Front-runner Steve Whitelegg (Bury) confirmed he’s still very much in the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres title battle after racing to a superb hat-trick of victories at Snetterton 300 Circuit over the weekend, 8th/9th September.
Putting together a sensational opening day at the Norfolk track, the WTBS Motorsport driver bagged all three wins on Saturday and added another podium in Sunday’s Final to chalk-up a significant haul of points. Championship leader John Mickel (Horsham), meanwhile, finished on the podium in five of the event’s six races to ensure his quest for a fourth crown remains undiminished.
There was also a little bit of history made at Snetterton with Marcus Pett (Boston) securing a very popular first race victory in Legends Cars during the second of Sunday’s Heats. Sometime category racer Matt Pape (Ilkley) was also a winner, taking his first victory of 2018 in the second day’s Final.
Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) wrapped-up his sixth win of the year in Heat One on Sunday, bouncing back well from an unfortunate ignition fire on Saturday, but in terms of points it was unfortunately another mixed weekend for the reigning Rookie Champion with two non-finishes.
Marvellous hat-trick of wins for Whitelegg on Super Saturday
Will Gibson (Camberley) set the pace in qualifying on Saturday morning, shading Whitelegg by 0.090 seconds with the returning Pape a terrific third fastest ahead of fellow championship returnee Miikka Riihimaa.
In Heat One later in the morning, Rudman and Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) took turns at the front during the first couple of laps, before Whitelegg made his way through into the lead on lap three and then never looked back en-route to a one second winning margin.
Series leader Mickel carved his way through the order to finish a strong second, just seeing off the rapid Parker on the dash to the line on lap six by 0.060 seconds. Gibson headed the next group in fourth, just ahead of Rudman and top Rookie racer Sy Harraway (Weston-super-Mare).
While the opening contest was impacted by some drizzle, increased precipitation was a factor in Heat Two but it didn’t stop Whitelegg from making it back-to-back wins. After grabbing the lead on lap four, he first saw off the challenge of Parker and, on the final lap, Pape to win by 0.6 seconds.
Sean Smith (High Wycombe) made the early running in the weekend’s second race, trading the lead with Parker who eventually finished third by a mere 0.025 seconds from Gibson who, in turn, was just 0.047 seconds ahead of Smith – all three were glued together on the dash to the flag.
Saturday’s Final took place on a dry track and Whitelegg led when it mattered, on the last lap, to complete his fabulous hat-trick with a stunning drive through the order. Initially, Rudman and Riihimaa boxed out the top two placings, with the Finnish driver nosing ahead into lap four. Rudman, though, responded until he slipped back on lap six with Smith then hitting the front ahead of Parker.
Into lap seven Whitelegg was at the tail of the top six but, in classic Legends Cars style, a superb multi-car battle delivered some tremendous overtaking over the last couple of laps. Whitelegg managed to do the unthinkable with victory 0.1 seconds ahead of Parker with Mickel only 0.031 seconds adrift in third. Pett wrapped up a strong day in fourth from Rudman and Riihimaa.
Rudman, Pett and Pape all celebrate victories on day two
Ahead of Sunday’s first Heat all eyes were on Whitelegg and whether he could add to his incredible hat-trick. Rudman, though, had other plans and after besting Mickel following an entertaining early battle, he managed to edge away from the pack at the end of lap two.
As an immense scrap raged from second to eighth place, Rudman was able to pull further and further clear after breaking the tow and he went on to claim his sixth win of 2018 by just over two seconds. Mickel took second in a photo-finish with Parker, who started the day with the fastest time in qualifying, with Smith fourth from Whitelegg and Gibson.
Pett produced the drive of his career in Heat Two with a fabulous performance earning him his first ever Legends Cars race victory. Battling tooth and nail with Gibson and Pape early on, all three split by just 0.082 seconds into the third tour, Pett assumed the lead on lap four when Pape’s challenge ended after running off track at the Esses – a legacy of new brakes following issues in Heat One.
In the end, Pett established enough of a gap to win by 1.2 seconds from Gibson, who just kept Mickel at bay in a real dead-heat. Parker, who was second heading into the last lap, was mugged in the slipstream down Bentley Straight on the final tour and ended the race fourth.
At the start of Sunday’s Final, Pape made the most of his front of the grid start to take the early lead from Rickie Leggatt (Worthing) with Rudman making his way through to third on a very strong first lap, from ninth on the grid. Rudman and Pape managed to forge a good break pretty quickly and by the start of lap three they were more than three seconds clear of the rest.
Running nose-to-tail and continuing to increase their advantage significantly, Rudman’s hopes of another win then expired at the start of lap six when his car slowed and retired. Pape, therefore, held a 10 second lead at the front as a result and he went on to claim a dominant first win of 2018.
Fittingly, title rivals Mickel and Whitelegg duked it out for the runner-up spot over a very close final lap with the reigning champion just shading Whitelegg, who set fastest lap on the last lap, by a mere 0.1 seconds. Pett finished in fourth place, ahead of James Hall-Morton and Leggatt.
“It’s the first time I’ve had three wins in one day, Saturday was unbelievable and better than I could have imagined – everything seemed to fall into place and the car was on rails. The Final was great, I thought the best I could manage would be fourth but I picked them off one by one, had a great ding-dong with Jack
“It feels good to finally get that first victory. It all seemed to go our way and we had some good pace, I have to say thank you to my Dad for all his hard work and to the team with all the guys at Matt Roach Racing. It’s all really paid off. Every time we went down the long straights I was looking in my mirrors expecting the others to come past in the draft, but thankfully I had enough of a gap.”
“I was getting on with it [in Sunday’s Final], then Miles Rudman appeared out of nowhere. We worked together, got away, and had some really good racing – I don’t know if we were that fast but it was good. Then he suddenly dropped out, I could see smoke in my mirrors, then it was up to me not to throw it off. I came back in for a laugh this weekend and we’ve had a win, so it’s been good.”
“I’m over the moon with another win, especially after some problems on Saturday. We had an engine rebuild for this round but it was really tight, it didn’t want to free-up, and in the second Heat on Saturday we then had an ignition fire so I couldn’t start. Sunday started well, I just wanted to get my head down and go and it all worked out – I’m really pleased with that win.”
Next for the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres will be the category’s second visit of the season to Wales, this time to Pembrey Circuit in Carmarthenshire on 13th/14th October.
Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points:
1st John Mickel, 6480pts; 2nd Steve Whitelegg, 5920pts; 3rd Jack Parker, 5080pts;
4th Miles Rudman, 5070pts; 5th Sean Smith, 4885pts; 6th Paul Simmons, 4650pts