Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres points leader Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) further strengthened his grip on the 2021 title battle during the third event of the season at Brands Hatch over the weekend, 3rd/4th July, with three more sensational race victories.
Marking the category’s second visit to the Kent venue in just four weeks, the Legends Cars running as part of the huge American Speedfest event, Rudman was in outstanding form and finished inside the top three in five of the six races.
Chris Needham (Altrincham) claimed his first win of the year during Heat Two on Saturday, after original victor John Mickel (Horsham) was excluded from the results after being deemed to have contravened Safety Car regulations. Mickel hit back with victory in the round six Final on Sunday, while Will Gibson (Camberley) secured his third win of the season in the preceding Heat.
In the battle of the Rookies, Chris Brockhurst (Westgate) starred all weekend and achieved a best overall finish of fourth during the Sunday finale – having led. Andy Bird (Wiltshire) claimed a brace of top five results and Chris Dewey (Wisbech) was sixth in Heat One on Sunday.
Superb double victory for classy Rudman in Rd5
Rudman dominated the first Heat on Saturday, easing to a supreme – and unusual – winning margin of more than five seconds. Drawing a third row slot in the grid ballot, the 2019 champion stormed into third at Paddock and took second at Druids, before grabbing the lead at Graham Hill Bend.
Behind, the battle over second was immense with Mickel slicing through from 28th on the 32-car grid into the runner-up spot and Gibson doing an equally sensational job to finish third, a mere 0.054 seconds shy. Jack Parker (Wolverhampton), who had been as high as second, took fourth from Mike Schlup (Cuckfield) with Brockhurst sixth.
Heat Two was red flagged on lap five of 10 following a Safety Car period, called when the Se-Van of Nathan Anthony (Horley) ploughed into the Paddock Hill Bend barriers. At the point of the stoppage Mickel led Needham, reigning champion Daniel Clark (Darras Hall), Gibson and Marcus Pett (Boston).
Racing resumed over six laps and while Mickel took the win, he was later disqualified after being adjudged to have contravened Safety Car regulations – linked to a collision between Clark, Gibson, Pett and Scott Bourne (Worthing). Needham, therefore, was awarded the victory from Rudman, who charged from 24th on the grid, with Paul Simmons (Lingfield) third from Parker and Bird.
Bright sunshine appeared for the 14-lap round five Final, a remarkable race which delivered a superb scrap between Rudman and Gibson. Clark led early on, passing pole-starter Daniel Budd (Didcot), and from lap three his mirrors began to be filled by Gibson, who had stormed from 16th on the grid.
Gibson grabbed the lead at the end of the fourth tour, but Clark wouldn’t be dropped. All the while, Rudman was rocketing through the order from his 24th position starting slot and after passing Sean Smith (Marlow) on lap six he then set his sights on the 2020 champion. Passing Clark on lap seven, Rudman closed up behind Gibson and took the lead two laps later at Paddock Hill Bend.
During the final five laps a sensational scrap raged and while Gibson piled on relentless pressure in his attempts to challenge, Rudman held on to win by less than 0.2 seconds. Gibson saw off a late bid by Smith, while Clark ended the race fourth from an impressive Mickel – who started from pitlane as part of his Heat Two penalty – and the consistent sixth placed Brockhurst.
Rudman, Gibson and Mickel share the wins during round six
The first of Sunday’s three races produced another masterclass from Rudman, and with it his third victory of the weekend. Taking the lead on lap one, he ran comfortably at the front until the Safety Car was deployed on lap four when Brockhurst collided with Steve Whitelegg (Bury). With a car also stranded on track near the pitwall, in an unrelated incident, the action was quickly red flagged.
Racing resumed over five laps but the chequered flag was shown a lap early due to another stricken car on track. Rudman took the win from Mickel, who had pressured heavily, with Gibson finishing third and Parker fourth.
Rain arrived at the Indy Circuit before Heat Two later in the afternoon, making things very tricky indeed. Bird took the early lead, passing pole-starter Elby Clark (Darras Hall), but in no time at all Needham hit the front and he proceeded to lead the way despite serious pressure from Gibson.
He got alongside Needham into lap six, sealing the pass into Druids, but when the No.57 car went slightly wide on the seventh tour Needham moved back through. Gibson hit back to lead again on lap nine and the chequered flag was shown a lap early due to a car in the gravel – winning by a mere 0.026 seconds from Needham. Smith took third place from Rudman, Bird and Mickel.
Sunday’s 14-lap round six Final was the perfect way to wrap-up the American Speedfest weekend, a truly sensational battle at the front. Pole-starter Jonty Norman (Wakefield) led away initially before a fast-starting Whitelegg made his way to the front of the pack. Brockhurst was well in the mix in third and after taking second on lap four, he and Whitelegg traded the lead on lap five.
Brockhurst led into the second half of the race from Mickel, Whitelegg, Rudman and Anthony, and Mickel then moved to the front on lap seven at Paddock Hill Bend. Rudman then shot into second at Druids, before passing Mickel into Paddock the next time around. By lap 10, Gibson had remarkably moved into the podium placings despite spinning on lap one and having to fight all the way through.
With the lead trio together as one, and Brockhurst and Anthony within touching distance, the final few laps were tremendous. Mickel unexpectedly grabbed the lead into Surtees on lap 11 and it proved decisive, taking the win by 0.7 seconds from Rudman with Gibson only 0.049 seconds further adrift. Fourth and fifth for Brockhurst and Anthony were richly deserved results.
Miles Rudman – Rd5 Heat One Winner, Rd5 Final Winner, Rd6 Heat One Winner:
“We’ve been putting in a lot of effort with the car, I’ve been trying to get the best out of every part of the track, and we’ve been really competitive as a result. I seem to have mastered corners like Paddock, we did a lot of overtaking there this weekend again, which is obviously great. We’ve had a good run at Brands during the last two events, but I am actually looking forward now to Croft!”
Chris Needham – Rd5 Heat Two Winner:
“We struggled a little bit with pace, but overall it’s been a great weekend as a team – obviously we run Gareth [Sheridan] as well and he did well. To take a win and a second is good going, I’m really happy with that. I’ve only been to Croft twice before, but I do like the circuit so I’m hoping we can carry on the good fortune there.”
Will Gibson – Rd6 Heat Two Winner:
“It’s been good really, a bit of a mixed bag but overall a pretty solid weekend with another win. We just had the one bad race, Heat Two on Saturday where we got caught-up in the drama behind the Safety Car, but the car seems to be OK. Croft next is probably our bogey track, so the aim is to get through there and then on to our best tracks – Donington, Snetterton and Pembrey.”
John Mickel – Rd6 Final Winner:
“We’ve been quick all weekend and I’m happy to round it off with a win, but we are disappointed with the decision from race two on Saturday as that has cost us badly in the championship. There are four or five cars on the same pace really and we go to Croft next where we’ve had some good weekends. We’ll make a clean start there and go again.”
North Yorkshire’s Croft Circuit will host rounds seven and eight of the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres season five weeks from now, over the weekend 7th/8th August.
Provisional 2021 Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points:
1st Miles Rudman, 3210pts; 2nd Will Gibson, 2660pts; 3rd John Mickel, 2545pts; 4th Sean Smith, 2225pts; 5th Jack Parker, 2160pts; 6th Nick Bridgeman, 1700pts