American Speedfest 9 at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit over the weekend, 11th/12th June, delivered typically sensational Legends Cars Championship with MRF Tyres action with points leader Miles Rudman (Lichfield) and title challenger Will Gibson (Camberley) each racing to three victories.
Reigning champion Rudman opened the event with a win in round six Heat One on Saturday, before Gibson claimed back-to-back victories in Heat Two and the Final. On Sunday, Gibson continued his winning streak in Heat One, before Rudman hit back to take the spoils in Heat Two and the round seven Final. Rudman’s lead in the standings is now 490 points over John Mickel (Horsham).
Leading Gerard McCosh Napoleon Award class competitor Steve Whitelegg (Bury) put together a strong event with three overall podiums, while Marcus Pett (Boston), Andy Bird (Calne) and Nick Bridgeman (Baldock) also visited the podium.
Charlie Budd (Henley-on-Thames) made his first visit to the Legends Cars podium in the round six Final with a fantastic drive, and Rookie class star Ben Higgins (Powys) improved on his season-best from the previous event at Pembrey to claim an excellent top four overall finish in the same race.
Two more wins for Gibson and Rudman adds to victory tally too
Championship leader Rudman made the perfect start to the American Speedfest weekend by setting the pace in qualifying, just, from Mickel and then going on to claim his fifth race victory of the year in Saturday’s opening Heat – again ahead of the five-time former title winner.
Nathan Anthony (Horley) took the early lead after emerging from Druids ahead of pole-starter Gary Whitelegg (Wilmslow) and Mike Schlup (Cuckfield), and the bright yellow Se-Van stayed ahead until lap five when Bird moved through.
Pett took the lead at Surtees on lap eight as Gibson moved into second, Bird slowing and finishing an eventual sixth, and Gibson then challenged at the start of the 10th and final lap. As the lead duo ran wheel-to-wheel around Druids an unfortunate tangle occurred which enabled Rudman and Mickel to nip through. Pett recovered to third from Mark Beaty (Gosforth) and Anthony. Gibson was seventh.
No such trouble befell Gibson in Heat Two, a race he dominated to take his sixth win of 2022. After moving into the lead on lap one ahead of Chris Brockhurst (Westgate), Gibson built an advantage of nearly three seconds by lap six and he was able to pull further clear as Mickel and Rudman – now second and third – battled behind.
As they traded places Gibson extended his lead to 3.2 seconds, but over the last couple of laps Rudman was able to move away from Mickel and reduce the gap to 1.9 seconds at the flag on lap 10. Brockhurst ended the race in a strong fourth, with 2009 Champion Lee Fitzpatrick (Shefford) fifth in his Team Car – his best result so far on his return to Legends this season.
Gibson starred again in the round six Final, a sensational drive from 21st on the grid securing his seventh win of the season. Gary Whitelegg led early on from Daniel Pooley (March), before the former’s brother, Steve, moved to the front on lap two with Pooley impressing in second still.
By the midway point of the 14 lapper, the chief title challengers had all moved through the order into the top 10 but it was Gibson who made the best progress. Taking the lead on lap nine, he edged away to take victory by just under a second from Steve Whitelegg with Budd producing an absolutely fantastic drive to claim his richly deserved first podium in third.
Higgins showed his terrific season-best on home ground at Pembrey last time out was no flash in the pan by bettering it with a tremendous fourth place overall, and the Rookie class win, ahead of Mickel and Rudman.
Gibson wins again but Rudman responds with two more victories
Gibson made it three wins in succession with another great drive in Heat One on Sunday, passing early leader Steve Whitelegg at Paddock Hill Bend on lap five and sealing the move at Druids. Never headed thereafter, Gibson went on to win by 0.6 seconds with Whitelegg and third placed Bird ever present – Whitelegg taking another runner-up spot and Bird making a welcome podium return.
Pett finished in fourth position from Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) and Mike Schlup, with Higgins the top Rookie once more in seventh overall. The race wasn’t as fruitful for championship contenders Rudman and Mickel who both encountered difficulties, finishing in 12th and 18th respectively.
Gary Whitelegg started off at the front in Heat Two but Rudman wasted no time in taking the lead just a couple of corners into the race, and he led throughout the 10 laps – although only by a few tenths initially as Bridgeman kept him honest. Mickel moved into second place ahead of Bridgeman around mid-distance, and their battle enabled Rudman to pull clear and win by 2.5 seconds.
Bridgeman refused to be dropped by Mickel, taking the chequered flag just 0.1 seconds shy in third, while Pett finished fourth after a tangle on lap eight at Surtees eliminated Anthony’s Se-Van and the car of Beaty from the equation. Parker claimed fifth ahead of top Rookie Oli Schlup (Cuckfield).
In the round seven Final, Anthony ended the opening lap in the lead from Mickel but the latter moved through on lap two and stayed at the front until lap 10 when Rudman – who was 10th at the end of lap one – saw his chance on the inside into Druids and darted through. Mickel pressured but Rudman held him off on lap 14 by 0.3 seconds to seal his third win of the event.
Steve Whitelegg capped a fantastic weekend with his third podium, just managing to keep a charging Gibson at bay on the line by a tenth of a second. Beaty and Anthony completed the top six finishers, with Higgins the top Rookie in ninth place.
Miles Rudman – Rd6 Heat One, Rd7 Heat Two and Rd7 Final Winner:
“It’s been a good weekend, we had a few issues in race one on Sunday but I can’t complain at all with three more wins and plenty of points – a good, strong weekend for the championship. I was confident coming into Brands, although everyone is matched for pace here so it’s always close. We’ve only got a couple of days for the car to be prepped and then we’re off to Anglesey, I enjoy it there so hopefully we can continue the momentum.”
Will Gibson – Rd6 Heat Two, Rd6 Final and Rd7 Heat One Winner:
“We were unlucky in the first race of the weekend, getting a wheel hooked-up, but we had good pace all weekend and it was nearly a repeat of April’s visit to Brands – three wins this time was pretty decent. It’s becoming a bit of a dog fight between the three of us at the front, I think we’re all pretty much status quo in the championship from where we were going into the weekend really. It’s been a tough three weeks for the team, I dedicated the first win to my Gran who passed away, so I’m pleased we had a fairly successful weekend. Anglesey next – the only circuit we haven’t won at.”
There is no time to rest for the Legends Cars Championship with MRF Tyres challengers as Anglesey in North Wales awaits their arrival mere days from now, rounds eight and nine of the season taking place this coming weekend, 18th/19th June, as part of a BRSCC organised race meeting.
Provisional 2022 Legends Cars National Championship Points (after Rd7):
1st Miles Rudman, 3540pts; 2nd John Mickel, 3050pts; 3rd Will Gibson, 3000pts;
4th Steve Whitelegg, 2590pts; 5th Marcus Pett, 2495pts; 6th Jack Parker, 2100pts