Brands Hatch local Will Gibson (Camberley) delivered the perfect kick-start to his season during rounds two and three of the 2022 Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres over Easter weekend, 16th/17th April, with four outstanding race wins and six podiums from six.
Dominating the event for the most part, Gibson rocketed up from 17th in the standings after bad luck at Oulton Park during the season-opener a couple of weeks ago to end the Brands Hatch weekend an unthinkable second in the championship, to new points leader Miles Rudman (Lichfield).
Reigning champion Rudman took his second victory in Heat One of round two, and raced to a superb clean sweep of six podiums, while multiple champ John Mickel (Horsham) won the round three Final. Chris Brockhurst (Westgate) took his maiden Legends Cars podium in Heat One on Sunday and Sean Smith (Marlow) and Paul Simmons (Lingfield) each took their first podiums of the year.
Rookie drivers Oli Schlup (Cuckfield) and Luke Simmons (Lingfield) were both in the main grid draw for the first time this weekend, having been so successful at Oulton Park. Having already earned their stripes, both were impressive again at Brands with Simmons taking a best of seventh in the last race of the weekend and Schlup eighth in the Saturday Final.
Away from the action on track, erstwhile points leader Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) was absent from Brands Hatch after his partner Lori gave birth to their baby daughter Starlette just before the race meeting. He is expected to be back in action at Pembrey in South Wales next month.
Double win for Gibson and spoils for Rudman as well in round two
Mickel was drawn on pole position for Heat One on Saturday and when the lights went out he held first place as Marcus Pett (Boston) moved into second and Rudman took third. Mickel stayed ahead until the end of lap four when Rudman nosed alongside, but the former hit back into Paddock.
On lap six Rudman took the lead again and, although there was nothing between them to the flag on lap 10, Rudman held on by just 0.034 seconds. Gibson, who started a distant 18th and was fastest in qualifying, stormed through to be less than a second shy of the winner with a terrific drive while Pett was a very close fourth ahead of Chris Needham (Altrincham) and Steve Whitelegg (Bury).
Paul Simmons made the early running in Heat Two but Gibson, after latching on to the leader’s tail, made his move for the lead on the second tour just before the Safety Car was deployed – a result of the Se-Van of Nathan Anthony (Horley) visiting the Clearways gravel.
Racing resumed on lap five and Gibson led away well, with Simmons holding second from Needham, Charlie Budd (Henley-on-Thames), Whitelegg and Rudman. Gibson dominated thereafter, going on to take the win by 3.1 seconds, while Rudman charged through in style to claim second – pipping a very competitive Simmons. Mickel was right there too in fourth, from Needham and Whitelegg.
Saturday’s Final required a red flag stoppage at the end of the first lap, after a dramatic sequence of events at Surtees. While battling for the lead, Anthony and Jonty Norman (Wakefield) unfortunately became interlocked and the tangle triggered several incidents in the pack. Notably, Rudman, Gibson and Smith were among those caught-up but all were able to rejoin for the re-start.
At the time of the stoppage, Gary Whitelegg (Wilmslow) held the lead from team-mate Nick Bridgeman (Baldock) and 2020 champion Daniel Clark (Darras Hall) but the race was re-started with the original grid order over a full 12 lap distance. Rudman, who pitted after the incident to have his car checked over, started from pitlane and he delivered a sensational performance.
Brockhurst led initially before Bridgeman moved ahead on the outside at Graham Hill Bend, but his race only lasted until lap six when forced to retire. Mickel had already taken the lead two laps prior, but he was challenged by Gibson at the end of lap seven with Rudman all the while carving through.
Yellow flags at Paddock Hill Bend late on limited overtaking, so it all came down to the 12th and last lap. After being nudged wide at Druids, Gibson slipped back behind Rudman but out of Clark Curve it was Gibson who had the best exit and he took the win by 0.044 seconds from Rudman with Mickel just seeing off Needham by 0.078 seconds. Smith finished fifth ahead of Budd in a strong sixth.
Gibson at the double again, Mickel ends weekend with victory
Clark and Brockhurst shared the front row for Sunday’s opening Heat but they were both challenged hard by Anthony, although the latter’s race ended with retirement at the end of lap one with oil leaking from his Se-Van. Brockhurst led into lap two from Clark, with Paul Simmons third, but Rudman was already making his way through and he hit the front on lap three at Surtees.
Brockhurst stayed close behind Rudman for the next few laps before Gibson moved into contention, climbing into second on lap seven. By lap eight Gibson had closed down the gap and a battle royal raged to the finish with Gibson just holding off Rudman by 0.079 seconds. Brockhurst sealed his first podium in third with Clark re-taking fourth on the last lap from Steve Whitelegg.
Daniel Budd (Didcot) started Heat Two on the front row and made the most of it, surging into an early lead ahead of Kieran Beaty (Gosforth). Red flags were soon shown though due to Mike Schlup (Cuckfield) coming to a halt on the run to Druids. At the second time of asking Budd led once again, ahead of Bridgeman and Smith, but Gibson surged through from eighth and led by Graham Hill Bend.
Heading Smith, Bridgeman and Needham into lap two, Gibson was never threatened and he went on to claim his fourth win of the weekend by 2.3 seconds. Smith was impressive in second with Rudman coming through to complete the podium from Mickel. Bridgeman and team-mate Steve Whitelegg were fifth and sixth, with the former surviving lap three contact with Needham who retired.
The round three Final was packed with incident, beginning on lap one when Mark Beaty (Hexham) was collected and his car became stranded – bringing out the Safety Car. Racing resumed on lap three with Gary Whitelegg leading from Charlie Budd but more drama soon followed – Mike Schlup spinning on fluid at Graham Hill Bend and Daniel Budd coming to grief further on at Cooper Straight.
Resulting in a red flag stoppage, the Final was re-started again over a reduced nine laps and third placed Mickel wasted no time in passing both Budd and Whitelegg to lead out of Druids. Opening an advantage of two seconds by lap five, Mickel then started to be closed down by Rudman.
In the end, Mickel did enough to keep Rudman at bay by 0.1 seconds with Gibson recovering very well to third after an early spin at Druids on the first racing lap. Needham produced a strong fourth place ahead of Charlie Budd and Brockhurst, with Rookie Luke Simmons an excellent seventh.
Will Gibson – Rd2 Heat Two, Rd2 Final, Rd3 Heat One, Rd3 Heat Two Winner:
“Four wins on the bounce is fantastic, and we only missed winning the first Heat on Saturday by about 0.04 of a second. The car has been on rails, Matt Roach has helped us a lot to get the car spot on and my team’s been fantastic. We had a week and a half of exceedingly late nights after Oulton to get the car built, so a huge thank you to Dad, my wife Janine, Scott, Mike, Nick and everyone.”
Miles Rudman – Rd2 Heat One Winner:
“It’s been a great weekend for us, I can’t complain at all. It started well with a win in the first race and plenty of podiums as well, and we’ve come away with the championship lead. The last race was mayhem to be honest. We started towards the back, avoided all the trouble, and I almost got John [Mickel] at the end. On to Pembrey now, hopefully we can carry on the same there.”
John Mickel – Rd3 Final Winner:
“We’ve got quite a few points in the bag which is good, just frustrating we had the electrical misfire in the first race on Sunday – that was a bit of a blow. At the moment the only luck we seem to be having is bad luck, but we’ll go again at Pembrey. The whole team is working hard and our young Rookies, Oli and Luke, are doing well. They’ve got no fear – the future looks bright for them.”
Rounds four and five of the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres will take place three weeks from now, over the weekend 7th/8th May, at Pembrey Circuit in South Wales.
Provisional 2022 Legends Cars National Championship Points (after Rd3):
1st Miles Rudman, 1485pts; 2nd Will Gibson, 1335pts; 3rd John Mickel, 1245pts; 4th Sean Smith, 1135pts; 5th Steve Whitelegg, 1100pts; 6th Marcus Pett, 1015pts