Snetterton 300 Circuit delivered an event of two halves for Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres points leader Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) over the weekend, 18th/19th September, with a disastrous round 11 giving way to a hat-trick of sensational wins in round 12.
Hampered by still unexplained car problems on Saturday, an engine change for Sunday certainly helped as Rudman aced all three races on day two of the meeting – truly the class of the field and especially in the very wet and slippery round 12 Final. Rudman now has a total of 15 wins this year.
On the first day at the Norfolk track honours were shared across the opening three contests, with Will Gibson (Camberley) victorious in Heat One, Chris Needham (Altrincham) winning Heat Two and John Mickel (Horsham) taking his seventh win of the year in the Final.
Matt Isherwood made a welcome return to action this weekend, having debuted in Legends at Snetterton last year, and impressed across the two days with the highlight being a maiden podium finish in the round 11 Final with third place. Other podium visitors included Steve Whitelegg (Bury), Jack Parker (Wolverhampton), Sean Smith (Marlow) and top Rookie racer Andy Bird.
Gibson, Needham and Mickel share the Saturday spoils
Outstanding final lap action in Saturday’s first Heat delivered a tremendous finish, with qualifying pace-setter Gibson coming through superbly to claim his fifth win of 2021. Needham, a winner at Snetterton last year, impressed after taking the lead midway through lap one and staying out front.
He led Paul Simmons (Lingfield) by a second into the last lap but, over the final 2.97-miles, Whitelegg and Gibson – who stormed through from the lower half of the grid – were able to pass both. Gibson sliced past Whitelegg too, taking the win by 0.1 seconds, with Needham just 0.045 seconds shy in third. Simmons took fourth ahead of Rudman and Parker.
If Heat One was great, Heat Two was even better. Mickel and Gibson made the early running, switching places multiple times, before Gibson made the lead his into lap two. Whitelegg then moved ahead through the infield, before Gibson hit back on lap three.
After a Safety Car intervention on lap four, due to a stranded car, the action resumed for two final laps and Gibson continued to lead and looked set to win again. Needham, though, had other ideas and after popping out of the slipstream on the sprint to the flag on lap six he took the victory by a mere 0.032 seconds. Gibson had to settle for second with Parker third and Whitelegg fourth.
Legends returnee Isherwood completed the top five with a brilliant performance, only 0.5 seconds shy of Gibson over the line. Mickel was sixth, bouncing back from a very fiery race one blow-up, while Rudman’s hopes ended seconds after the re-start when car troubles led to a 20th place finish.
While the round 11 Heats certainly had an impact on the championship battle, the round 11 Final delivered a devastating blow to season-long points leader Rudman with retirement at the end of the third tour due to ongoing issues with his car.
With Mickel in the podium battle from the get-go, starting on row four of the grid, it provided a perfect opportunity to gain big points on his title rival and he delivered with his seventh win of the year. Taking the lead on lap two, during the second half of the race a fantastic battle with the rapid Smith raged – Mickel coming out on top by just 0.5 seconds.
The fight for the final podium place, six seconds adrift of the leaders, was superb with as many as eight drivers involved. In the end Parker, who was third going into the final lap, was pipped by that man Isherwood who smartly sealed his first top three finish. Bird finished fifth from Marcus Pett (Boston), a fraction ahead of Robin Fountain (Boston) who had been at the front early on.
Rudman revival with Rd12 dominance
Mark Beaty (Gosforth) started Heat One on Sunday from pole with Mickel alongside, and it was the latter who quickly moved into the lead before running slightly wide onto the grass at Hamilton when pushing a little too hard. Beaty moved back into the lead but Mickel swiftly hit back, although he just couldn’t drop his much less experienced rival.
On lap two Needham moved to the front and the action became increasingly intense, all the while with Rudman – his car repaired from Saturday’s woes – closing in. Up into second by the end of lap four, Rudman made his move into Riches on the outside at the beginning of lap five and he went on to win by 0.4 seconds from Needham with Mickel third, Parker fourth, Beaty fifth and Gibson sixth.
Rudman well and truly put his day one frustrations behind him in Heat Two, taking his second win of round 12 in somewhat tricky conditions. Bird led well for the first half of the race, but he came under increasing pressure midway through from the likes of Needham, Smith and Rudman.
The 2019 champion moved to the front on lap four at the Esses but Bird wasn’t done, and he hit back on lap five. With a grandstand finish in prospect, the drivers delivered a superb final lap. Rudman took the lead again into Riches and held on to win, with Parker sneaking into second at Coram to demote Bird to third.
Whitelegg finished fourth from Smith and Mickel, with Needham elbowed back to seventh having been second at the beginning of the last tour. Gibson’s championship bid took a major hit after being one of several drivers to hit trouble at Riches on lap two, leaving a massively damaged car.
More rain arrived at Snetterton, and lots of it, ahead of the round 12 Final which made the eight-lap race an even more action-packed spectacle. Gibson, who started on row five, managed to make his way to the front on the opening lap and set about crafting an incredible lead.
Almost four seconds to the good into lap three, finding the grip as everyone else battled, behind Rudman had stormed through into second from near the back of the grid but a rare mistake at Riches on lap four – after setting fastest lap – meant he ran through the gravel and lost ground.
Gibson’s lead extended to seven seconds as a result but Rudman wasted no time in not only recovering, but delivering scintillating pace as he regained second and caught and passed Gibson on the final tour. Winning by 1.8 seconds, Gibson finished runner-up with Needham a distant third just ahead of Mickel and Bird. Nick Bridgeman (Baldock) completed the top six.
Miles Rudman – Rd12 Heat One, Rd12 Heat Two and Rd12 Final Winner:
“We don’t actually know the cause of the problems, at first we thought it was electrical but it wasn’t and we ended up swapping an engine – it was a nightmare to be honest, chasing a gremlin. We had an amazing turnaround, to get three more wins and 15 for the season so far is fantastic. The track was really greasy in the Final, I came off four or five times I think! It was such a relief after Saturday.”
Will Gibson – Rd11 Heat One Winner:
“It was good to start the weekend with a win but I can’t say enough of a thank you to the sponsors and the team for getting us out for the Final on Sunday after the accident in the previous race. The car was an absolute mess, the guys did a fantastic job. The conditions were pretty horrible in the Final, I’ve never been round Snett before in the wet so P2 was a decent result after everything.”
Chris Needham – Rd11 Heat Two Winner:
“We’ve had a good weekend, I love Snetterton – it’s my favourite track by far. It’s great to take a win, the first of the year, but in the Final on Saturday I got a bit battered. We had some good results on Sunday as well, the Final was interesting with the conditions. I tried to just keep it clean and pick them off.”
John Mickel – Rd11 Final Winner:
“It was one those weekends, we had problems which made more problems so we just ended up on the back foot. It was like Scrapyard Wars with all of the damage we had across the team’s cars. The engine fire obviously wasn’t good! I lifted the lid on my screen as I couldn’t see with the smoke, and the fire whooshed in – burnt my eyelashes and eyebrows on the left side. It was good to get a win but I can’t see anyone catching Miles
South Wales is the destination for the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres next, over the weekend 9th/10th October, with rounds 13 and 14 of the season – the penultimate event of 2021 – taking place at Pembrey Circuit in Carmarthenshire.
Provisional 2021 Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points:
1st Miles Rudman, 6070pts; 2nd John Mickel, 5555pts; 3rd Will Gibson, 5215pts; 4th Jack Parker, 4755pts; 5th Sean Smith, 4700pts; 6th Steve Whitelegg, 3960pts