Incredible drama, ever-changing weather and unpredictable racing delivered a truly breathtaking final event of the Legends Cars Elite Cup with JLM season at Knockhill in Scotland – with Connor Mills (Upminster) making history after emerging from the dizzying last race as the inaugural Champion.
Going into the round six Final on Sunday, 13th August, Mills needed to overturn a deficit of 80 points to then category leader Robert Barrable (Dublin) with Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) and Ben Higgins (Abermule) also carrying outside hopes of challenging for the title.
Nobody could’ve guessed how the last race of the British Touring Car Championship-supporting Elite Cup would turn out, though, with a multi-car incident on lap four effectively ending Barrable’s hopes when he was unwittingly caught-up. Seventh place in the race netted Mills the crown by 20 points.
On a weekend where much of the Legends Cars track action was impacted by heavy rain, Barrable claimed the race victory in Heat One of round five on Saturday, 12th August, Scotland’s Ryan McLeish won Heat Two of the opening day and also won the spectacular round six Final on Sunday.
Mills was victorious in the round five Final, as well as round six Heat Two – the first of two live ITV4 races – and Marcus Pett (Boston) was the event’s other winner in Heat One on Sunday. After making a heavy and awkward landing in the round six Final following a trip over a kerb, Pett experienced some back pain and was transferred to a local hospital for observation – all wish him the very best.
Nathan Anthony (Horley) is the Masters Champion while Tyler Read (Weedon) claims the Rookie title. In the end there were just 55 points in the Rookie battle, with Andrew Rogerson (Maidenhead) winning day two but a strong day one meaning Read had it. Car No.43, shared by Jonty Norman (Wakefield), Stuart McAndrew (Wakefield) and Stephen Treherne (London), wins the Team Car title.
Wet and wild Saturday shakes up Elite Cup title battle
Rain made its presence felt from the outset on Saturday, so no surprise Parker was quickest in qualifying practice. Barrable, though, had a golden opportunity in Heat One of round five after taking pole in the grid draw and he grabbed it with both hands – storming to a dominant 3.4 second victory on the tricky wet track.
Parker worked his way through the order from mid-grid to climb into third by the end of lap four, then taking second the next time around from Higgins and they stayed in that order to the flag on lap 10. McLeish was just shy of the podium, a star drive from 26th, ahead of Oli Schlup (Cuckfield).
For Heat Two, Rogerson had pole but fellow front-row starter Chris Needham (Altrincham) quickly seized the lead. Andy Bird (Calne) moved past Rogerson for second on lap two, before then hitting the front on the third tour. Great racing continued, with Needham moving back into the lead at the hairpin on lap five, and then rain arrived once more.
McLeish leapt from third to the lead on lap six, but Needham moved back ahead on the eighth tour and then looked to have it done. McLeish, though, was determined and after a fantastic 10th and final lap he just did it at the flag by 0.2 seconds from Needham, with Bird rounding out the podium.
If it had been wet earlier, it was properly wet for the round five Final with rain bucketing down around the Fife track. In fact, so bad was the weather the action was halted by red flags after four laps – Luke Simmons (Lingfield) having put together an excellent opening to the race, surging into a huge 2.4 second lead on lap one alone before Mills began to close in ahead of the stoppage.
Racing resumed after a delay of around 15 minutes, with the competitors circulating behind the Safety Car initially, and when the action proper got back underway Mills soon took the lead from Simmons, with impressive Rookie driver Read in third and driving superbly. On lap seven, Read hit the front and a dream maiden outright victory was on the cards.
On a sensational 12th and final lap, though, Mills was able to get fantastic drive on the wettest part of the track out of the hairpin to steal the victory on the line by a tiny 0.005 seconds. Read was, a nonetheless outstanding, second with Higgins on the podium for the second time on the day in third spot after an awesome drive from 28th. Simmons, McLeish and Barrable were next up.
Incredible drama in final race of Elite Cup delivers title for Mills
Sunday’s action began on a dry track for Heat One, a race Pett quickly took control of from third on the grid and he disappeared up the road – leading by 4.5 seconds when red flags were shown on lap four due to some stricken cars on the racing line at the hairpin. The cars were led away in single file behind the Safety Car at the re-start, with the racing getting back underway on lap six.
It was different after the resumption, with Pett under constant pressure from Matt Knight (Shoreham) and Read – the latter almost getting ahead on lap nine. In the end, Pett took the win on lap 10 by just 0.1 seconds from an impressive Knight, his best result yet, with Schlup coming through smartly to third and Read taking fourth after losing momentum, with Barrable fifth from 19th.
Following a torrential deluge in the preceding BTCC race, the track was very wet ahead of Heat Two and it was still raining when the action got underway. Mills, from second on the grid, sliced past Paul Musselle (Buckingham) for the lead at the foot of Duffus Dip and he pulled 1.3 seconds clear of second placed Higgins by the end of lap five. As the rain ceased, though, the track became greasier.
Mills looked on course for a clear win but the battle was reignited into the 10th and final lap. Higgins was right on his tail as they headed up to the chicane and he made a bold attempt to pass Mills on the outside into the hairpin. Mills managed to stay ahead to take victory, while Higgins was pipped to second on the line by Parker. Bird took an excellent fourth ahead of points leader Barrable.
It all came down to the round six Final, on a dry track. Barrable went into the last race with a good lead of 80 points over Mills and with both starting near the back – as high points scorers throughout the day – big drama was expected, in fact guaranteed. Nobody expected quite how dramatic though, with the multi-car tangle at the hairpin on lap four ending Barrable’s hopes.
Following an unfortunate spin for Gibson, after brake failure, several others were caught-up and Barrable’s front-left wheel became hooked-up on Read’s car. Although he got going again, Barrable dropped out of the top 20 while Mills had managed to slice his way through the melee to 10th spot.
After the lap nine resumption Mills climbed through to seventh to take the crown by just 20 points, Barrable finishing in 17th. At the front, McLeish starred again to claim his second win of the weekend, passing erstwhile leader Charlie Budd (Henley-on-Thames) shortly after the re-start, while Parker was sensational from 29th to second and Matt Isherwood (Nantwich) a very strong third.
Connor Mills – Elite Cup Champion, Rd5 Final and Rd6 Heat Two Winner:
“I didn’t know where I’d finished [in the final race]. I tried to take two cars at the last corner, I’ve never gone so hard on the brakes in my life! The car is bits and bones, I’ve never ragged a car like that in my life. There is a lot of hard work that goes into this, it’s a real team effort. At the start of the year we barrel rolled into Paddock Hill Bend [at Brands Hatch] and now we’ve won the title! Big thanks to everyone, Team HARD and especially my Mum and Dad. It’s good to get another title as a Dad and lad operation!”
Ryan McLeish – Rd5 Heat Two and Rd6 Final Winner:
“It’s a bit different to the Scottish [Legends], the pace in the Elite Cup is unbelievable – in the top 10 anybody could’ve won. I’ve got the benefit though of circuit knowledge, so that was on our side. It’s great to get a couple of wins and the weekend couldn’t have ended any better.”
Robert Barrable – Rd5 Heat One Winner:
“We had good wet pace yesterday [Friday testing], but we seemed to have lost a bit of our edge this morning in practice. When I pulled pole position, I thought I have to make the most of this as I knew it wouldn’t be long before the lads would come through. It was picture perfect for a good start to the weekend.”
Marcus Pett – Rd6 Heat One Winner:
“We needed to maximise that after starting on row two, so it’s great to get the win there. We had a comfortable lead early on, before the red flags, and it wasn’t as comfortable afterwards but we got the job done – huge thank you to everyone for their support.”
Following the conclusion of the inaugural Legends Cars Elite Cup with JLM, next on the schedule for the drivers and teams will be the resumption of the Legends Cars Championship with allgrowth Ltd eight weeks from now, over the weekend 7th/8th October at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk.
Legends Cars racing in the UK is supported by JLM Lubricants, allgrowth Ltd, Carless, Vital Equipment and MRF Tyres.
Provisional 2023 Legends Cars Elite Cup with JLM Standings
CHAMPION: Connor Mills, 2070pts; 2nd Robert Barrable, 2050pts; 3rd Jack Parker, 2030pts; 4th Ben Higgins, 1920pts; 5th Marcus Pett, 1665pts; 6th Will Gibson, 1530pts