Hot and sunny Brands Hatch Indy Circuit provided the venue for an absolutely scorching start to the 25th anniversary Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres season over Easter weekend, with no fewer than four race winners emerging from the six breath-taking races.
Local driver Connor Mills (Upminster) claimed a sensational hat-trick of victories with success in Heat Two on Easter Sunday, 21st April, the first Heat on Easter Monday, 22nd April, and then the day two Final as well.
Last year’s Rookie Champion Sy Harraway (Weston-super-Mare) took the first win of 2019 in Heat One on Sunday, while James Hall-Morton (Cleckheaton) claimed his maiden category win in the first day’s Final. Legends Cars mainstay Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) also made a welcome return to winning ways with victory in Monday’s Heat Two.
Legends Cars wow the crowds with stunning start to 25th anniversary
Day one of the 2019 season was bathed in glorious sunshine and in the opening qualifying session, Nathan Anthony (Horley) was fastest with a lap of 55.344 seconds from series returnee Mills, Sean Smith (Marlow), Harraway and five-time champion John Mickel (Horsham).
Parker took the Heat One pole in the grid-draw ballot but Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield), from fourth, made a great launch and passed for the lead around the outside at Paddock before pulling clear of the pack. As the race neared mid-distance, though, the lead gap closed when Harraway, who had made his way through to second, moved clear of Marcus Pett (Boston) and Parker.
While driving well, Rudman started to come under increasing pressure and at the beginning of the penultimate lap Harraway snatched the lead at Paddock. Mills was able to profit at Rudman’s expense and he duly took second on the run up to Druids, with the latter then edged back to fourth at Clearways on the final lap by eleventh hour returnee Thomas Grainger (Sidcup).
Hall-Morton started Heat Two from pole and delivered the best drive of his young career by a country mile…up to that point at least! Leading through Paddock at the start from Robert King (York) and Paul Simmons (Lingfield), Hall-Morton’s chief challenger soon became Mills who made his move for the lead at Druids on lap three.
For the remainder of the 10 lapper there was absolutely nothing to separate the pair, running bumper-to-bumper for the duration. Hall-Morton’s wise attempt to shadow Mills to the final lap almost paid off, but not quite, with the equally rapid Mills shading it by 0.062 seconds. Smith came through to take third on the last lap from Rudman, with Mickel fifth and Simmons sixth.
While Hall-Morton may have missed out by a fraction in Heat Two, he turned the tables superbly in the Sunday Final with a stunning drive – and delivered on his earlier prediction that a first win would soon come his way. Nick Bridgeman (Baldock) led from pole before 2000 Legends Cars champ Rob Fountain (Boston) moved ahead at Clearways, and Pett then took the lead on lap two.
Notably, Hall-Morton was already into the podium placings, from 11th on the grid, by lap four and as the race developed no fewer than eight cars duked it out for the lead. Hall-Morton shot to the head of the pack into lap seven and after a superb scrap with Fountain and Mickel – both of whom did lead during the latter stages – it was Hall-Morton who held on to win from his vastly experienced rivals.
With the glorious Spring weather every bit as good for Easter Monday’s action, the first Heat of the day provided Mills with another opportunity to shine and with a front-row start he wasted no time in getting into the lead. Dominating the 10 lapper, he won by four seconds from Harraway, who was fastest in the earlier practice, with Smith third and Anthony just missing the podium in his Se-Van.
Will Gibson (Camberley) began Heat Two from pole, with Hall-Morton alongside, and it was the latter who grabbed the early lead before Parker started to make his presence felt in the top three battle. By the midway point there was nothing between Hall-Morton, second placed Rudman and Parker and the lead changed hands multiple times in classic Legends style.
Into the final lap seven cars were in the fight for the win, with Rudman leading, but Hall-Morton fell to sixth when a pass on Parker for second didn’t work. Parker stayed in Rudman’s tracks and on the sprint to the line he snatched the win by just 0.040 seconds, with Mills a stunning third from Mickel and Harraway after scything through the order. Incredibly, only 0.871 seconds covered the top six!
Monday’s Final was red flagged at the first start when a four-car tangle, at the exit of Paddock Hill Bend, resulted in Gibson’s car rolling in the gravel. Thankfully, he emerged unscathed but was unable to take the re-start, so too Hall-Morton who was also involved.
When the action re-started, Fountain led away from pole ahead of Mike Schlup (Cuckfield), Simmons and Bridgeman before Simmons grabbed the lead. Parker then moved to the front, at Druids on the fourth tour, but Fountain wasn’t done and he hit back to lead again at the end of lap five.
Harraway then moved to the front of the pack at the halfway point before Mills, charging through again, set his sights on an incredible hat-trick. Over the last few laps, Mills and Harraway battled hard for the win and at the flag on lap 14 the former did it by a mere 0.082 seconds. Harraway and Fountain completed the podium ahead of Parker and Mickel.
Connor Mills – Winner of Sunday Heat Two/Monday Heat One/Monday Final:
“The car has been absolutely fantastic, it’s all down to the work the boys at Matt Roach Racing and my dad have done. Race two on Sunday went to plan, it was a great race with James [Hall-Morton], and in the first race today [Monday] I had a plan to get in front and build a gap and that’s what we did. The last race was one of the best I’ve ever done.”
Sy Harraway – Winner of Sunday Heat One:
“The car was fantastic, but when I caught-up to Miles [Rudman] the peddle went to the floor! I just wanted to finish the race, so I sat behind him and saw Connor [Mills] behind us so I just had to go for it. Craig [Phillips – Pro 24 Race Shop] has built me an incredible car, it just feels easy to drive, but I’m not getting carried away. If I’m honest, I think there are a dozen drivers who can win this title.”
James Hall-Morton – Winner of Sunday Final:
“We came from quite a way back on the grid, and there are obviously more laps in the Finals, so it was harder work than the podium in the earlier Heat – and we were battling with more than one driver. It really does mean a lot to get that win, as it’s my first, and it’s great to do it on the first weekend of the 25th anniversary year. Hopefully it’s the start of many more wins to come…”
Jack Parker – Winner of Monday Heat Two:
“I was quite shocked to win, I didn’t expect that! We changed to a brand new set of tyres for that race, and it made such a difference – the car was so much better [than on Sunday]. It was so close, I didn’t know until I got back I’d done it. That’s what’s great about Legends, you never know who’s going to win.”
Next on the 2019 calendar for the Legends Cars is a visit to Anglesey in North Wales for rounds three and four of the season over the weekend 25th/26th May.
Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points (after Rd2):
1st Connor Mills, 960pts; 2nd Sy Harraway, 920pts; 3rd John Mickel, 910pts;
4th Miles Rudman, 875pts; 5th Jack Parker, 760pts; 6th James Hall-Morton, 730pts