John Mickel (Horsham) returned to the top of the MRF Legends Cars National Championship driver standings at Snetterton 300 Circuit over the weekend, 9th/10th September, with three victories from six races enabling the reigning champion to open a slim advantage with two events to go.
Erstwhile points leader Ben Power (Guilsfield, Powys) endured a largely vexing weekend, a puncture in Heat One on Saturday and misfire in the opening day’s Final were then added to with an oil leak in Sunday’s second Heat. Despite all that, he bounced back in style to dominate the wet Sunday Final.
Steve Whitelegg (Bury) was ultra-consistent throughout, starting off the event with victory in the opening encounter and then finishing runner-up in four of the remaining races. His only result outside the top two was an enforced retirement in Heat Two on Sunday when his engine expired.
There was also success for Sean Smith (High Wycombe) with a richly deserved win during Saturday’s Final. Other highlights included a very consistent weekend from top Rookie Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield), taking three terrific podiums, and star performances from Belgium’s Jean-Michel Poncelet and debuting compatriot Sebastien Kluyskens.
Mickel moves back into series lead on day one
Power, championship leader going into the ante-penultimate weekend of the season, started off well with the fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying session ahead of the impressive Poncelet and fellow Belgian Gilles Verleyen – the latter laying down a strong marker on his series debut.
Heat One of the weekend was a storming race, even by MRF Legends Cars’ lofty standards, with Steve Whitelegg hitting the front on lap four after passing Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) before going on to win by over four seconds from Robert King (York) and Parker. Mickel sliced his way through the order to finish fourth ahead of Paul Simmons (Lingfield) and Gary Whitelegg (Handforth).
For Power, though, race one turned into a nightmare when a puncture on lap three ruined his very realistic hopes of challenging for victory. Following an enforced pit-stop, he rejoined but ended the contest in a lowly 17th place.
Mickel led a drying Heat Two throughout to make a return to winning ways, taking the chequered flag on lap six 0.8 seconds clear of a charging Steve Whitelegg with Rudman third – he only lost second on the final lap. Parker and Power were almost inseparable over the line, just 0.064 seconds splitting them in fourth and fifth respectively, while Masters class ace Simmons was sixth.
Rain ahead of the Final delivered tricky conditions but Smith mastered the grip levels with a great performance. Fourth at the end of lap one and climbing into second the next time around, despite being shuffled back to sixth he sliced his way back through to take a very impressive maiden victory.
Steve Whitelegg made it an excellent day with another podium in second place. Ninth on lap one, he worked his way onto the podium by lap six and then took second on the penultimate tour. Poncelet, who was in the battle for the lead mid-race, claimed an excellent podium with a sensational third ahead of compatriot Kluyskens. Gary Whitelegg was a strong fifth with Mickel sixth, ahead of Power.
Parker had dominated the race early on but a mechanical problem on lap five devastatingly wrecked, what appeared set to be, a cast-iron victory. Leading by almost two seconds after lap one alone, he increased his cushion to seven seconds the next time around and then doubled his lead on lap three before disaster struck.
Two more wins for Mickel but Power hits back
On Sunday, new points leader Mickel led the way in qualifying before the day’s timetable experienced a delay when barrier repairs were required as a result of an incident in one of the morning’s British Truck Racing Association encounters.
When Heat One got underway, King took the early lead but Rudman managed to usurp his rival at Agostini to move to the front, before King hit back. Steve Whitelegg then moved into the lead on lap two but the next time around he was edged back to second by Mickel.
With the top eight all running nose-to-tail, the action was superb and Mickel won again. Whitelegg finished second after seeing off the attentions of Rudman with Simmons fourth, Power fifth and Nathan Anthony (Horley) sixth – no sooner had Power taken the flag, though, he pulled off the circuit due to an oil leak. King was another hit by an oil leak, forcing retirement on lap four.
Gary Whitelegg led the way initially in the second Heat before Parker grabbed the lead into Riches at the start of lap two. Mickel then moved to the front at Agostini, having already passed Whitelegg who was subsequently involved in a tangle with Simmons, and Mickel maintained the lead.
On lap four Parker served up a superb pass at the first corner but Mickel hit back swiftly as the lead quartet closed up. Parker then moved back into the lead on lap four before Rudman took his turn at the front on lap five just after Steve Whitelegg’s engine let go dramatically on the finish straight.
Mickel got the lead back at the start of the final lap and went on to win from Rudman by a mere 0.088 seconds, with Power taking his first podium of the weekend in third only 0.035 seconds further shy. King was fourth, Kluyskens fifth but Parker crashed out on the last lap after a spin at Agostini.
Power hit back in style during Sunday’s Final with a dominant performance on a very greasy track surface. Running over a distance of just five laps as the circuit curfew neared, Power moved to the front midway through lap two, taking the lead from Steve Whitelegg, but the latter responded.
Power, though, wasn’t to be denied and after regaining the lead before the end of the lap he stormed to a clear win. Whitelegg capped a huge weekend for his championship by taking second again ahead of Mickel, that man Kluyskens, Poncelet and Simmons in sixth.
John Mickel: “It’s been a very strong weekend. We had a couple of bad ones, Donington was bad for us and Cadwell was really bad for us, but we found some issues we think we’ve sorted out. We need to go to Rockingham now and finish in front of the number 55 car
Ben Power: “The win is exactly what we needed to bring morale back up after all the bad luck. The first few laps I sussed out where the grip was, it wasn’t a conventional wet race as there were a few dry patches you could use. We’ve chipped a bit back in the points with the win, it’s still very close.”
Steve Whitelegg: “It’s been absolutely brilliant this weekend, Saturday was fantastic with a first and two seconds and just a shame we had the detonation with the engine in Sunday’s second race. The team have been absolutely fantastic, the preparation has been superb and we’re delighted to come away with five top two finishes.”
Sean Smith: “It’s nice to have a first win. I had a not bad first race on Saturday, spun myself in the second one but then won the Final. Unfortunately I had engine trouble in the first one on Sunday, race two wasn’t bad and then in the Final I went out on dry tyres which didn’t work out.”
Rockingham in Northamptonshire will host the penultimate event of the MRF Legends Cars National Championship season just three weeks from now, on 30th September/1st October.
Provisional MRF Legends Cars National Championship Points:
1st John Mickel, 5860pts; 2nd Ben Power, 5770pts; 3rd Steve Whitelegg, 4900pts;
4th Jack Parker, 4790pts; 5th Paul Simmons, 4385pts; 6th Miles Rudman, 3930pts
Provisional MRF Legends Cars National Championship Masters Leader:
Provisional MRF Legends Cars National Championship Rookie Leader: