Will Gibson (Camberley) achieved his long-held dream of winning the Legends Cars Championship with allgrowth Ltd title at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on Sunday, 5th November, after an impressive and well-judged campaign – and duly dedicated the success to his late brother Tim.
Championship mainstay Gibson, who secured his maiden Legends Cars crown with two races to spare after finishing a comfortable ninth in the first of Sunday’s races, started out on his motor racing journey alongside his sibling, a heart transplant survivor who very sadly passed away in 2015.
Tyler Read (Weedon) wrapped-up the Rookie class title on day two, in improved weather over the rain-lashed round seven on Saturday, 4th November, while the Masters crown battle between Rob Fountain (Boston) and Nathan Anthony (Horley) was set to go down to the last race of the season.
Due to a heavy accident in the British Truck Racing Championship finale, though, the race meeting was abandoned – so Fountain was crowned Champion, winning the Gerrard McCosh Napoleon Award, due to his 50 point lead after round eight Heat Two. Mickel Motorsport’s No.4 entry, the car shared by Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) and John Mickel (Horsham), won the Team Car title.
Day one was notable on two fronts – the appalling wet weather, which led to the cancellation of qualifying at the beginning of the day, and the sensational level of performance of Parker who took an outstanding, almost faultless, hat-trick of wins in round seven.
Chris Needham (Altrincham) looked on course to replicate the same level of brilliance in round eight, taking his overdue first wins of 2023 in Heats One and Two. He wasn’t able to strive for three wins in the day though due to the event abandonment.
Perfect Parker rules Saturday at very wet and rainy Brands
Standing water on Saturday morning meant officials cancelled the planned qualifying, so Heat One was instead the first action of the day. While the race was red flagged a couple of laps early after an incident, Parker had already stamped his authority and couldn’t be challenged. Fountain had drawn pole position in the grid ballot and led initially, but Parker wasted no time moving to the front.
Leading by almost two seconds at the end of lap one from Charlie Budd (Henley-on-Thames), that increased to 3.3 seconds at the end of the third tour. Parker’s advantage was eradicated due to a Safety Car period, but he pulled away again at the re-start to win comfortably from Luke Simmons (Lingfield) and Andy Bird (Calne), with Budd ending fourth ahead of Fountain.
Parker lined-up 16th on the grid for Heat Two, but it was no barrier at all to another victory. Ben Higgins (Abermule) and Gibson made the early running, with the latter moving to the lead and then controlling at the front. On lap nine, though, a slight moment for Gibson opened the door for Oli Schlup (Cuckfield) to go through and Parker too.
With the race building to a true grandstand finish, Parker seized his chance into Paddock Hill Bend at the start of the 10th and final lap to grab the lead and he was able to hold on as the cars rocketed across the start/finish line to win by a mere 0.055 seconds from Schlup, with Gibson banking more essential points in third ahead of Higgins, Needham and Bird.
Rain began to fall again for the round seven Final, ensuring another extremely challenging contest for the drivers. Parker, as a result of a big points haul from Heats One and Two, started down in 19th position – the highest scorers lining-up nearer the back in the Finals – and he sliced through the order to lead after little more than two full racing laps.
Matt Knight (Shoreham-on-Sea) had led at the end of the opening tour, with Parker already up into seventh, and within another lap the Saturday dominator was less than 0.1 seconds shy of Knight’s rear bumper. Pulling out a healthy advantage, Parker did come under pressure after mid-distance following a slight moment but he responded well to win by a second from Higgins. Schlup was third, while fourth for Gibson enabled him to put one hand on the Champion’s trophy.
Gibson wraps up title as Needham takes long-awaited 2023 wins
Going into round eight, Gibson was 535 points clear at the top of the championship with only 600 points left to battle for over the course of Sunday’s two Heats and Final. Once again driving with a sensible approach, ninth was enough to deliver the title he had craved for so long. At the front, Read took the early lead and impressed with an advantage of around one second into lap three.
Needham soon moved into the picture and charged past on lap five, but Read retaliated on lap eight as their superb battle intensified. Although having some issues with his full wet tyres as the track dried, Needham hit back into Paddock on lap nine and just managed to shade Read by a tenth at the line for his first 2023 win. Daniel Pooley (March) was just as impressive with an excellent third place.
From 10th on the grid in Heat Two, Needham made it two victories in as many races with another fantastic performance. Rookie Andrew Rogerson (Maidenhead) got ahead of pole-starter Mickel early on and led – under significant pressure – to lap six when Needham made the breakthrough.
Managing to eke out a tenth of a second here and a tenth there, Needham led by just over a second into the 10th and final tour as Rogerson tried to fend off Schlup and new overall champion Gibson. On the last lap, though, several drivers were caught-out by oil on track and so Needham’s winning margin increased to five seconds.
Higgins came through to second ahead of Schlup and Gibson and, with the subsequent Final unable to run, the runner-up placing was enough to secure last year’s Rookie Champion the Vice-Champion position in this season’s overall standings by just 10 points – from fellow former Rookie champ Bird.
CHAMPION – Will Gibson:
“We first came and watched Legends 29 years ago, fell in love with it, and here we are 29 years later winning the championship! I’m so lucky to have such a fantastic team and family around me, and I just want to dedicate this to my brother Tim. We started our Legends career with him by our side and him racing. I’m gutted he’s not here to share this, but to win it for him is very special.
“Last year was pretty gutting, to get so close and not quite clinch it – actually it takes a long time to get over that disappointment. We grafted, we had our ups and downs, and over the last few race meetings we’ve used our head. We’ve won lots of races over the years, we’ve never won a Legends Championship and that was the goal – and, yeah, we did it!”
Jack Parker – Rd7 Heat One, Heat Two and Final Winner:
“It’s not easy to win three races on a day in Legends Cars, with all of the competitive drivers and the conditions on the track – everything was a challenge. The team prepared a perfect car, though, and I can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done for me throughout the season with the Quiksteel car. I wasn’t going to be racing at all, John [Mickel] gave me this opportunity and it’s been fantastic.”
Chris Needham – Rd8 Heat One and Heat Two Winner:
“We’ve broken lap records this year, we’ve been the quickest at meetings but we just haven’t been able to get it over the line first for some reason until this weekend. I’m just glad to get my first wins of the year, we had so many second places or bad luck. We needed this to send us off into next year, it’s a great way to end the season – I’m mega happy.”
The 2023 Legends Cars Championship is supported by allgrowth Ltd, Carless, Vital Equipment and MRF Tyres.
2023 Legends Cars Championship with allgrowth Ltd Points:
CHAMPION: Will Gibson, 3395pts; 2nd Ben Higgins, 2820pts; 3rd Andy Bird, 2810pts; 4th Oli Schlup, 2780pts; 5th Chris Needham, 2755pts; 6th Luke Simmons, 2680pts
Rookie Champion: Tyler Read
Masters Champion: Rob Fountain
Team Car Champions: Mickel Motorsport No.4 Car