Connor Mills (Upminster) stormed into the points lead of the Legends Cars Elite Cup with JLM Lubricants at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire on Sunday, 30th July, after an excellent weekend at the British Touring Car Championship event – including his maiden Elite Cup race win.
Impressing throughout, Mills goes into the third and final Elite Cup race meeting just a fortnight from now at Knockhill Circuit in Scotland with a very slim advantage – certainly by Legends standards – of 30 points over the equally impressive and consistent Robert Barrable (Dublin).
Marcus Pett (Boston) took his first Elite Cup win during Heat One of round three on Saturday, 29th July, erstwhile points leader Jack Parker bagged his third victory of the campaign in Heat Two and Will Gibson (Camberley) claimed his second Elite Cup win in the round three Final.
Mills’ success came in the first of Sunday’s three races, Heat One of round four, which was broadcast live on ITV4 and hit by heavy rainfall midway through. Heat Two had to be red flagged due to oil on the track and several stricken cars, but Barrable had dominated anyway to take his second Elite win.
Unfortunately, due to the circuit curfew at Croft and several earlier delays with incidents in a variety of categories, the round four Final which was scheduled to take place after the last BTCC race of the weekend couldn’t be run.
Pett, Parker and Gibson take the spoils in Elite Cup Rd3
Mills drew pole position in the grid ballot for Heat One on Saturday and duly made best use, holding the early lead from Peter Barrable (Swords) with Pett in third. By lap three Mills’ initial one second advantage had been cut to nothing and Pett, now second, began to turn up the heat before taking the lead into Clervaux on lap five.
After surviving a major lock-up at the complex at the end of the tour, Pett repelled Mills’ pressure over the sixth and final lap to claim the win. On the sprint to the line Mills was actually demoted to third by Ben Higgins (Abermule), who enjoyed terrific drive out of the hairpin, with Chris Needham (Altrincham) fourth, Peter Barrable fifth and Tyler Read (Weedon) sixth and top Rookie.
Heat Two began with Matt Isherwood (Nantwich) on pole and a great battle at the front developed instantly, with Robert Barrable in second and Parker third – having swiftly moved up from fifth and sixth respectively. Barrable took the lead on lap two and did begin to edge away, but Parker closed in after passing Isherwood for second.
With just two laps to go all three were nose-to-tail again and some outstanding entertainment was provided, Isherwood passing Parker into Tower and then moving back into the lead ahead of Barrable at Sunny. Parker then grabbed the lead on the sixth and final tour but Isherwood swarmed, although Barrable managed to grab second back from Isherwood before the finish.
Parker won by just 0.3 seconds from Barrable and Isherwood, while Oli Schlup (Cuckfield) raced brilliantly to fourth – snatching the place from Legends Cars returnee Stephen Treherne (London) on the last lap. Gareth Sheridan (Altrincham) rounded out the top six finishers.
After delays in earlier track sessions, the round three Final began 45 minutes behind schedule at 18.00 on Saturday evening. Paul Musselle (Buckingham) started on pole and held the lead initially, but Gibson stormed through from 10th on the grid to lead by the time the field arrived at the complex. Surging into a 1.5 second lead into lap two, he doubled his advantage by lap three.
Able to pull more than four seconds clear before the Safety Car was deployed at the end of the lap, following a multi-car collision at the hairpin, such was the length of time of the recovery the race never resumed. Gibson claimed the win on lap eight behind the Safety Car to turn around a tough day, with a maiden podium for Simon Griffiths and a podium return for Nathan Anthony (Horley).
Mills and Barrable star in live ITV4 races
The first of the weekend’s races to be shown live on ITV4, Sunday’s opening encounter, provided absolutely incredible drama and a sensational final lap. Nick Bridgeman (Baldock) led away from pole on a damp track but Isherwood, who started fourth, passed for the lead at Sunny on lap one and an impressive Andrew Rogerson (Maidenhead) soon moved up into second.
Rain fell heavily at mid-distance and several came to grief at Sunny, but Isherwood stayed in control despite pressure from the advancing Mills and Needham. It all came down to the sixth and final lap with Mills, who had smartly grabbed the lead at the end of lap five, ultimately taking a clear win after Needham and Isherwood tangled at the Jim Clark Esses. Gibson, who had to avoid them over the grass, came through to second from 17th with Robert Barrable scorching to third from the back!
The track was dry for Heat Two and Barrable made the absolute most of his front-row starting slot to surge into the lead on the run to Clervaux. Just behind, though, title contender Gibson’s hopes were hit when Rob Fountain (Boston) was pitched into his car. At the front, Barrable began to streak away and led by an incredible three seconds into lap two and over six seconds by lap four.
Behind, the action was much closer with some fantastic battling but red flags had to be shown on lap five due to oil on track and several stricken cars. Mills, from 17th on the grid, finished second ahead of delighted returnee Treherne in third. Higgins, Parker and Needham completed the top six.
Marcus Pett – Rd3 Heat One Winner:
“It was a tough race and it was getting hot towards the end, I was certainly pushing. The car felt good, we had really good pace, and it’s fantastic to get another win. It’s a long time since I’ve been to Croft, I missed the last couple of visits, but we seemed to hit the ground running.”
Jack Parker – Rd3 Heat Two Winner:
“My God – that was one of the hardest battles I’ve had so far! All three of us were so close, rubbing shoulders as it were, and it was absolutely fantastic racing. The Legends work well around Croft, they carry so much speed through the chicanes.”
Will Gibson – Rd3 Final Winner:
“It’s a shame we got taken out in the first two races, but that’s racing, but we’ve taken 200 points back on Jack [Parker] with this one. We don’t often get the luck with Safety Cars, it was frustrating to see the Safety Car come out but we got the win which we needed.”
Connor Mills – Rd4 Heat One Winner:
“They opened the door [at the hairpin] so I thought, let’s have a go. It was raining, the gap was there and I thought I’d take it. I went side-by-side with Matt [Isherwood] through Tower, then into the fast left I could see smoke in the mirrors. After that I thought let’s bring it home now!”
Robert Barrable – Rd4 Heat Two Winner:
“To be fair, we needed to make the most of our grid position, starting at the front, and I knew on the first lap I had to do it. Once I got out on the back straight I put my head down, I’m absolutely delighted with the win – over the moon.”
There are only two weeks to wait until the decisive fifth and sixth rounds of the Legends Cars Elite Cup with JLM, the final event of the category’s season, at Knockhill in Scotland over the weekend 12th/13th August.
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 (after Rd4)
1st Connor Mills, 1340pts; 2nd Robert Barrable, 1310pts; 3rd Jack Parker, 1225pts; 4th Will Gibson, 1160pts; 5th Ben Higgins, 1150pts; 6th Marcus Pett, 1120pts