History was made at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit on Sunday, 6th November, when Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) entered the record books as a three-time Legends Cars Championship with MRF Tyres title winner, following a truly nail-biting final weekend thriller.
Rudman, who is only the third driver in the championship’s history to claim three overall crowns, entered the final event of the season 380 points clear at the top of the standings but watched his advantage reduce to just 95 points after four of the weekend’s six races.
Will Gibson (Camberley) did everything possible in his bid for a maiden Legends title, winning Heats One and Two of round 14 on Saturday, 5th November, and then taking a third win in round 15 Heat One on Sunday morning. Rudman hit back with victory in Heat Two on Sunday, and third on the road behind Gibson in the round 15 Final was more than enough to enable Rudman to retain the crown.
Before the opening race began, five-time former champion John Mickel (Horsham) had to park his 2022 title ambitions after he was forced to withdraw from the meeting by the circuit medical team as a result of a broken bone in his right foot and ligament damage, sustained before the weekend.
Saturday’s round 14 Final produced an incredibly popular, and richly deserved, first ever Legends Cars Championship race win for Rickie Leggatt (Worthing) in his SulNOx liveried car.
The Rookie class title battle reached a fantastic conclusion, the points lead see-sawing throughout the weekend. In the end, Ben Higgins (Powys) emerged as the champion while Oli Schlup (Cuckfield), who had to retire from the last race, secured his maiden outright podium in round 15 Heat One.
Steve Whitelegg (Bury) ends the 2022 season as the winner of the Gerard McCosh Napoleon Award, formerly the ‘Masters’ class, and the shared No.99 entry of Chris Needham (Altrincham) and Gareth Sheridan (Altrincham) wins the Team Car title.
Double victory boosts Gibson’s title hopes in Round 14
Fastest in Saturday morning’s qualifying session on a very slippery Indy Circuit, Gibson also did precisely what he needed to in Heat One of the day – taking his 15th victory of the season with a great drive on a highly challenging wet track. Whitelegg grabbed the lead off the start, from the second row, and stayed at the front until lap four when Gibson went by into Druids.
Thereafter Gibson was never headed, although Whitelegg did close to within 0.4 seconds at the finish. Rudman charged through to third place after running through the gravel at Clearways while fourth mid-race, with Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) next up ahead of Oli Schlup who took a vital Rookie class win. Kieran Beaty (Hexham) rounded out the top six.
The track was wetter still for Heat Two but the result was the same, two wins from two for Gibson after working his way through impressively from 16th on the grid. Dramatically, championship leader Rudman was forced to pull off the circuit into retirement on lap one and so the pendulum in the title battle swung more towards Gibson – his 16th victory of the campaign closing the gap to 155 points.
Rookie racer Luke Simmons (Lingfield) led initially from pole, but Andy Bird (Calne) went by into Druids before the Safety Car was deployed. Racing resumed on lap four and Bird continued to fly high, as some tight battling raged behind. Gibson made his way through into the podium placings by lap seven and duly took the lead on the eighth tour at Paddock Hill Bend.
Storming away to immediately open a lead of 1.4 seconds, Gibson sealed the win from a strong Marcus Pett (Boston) in second and a sensational third place for Beaty – charging through from 22nd on the grid. Bird had to settle for fourth ahead of top Rookie Schlup, another star drive.
Saturday afternoon’s round 14 Final was red flagged with just under a couple of laps to go, duly delivering a very popular first win for Leggatt. After an early Safety Car, which stayed on track until lap seven, Leggatt headed Charlie Budd (Henley-on-Thames) and Mike Schlup (Cuckfield). On lap 10, Whitelegg dived into the lead at Graham Hill Bend but then red flags were shown on lap 11.
Leggatt was therefore declared the winner on countback from Whitelegg. Rudman was ninth and Gibson 16th but, post-race, a penalty for Rudman dropped him behind his rival. Higgins, meanwhile, won the Rookies in 10th.
Overall and Rookie title battles go down to final race decider
Heavy rain on Sunday morning led to the cancellation of the qualifying session, and Heat One took place on a particularly wet track. Gibson, having drawn pole in the grid ballot, had an opportunity to close even further on Rudman in the points table and he seized it with both hands with a dominant lights-to-flag drive to seal his third victory of the weekend.
Whitelegg raced well to second, the action ending under the Safety Car due to a late incident, and a sensational battle for third developed between Mickel Motorsport team-mates Oli Schlup and Luke Simmons. The former won through to claim a superb maiden podium and the Rookie win. Rudman, meanwhile, recovered impressively to fifth after being taken off on lap one and dropping to 25th.
With just 95 points between Rudman and Gibson, Heat Two was going to be crucial and it was Rudman who charged through to take the vital win, with Gibson slicing his way through from row 12 to finish third – but take the points for second from a non-registered ‘guest car’.
Needham started on pole but was relieved of the lead by Beaty at Paddock Hill Bend, the latter running well for the first four laps. On the fifth tour Rudman hit the front and he was untested to the finish on lap 10, more rain falling later in the race to add another challenge. The top six was completed by Pett, Parker and Beaty with Oli Schlup seventh and taking another Rookie win.
Gibson and Rudman both raced impressively through the order in the round 15 Final, ultimately ending second and third on the road. Higgins grabbed the race lead on lap one from Leggatt and reveled in the tricky conditions, opening an advantage of three seconds by lap six.
The appearance of the Safety Car eradicated his hard-earned lead and at the re-start on lap nine Gibson moved ahead before slipping to second before the finish, ahead of Rudman, Beaty and Higgins – fifth and retirement for chief rival Oli Schlup sealing the Rookie crown.
Miles Rudman – 2022 Legends Cars Champion and Rd15 Heat Two Winner:
“I had to dig really deep this weekend, it’s been tough, and swapping teams towards the end of the season added to the challenge. Colin [Smart] has helped us massively, we kind of started from scratch together but he’s given me the car and we got it done. I think this title has been tougher than the others but it’s fantastic to get it, to come out on top and win my third Legends title.”
Will Gibson – Rd14 Heat One, Rd14 Heat Two, Rd15 Heat One Winner:
“There are half a dozen things we can think of this year which made the difference, without just one of the DNFs we would’ve won the championship. You can’t win if you’re not lucky sometimes, but second is pretty amazing – our best ever finish – and the team have worked so hard. We turned our season around, took the most wins and I genuinely think we’ll be hard to beat for P1 next year.”
Ben Higgins – 2022 Legends Cars Rookie Champion:
“It’s quite exciting to be honest to win the Rookie title! We weren’t really looking too good this weekend, we had quite a few issues, but we were there or thereabouts. It was so slippery in the wet, we’re on a road tyre and the cars are so light with quite a bit of power – but it just makes it fun! Legends isn’t an easy thing to come into, but we’ve loved it and hope we can do it again next year.”
Rickie Leggatt – Rd14 Final Winner:
“I’ve had so much bad luck over the years, one day I had to have a bit of good luck! I got the lead after the first turn and held it until lap 11, I knew the fast guys like Steve [Whitelegg] and Jack Parker were coming through so I tried to drive a little bit harder but I was on the limit. I settled down to stay with Steve, but then the red flags came and we got the win. We do this for fun, but we work hard!”
Provisional 2022 Legends Cars National Championship Points:
CHAMPION: Miles Rudman, 7155pts;
2nd Will Gibson, 7060pts;
3rd John Mickel, 5870pts;
4th Marcus Pett, 5680pts;
5th Steve Whitelegg, 5620pts;
6th Jack Parker, 4540pts