Sean Smith, 5135pts; 6th Steve Whitelegg, 4720pts