Andy Bird (Calne) is the early points leader of the 2024 Legends Cars Championship and Elite Cup following the opening rounds of the season at Donington Park over the weekend, 27th/28th April – a mixed event which experienced huge delays on day two due to plentiful rain and standing water.

Saturday’s round one action was typical Legends fayre, fantastic racing and three different victors with Bird claiming the Heat One win, following a penalty for Jack Parker (Wolverhampton), Parker emerging victorious in Heat Two and Will Gibson (Camberley) winning the Final.

Overnight rain, and continued rain on Sunday, meant a major delay to proceedings with the day’s schedule starting four hours late. When Heat One finally got underway it had to be halted at the end of the first lap due to a worrying incident involving Rob Fountain (Boston), who was thankfully OK.

The race was re-started in the early evening and Gibson took his second victory of the weekend, competitors then only having the duration of the final British Touring Car Championship race to prepare their cars for Heat Two at around 19.30. As hoped, the last race of the day was superb with a terrific battle decided two corners from home when Parker grabbed the win.

Eric Boulton (Grantham) leads the way in the Rookie class battle after the opening weekend of the season, while in the Team Car class a stunning series debut for Jamie Moylan (Naas) concluded with the No.44 car fourth in the overall points.

Gibson, Parker and Bird share the Saturday wins
Race one of the season was, understandably, eagerly awaited and the action did not disappoint over the course of the eight laps. Bird, who started on the outside of the front row, led out of Redgate but Robert Barrable (Dublin) – who was quickest in practice – grabbed the lead mid-lap, then reigning Elite Cup Champion Connor Mills (Upminster) moved into second ahead of Bird.

By lap four Barrable was able to put some distance between himself and the rest but at the start of lap seven there was a four-car train for the lead, which then became five up to McLeans with Parker hitting the front. Mills moved ahead before the end of the eighth and final tour, but at McLeans a tangle between he and Barrable enabled Parker to win by 0.2 seconds from Bird and Gibson.

Post-race, a five second time penalty was applied to Parker and so the amended result was a win for Bird from Gibson, with series newcomer Moylan marking a stunning debut at Donington with third. Parker took fourth in the revised classification from Nick Price (March) and Peter Barrable (Dublin).

Former champion Stephen Treherne (Islington) led Heat Two away from pole, but Paul Musselle (Buckingham) moved ahead out of the first corner. By the end of lap one Oli Schlup (Cuckfield) headed Moylan while, just behind, Gibson – who had rocketed into the top three from 14th on the grid – was tapped into the gravel on the outside of the chicane.

Moylan took the lead at Redgate at the start of the second lap and he and Schlup were almost three seconds clear of the rest, headed by last year’s star rookie Tyler Read (Weedon). By the end of lap four a group of five cars had developed at the front, with Parker heading the train the next time around. After running wide out of the Old Hairpin on lap seven, though, Parker slipped to third.

Read and Moylan went by, but Parker wouldn’t be dropped, and everything came to a head into the final chicane as a tangle among the leaders resulted in contact between Read and Moylan – the latter forced to retire. Parker took the win by a mere 0.020 seconds from Robert Barrable, with Bird on the podium again. Schlup, Matt Knight (Shoreham by Sea) and Read completed the top six.

Chris Needham (Altrincham), who had endured a luckless day up to this point, started the Final from pole but it was Gibson who moved to the front before the end of lap one, the 2023 Legends Cars Champion producing a scintillating opening lap from 18th on the grid. Dominating thereafter, Gibson stormed away and into lap eight his advantage was five seconds.

The action was red flagged on the ninth and final lap, though, due to a multi-car tangle into the chicane on the previous tour. The result was taken from the end of lap seven, with Gibson winning from super-impressive Moylan, Parker, Read, Fountain and Peter Barrable.

Rain delays play on Sunday…before Gibson and Parker win again
After the huge delays in action on Sunday due to the abysmal weather, the Legends Cars finally took to the track in the afternoon for round two Heat One. Fountain led from pole and a terrific battle at the front ensued, with Bird taking first later in the lap. As the pack headed to the chicane, though, Fountain’s car was clipped and rolled end-over-end. Thankfully, he emerged safely from the crash.

The race wasn’t restarted, instead it was moved to later in the day before the final BTCC race. Bird made a good launch from the effective pole, with Fountain obviously unable to make the re-start, before Schlup and then Robert Barrable took turns at the front. The lead quintet was nose-to-tail through Schwantz on lap three, Barrable leading Bird, Schlup, Moylan and Gibson.

Barrable started to then edge away and looked to have broken the tow, but Gibson worked his way into second and soon latched on to the leader. He eventually passed for the lead into the chicane on lap six, with Bird sling-shotting past Barrable too, and the latter’s race then came to a luckless early conclusion on the final tour as his car expired.

Bird swarmed all over the back of Gibson during the final couple of laps, but last year’s overall Legends Cars Champion held firm to take his second win of the weekend by just 0.1 seconds from Bird, with 2023 Elite Cup Champion Mills storming through late on to third. Schlup ended fourth, less than 0.7 seconds shy of the win, with Moylan fifth and Parker sixth.

With very little time to prepare for Heat Two, only the final BTCC race of the weekend taking place before the Legends Cars were back out on track at 19:30, the race was certainly worth waiting for with an outstanding battle for victory throughout the eight laps. Mills started on pole and led away, before Gibson took the lead and Read followed him through into second.

On lap two, an issue with his car after contact forced Gibson to run wide and Read and Mills went by. Tied together and trading the lead, Mills and Read looked well set as they pulled clear of the rest but onto the eighth and last lap Parker and Moylan had worked together to catch the leaders.

Read led onto the final tour, but Mills moved through into McLeans. Parker then made his move to go through at Coppice, just before Mills’ engine expired, and he held on to the line to finish 0.1 seconds ahead of the rapid Read with Moylan on the podium once again in third. Fourth went to Bird, capping a superb weekend for him, with Mills able to just get home in fifth from Schlup.

Andy Bird – Rd1 Heat One Winner:
“I’m still a bit jetlagged to be honest as I was in America for two weeks before coming to Donington, so I’m happy how the weekend has gone. I’ve been lacking that bit of consistency before, this is my fourth season in Legends, but this season we’ve prepared the car well and it’s been a strong and consistent start. Hopefully we can continue this way at Brands. I don’t take as many risks in the Finals as some of the others, so I do need to work on that.”

Jack Parker – Rd1 Heat Two and Rd2 Heat Two Winner:
“It was a really good boost to win the first race of the season, obviously we were then disappointed with the time penalty so winning race two brought some cheer back to myself and the team. It’s fantastic to take a couple of wins away from the first weekend and hopefully we can keep this up for the rest of the year – the morale at Mickel Motorsport is fantastic.”

Will Gibson – Rd1 Final and Rd2 Heat One Winner:
“It was great to win the Saturday Final, especially after race two. We snapped the sump pan after we were hit in that one, so we changed the engine between races. It’s the first time we’ve done it in anger and actually remembered to fit everything back together properly! On Sunday the first race was a cracker, a proper Legends race starting at the back and making it to the front.”

Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent is next on the Legends Cars Championship and Elite Cup calendar just two weeks from now, over the weekend 11th/12th May, running in support of the BTCC again.

Provisional 2024 Legends Cars Championship and Elite Cup Points:
1st Andy Bird, 835pts; 2nd Jack Parker, 770pts, 3rd Tyler Read, 685pts; 4th Jamie Moylan, 680pts; 5th Will Gibson, 600pts; 6th Connor Mills, 600pts