Motor racing history was made at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit over the weekend, 3rd/4th November, where John Mickel (Horsham) secured a record-breaking fifth Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres crown – incredibly his fourth consecutive title in the hugely competitive category.
Heading into the last event of the season with a lead of 670 points over Steve Whitelegg (Bury), fourth in Heat One on Saturday, fifth in Heat Two and sixth in the day one Final meant Mickel was able to open an unassailable margin of 750 points ahead of Sunday’s races. Paul Simmons (Lingfield) won his third Masters class title and Sy Harraway (Weston-super-Mare) is the new Rookie champion
In terms of the Brands Hatch race wins, Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) and Marcus Pett (Boston) absolutely starred with three victories and two successes respectively while Will Gibson (Camberley) won the final race of the campaign – as he did last year – on a weekend featuring a bumper 32 cars.
John Mickel – 2018 Champion:
“It was nice to have been able to wrap-up the championship with one day to go, so we could race on Sunday without any pressure and go out there and have a play. When the championship is at stake you have to be conservative, go for the eighths, the sevenths and keep it on the track. We’ve been doing that since Donington really, playing the conservative game.
“First to win you must finish, you can’t afford to have any DNFs – especially in Legends – and that’s probably been the difference for the other guys this year. Obviously, it’s absolutely fantastic to make it four titles in a row and to win my fifth championship overall. Until the will to win disappears, I fully intend to keep going…although I’m not getting any younger!”
Steve Whitelegg – 2018 Vice-Champion:
“The team has done an absolutely sterling job all year, I can’t thank them enough. Everything has been spot on, the car has been spot on and on rails a lot of the season, but it’s just come down to the odd race and that’s motor racing. We tried our best, we did our best, and that’s all we could do.
“In years past, I think with the pace we had we would have won the championship but John [Mickel] had as good a year as he’s ever had I think, I just didn’t have quite the number of wins or podiums I needed. It certainly wasn’t for want of trying, just circumstances unfortunately, but second in the championship is still fantastic. It’s been the best season I’ve ever had.”
Fantastic finale for Legends Cars rounds off outstanding 2018
American driver Jordan O’Brien, the recently crowned Legends Cars World Champion, made a very welcome return to action in the UK and set out his stall instantly with the fastest time in day one qualifying. Following the grid draw for Heat One, though, Rudman started the opener on pole.
Sean Smith (High Wycombe) moved to the front on lap one prior to the emergence of the Safety Car and when racing resumed he led away. Rudman grabbed the lead on lap four, but there were only ever mere fractions between the pair as they diced to the flag – Rudman shading it by 0.2 seconds.
Belgium’s Sebastien Kluyskens marked his return to action on UK shores with an excellent third spot, two seconds clear of Mickel who managed to just pip Gibson to fourth. Another series returnee, Neil Shenton (Middlewich), impressively rounded out the top six.
In Heat Two, Pett made the most of a front row starting slot to take the early lead and produced a superb performance to see off the race-long attentions of Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) to claim his second career victory, his first having come at Snetterton in September.
The result was declared after eight laps when red flags brought an early conclusion to proceedings after an unfortunate excursion for Paul Simkiss (Ripponden), from which he was unable to re-start his car. Whitelegg rounded out the podium ahead of Smith, Mickel and Nathan Anthony (Horley).
For the opening day’s Final, Rudman started on pole and he converted it brilliantly into his second win of the weekend. Leading by over a second at the end of lap one, he increased his advantage throughout but, as with the preceding contest, the action was red flagged following an incident.
Rudman was classified the winner, 3.8 seconds ahead of Belgian racer Guy Fastres on countback to the end of lap nine, with Kluyskens third. James Hall-Morton, who was a superb third on track at the time of the stoppage, was unlucky to miss out on a deserved podium with Simkiss impressing on his way to a career-best fifth ahead of Mickel, sixth being enough to wrap-up the championship title.
After a luckless Saturday, with two unfortunate non-finishes and a non-classified result due to car issues, O’Brien confirmed his pace again in Sunday morning’s qualifying session as he hoped for a much more straightforward second day at Brands. Rudman and Gibson were second and third quickest.
Simkiss managed to get into the lead initially but Smith hit the front at Surtees on lap one and pulled two seconds clear by lap four. The advancing Rudman, though, started to eat into the advantage and in no time he was with the leader, before moving ahead at the end of lap seven.
With waved yellow flags in a couple of places, due to separate incidents, overtaking opportunities were limited and it meant Smith wasn’t able to re-challenge as he’d like, ultimately finishing just 0.085 seconds shy of Rudman at the flag. Whitelegg worked his way through to the podium in third, just seeing off Harraway, Mickel and early top three runner Parker.
Heat Two began with Fastres and Pett getting ahead of pole starter Mike Schlup (Cuckfield) and it was Pett who moved through into the lead before the Safety Car was deployed on lap three after a multi car tangle at Druids. Racing resumed on lap seven with Pett ahead of Mickel but on lap eight the champion got ahead, and Gibson then edged Pett back to third.
On lap 10, though, a spin on some oil for Gibson elevated Pett back into second and after closing back up behind Mickel he made his move into the 12th and final lap to bag an outstanding third career win. Rudman was able to nudge Mickel down to third, continuing his sensational weekend with the runner-up spot, with Fastres finishing fourth, Whitelegg fifth and Harraway sixth.
In rapidly fading light, the Sunday Final got underway and a two-way scrap for the lead between Gibson and Kluyskens quickly developed. By the end of lap four, Smith was with the lead duo and for the remainder of the 12 lap contest there was nothing between them all.
Smith moved to the front on lap eight with Gibson shuffled back to third behind Kluyskens, but Gibson swiftly hit back and regained the lead the next time around. Smith wasn’t done, however, and he emerged back at the head of the train into the final tour but Gibson was able to just pip his rival to an emotional victory by 0.079 seconds, with Kluyskens only 0.032 seconds further adrift.
“Three wins in a weekend, I’ve never done that so it’s definitely been a personal best weekend for me. I lost my confidence a bit halfway through the year, we had some engine problems, but I’ve been a lot more confident here and I’ve just focused and everything has gone really well. We’re planning to be back next year 100% so this has been a great way to end the current season.”
“It [Sunday’s Heat Two] was a difficult race, there was lots of oil down towards the end which made it tricky to know where to place the car. I managed to just get ahead of John [Mickel] on the last lap to win again, it’s obviously great to get my second and third wins in Legends this weekend. Thanks to my Dad who works really hard with Matt Roach and all his guys who do a fantastic job with the car.”
All of the very best action from Brands Hatch will be available for broadcast later this month on Amazon Prime, where you can also watch the rest of this season’s Legends Cars racing – simply search for ‘Motorsport HD’ or ‘Legends Cars’. You can also view the racing at www.barctv.net
Final 2018 Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points:
CHAMPION: John Mickel, 8310pts; 2nd Steve Whitelegg, 7525pts; 3rd Sean Smith, 6655pts;
4th Miles Rudman, 6420pts; 5th Jack Parker, 6235pts; 6th Paul Simmons, 6030pts
2018 Masters Cup Champion:
2018 Rookie Cup Champion:
2018 Team Car Winners: