John Mickel (Horsham) stormed to the top of the MRF Legends Cars National Championship driver standings at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire over the weekend, 1st/2nd July, after impressing during the fourth event of the 2017 season with four wins from six races.
Steve Whitelegg (Bury) returned to winning ways in the opening Heat on Saturday but Mickel then largely took control. Winning the two remaining races on day one, he made it three victories on the bounce in the first of Sunday’s Heats before a time penalty – linked to contact with Ben Power (Guilsfield, Powys) at the final corner – dropped him to second behind the erstwhile series leader.
In Sunday’s two remaining races Mickel chalked-up a pair of wins to make it four for the weekend and his pace was confirmed with fastest lap in five of the six encounters. Power, whose event was impacted with brake troubles and a misfire, set fastest lap in Sunday’s second encounter.
Other notable performances came from category returnee Matthew Pape (Leeds) who claimed a brace of podiums, including the runner-up spot in Sunday’s second Heat, while Masters class leader Paul Simmons (Lingfield) and Legends Cars mainstay Nathan Anthony (Horley) both impressed with great consistency – Anthony climbing the overall day two podium for the first time in his career.
Whitelegg and Mickel share the wins on day one
Saturday’s racing started in style with Jack Parker (Wolverhampton), Belgian racer Guy Fastres and Whitelegg enjoying a great battle for the lead of Heat One early on. After trading places, Parker hit the front again on lap three before Whitelegg moved ahead on lap five and then won by 0.6 seconds.
Parker finished runner-up 0.5 seconds clear of Mickel, who worked his way through from 11th at the end of lap one. Fastres only just missed out on the podium from Power but, post-race, the latter was dropped back to sixth behind Simmons due to a time penalty.
In Heat Two, Mickel and Power duked it out for the lead race-long and opened a significant gap over the rest. Never split by more than half a second, Mickel went on to win by that very margin with Power five seconds to the good from Whitelegg.
Fastres showcased great consistency in fourth from Anthony, who had been as high as third a couple of laps before the conclusion, with Simmons rounding out the top six. The race had been red flagged after the initial start when Mike Schlup (Cuckfield) rolled at Hawthorn.
Mickel was again the star performer in the opening day’s Final, taking his second win after moving into the lead on lap two. Robert King (York) held the lead on lap one from Parker but when Mickel moved ahead of both, he never looked back despite pressure from Parker. Whitelegg took the final podium place and ended day one second overall in terms of points scored with Parker third overall.
Power back to winning ways while Mickel does the double
Sunday’s first Heat began in dramatic fashion for Parker with retirement on the opening lap, but Whitelegg enjoyed a fantastic start to lead the race early on and he then ran untroubled out front for the next six laps.
After slipping behind Power and Mickel ahead of the final lap, Whitelegg then had an unfortunate spin while attempting to get back ahead of his duelling rivals out of the hairpin and ultimately finished sixth. Mickel edged Power out for the win in a grandstand finish but the former was handed a time penalty post-race as a result of contact with his rival at the hairpin.
Series returnee Pape finished on the podium in his first National Championship outing of 2017, at the wheel of the car piloted by Jonty Norman on Saturday, with Rudman finishing fourth ahead of Anthony and the recovering Whitelegg.
In Sunday’s second race Mickel led Fastres early on and when the Belgian hit trouble on lap three, Simmons became the new challenger. Closing to within only 0.3 seconds of his team-mate with just a couple of laps to run, retirement for Simmons on the penultimate lap left Mickel clear.
Pape finished a weekend-best second ahead of an impressive Rudman and Anthony, with Whitelegg brothers Steve and Gary completing the top six. Title contenders Power and Parker hit problems on lap four, the latter retiring while Power rejoined the race three laps down after pitting with a misfire.
Sunday’s Final required the appearance of the Safety Car twice in quick succession, a lap one incident triggering the first and a heavy excursion at Clervaux for Steve Whitelegg resulting in the second – fortunately he emerged largely unscathed, only reporting bruising to his elbow.
Racing resumed without interruption on lap six with Parker leading Simmons, Power, Rudman and Mickel. Rudman’s race ended with retirement to the pits on lap seven while, at the front, Simmons took the lead on lap eight as Power and Mickel moved ahead of Parker. Power pressured Simmons and moved to the front on the penultimate lap with Mickel and Parker also getting ahead.
Then, on a dramatic final tour, Mickel pounced to grab the lead into Tower and with Power edged offline the door was open for Parker to move ahead too. Simmons finished fourth, Marcus Pett (Boston) took fifth and Anthony was a very consistent sixth. With Mickel again standing atop the overall points podium for the day, Pape was second and Anthony an ecstatic third.
“We’ve had bad luck in the last two rounds, so it’s been nice to get back to winning ways – it’s always swings and roundabouts though so you have to keep pushing. I think having the seven weeks off [since Cadwell Park] enabled is to get back on top of the car, get rid of some of the gremlins and we found something with the new tyres too as we have struggled a bit with those.”
“On Saturday we had problems with the brakes, I had to pump them into every corner so we struggled to get the results we did. In Sunday’s first race I was leading into the last corner, but then [John] Mickel made contact – he was reprimanded though and I got the win. In the second race I had a misfire, like at Anglesey, and in the last race I was leading onto the last lap but Mickel made a move stick into Tower. It’s not been the weekend we’d hoped for, but it could have been worse.”
“After the incident at Cadwell the car had to be re-jigged and repaired but we went out on Saturday in qualifying and we were second fastest without really pushing. I was over the moon on Saturday, winning the first Heat and then taking two thirds was brilliant. Sunday didn’t end how we wanted in the Final, I went down the gears into the first corner and selected a false neutral. When the gravel ran out I hit the fence, but thankfully I’m OK. The car will be sorted for Donington.”
There is only a fortnight to wait until the fifth race meeting of the season, over the weekend 22nd/23rd July, at Donington Park National Circuit in Leicestershire. The series will form part of the huge ‘Convoy in the Park’ event which will be headlined by the BTRA Truck Racing Championship.
Provisional MRF Legends Cars National Championship Points:
1st John Mickel, 4095pts; 2nd Ben Power, 3940pts; 3rd Jack Parker, 3370pts; 4th Steve Whitelegg, 3175pts; 5th Paul Simmons, 3070pts; 6th Miles Rudman, 2640pts
Provisional MRF Legends Cars National Championship Masters Leader:
Provisional MRF Legends Cars National Championship Rookie Leader: