Donington Park National Circuit produced six of the very best from the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres over the weekend, 10th/11th August, as no fewer than five drivers visited the top step of the podium to kick-off the second half of the season in grand style.
Will Gibson (Camberley) starred throughout the Leicestershire venue’s annual ‘Convoy in the Park’ event and posted two superb victories, his first of 2019, while Paul Simmons (Lingfield) also achieved his first win since the corresponding event last year during Sunday’s Final.
Last season’s Rookie Champion Sy Harraway (Weston-super-Mare), reigning and five-time champion John Mickel (Horsham) and former Rookie title winner Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) all claimed a win apiece too as a near 30-car grid wowed the thousands of spectators in attendance. Rudman also moved to the top of the championship standings with a slender 20 point lead over Mickel.
With numerous star performances up and down the order, one of the standout competitors was undoubtedly Daniel Clark (Darras Hall) who, on his first appearance in the championship in 13 years, achieved five top 10 finishes from the six races and a best of seventh, plus fastest lap, in the finale.
Awesome opening day for the Legends Cars at Donington
Qualifying on Saturday morning set the scene for how hotly contested the weekend’s action was going to be with Marcus Pett (Boston) and Gibson setting exactly the same time to the thousandth, a lap of 1m23.142 seconds placing them first and second fastest – Pett posting the time first.
For Heat One, the returning Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) held pole from the grid draw ballot but it was Connor Mills (Upminster) who made the early running before Harraway took over at the front on lap three. Rudman was next to grab the lead, before Mills returned to the head of the pack on the fifth tour, and then Harraway surged through once more to lead on lap seven.
With fantastically close action throughout, just 0.6 seconds split the top five with two laps to go and it was Harraway who went on to seal the win by 0.2 seconds from Mickel, with Mills third from Sean Smith (Marlow), Gibson and Rickie Leggatt (Worthing).
In Heat Two, from the front row of the grid alongside pole-starter Mike Schlup (Cuckfield), Gibson starred with a sensational drive to claim victory by a mere 0.093 seconds. He led the way for most of the first half of the encounter, before Mickel moved ahead on lap five.
Gibson was edged back to third by Smith on lap six, and the latter then grabbed the lead on the eighth tour before Mickel hit the front with a lap to go. Going into the final lap it was anyone’s guess who would come out on top and Gibson just did it on the run to the flag from Smith and Mickel.
For the eagerly awaited Final on day one, James Hall-Morton (Cleckheaton) seized the early advantage but was bundled down to fifth on lap three with Simmons moving into the lead from Mills and the Se-Van of Nathan Anthony (Horley).
Another shuffle of the order occurred on lap five with Rudman slicing through into the lead and although Smith then took over at the front, Rudman hit back with four laps to go. Looking good, leading onto the 12th and last lap, he was elbowed to fifth with the win going to Mickel by a fraction from Gibson, Simmons and Smith. Anthony completed the top six, just 0.7 seconds shy of the victor.
Strong Sunday sees Rudman move to top of championship
Rudman set the pace on Sunday morning in the day two qualifying session, with only 0.083 seconds separating the top four to again set the day up perfectly for three more outstanding races. Rob Fountain (Boston) had the Heat One pole from the grid draw ballot with Pett alongside, but it was Mills from fourth on the grid who surged into the lead around the outside at Redgate.
Midway down Craner Curves a multi-car tangle in the midfield separated the pack, but at the front Mills continued to lead from Pett and Simmons – although it wasn’t long before they were reeled in as the slipstream came into play. Pett and Simmons both took turns at the front, but the latter dramatically slowed on lap four and Mills’ challenge then ended in the gravel at Coppice on lap six.
Parker, who had a trying Saturday, moved into the lead at the chicane on lap five and kept Gibson, Pett and Smith at bay for three laps but Gibson then made his move around the outside at Redgate on lap nine and held on to win by 0.3 seconds from Harraway, who usurped Parker at the last corner.
Heat Two began with Hall-Morton and Robert King (York) on the front row and the latter took the lead into Redgate on a track still slippery from earlier rain. Anthony moved ahead of King into lap two, but his turn at the front was short-lived when Rudman shot past into the Old Hairpin. Then, at the start of the third tour, King was forced to retire after a tangle with Mickel.
At the front Rudman led from Smith and they worked together to pull clear of the rest, 4.5 seconds to the good with three laps to go. Smith moved to the front for the first time on lap eight and although Rudman hit back on lap nine, Smith returned the favour and looked to have it in control into the chicane on lap 10. On the sprint to the line, though, Rudman snatched it by 0.037 seconds.
Behind those two, Mickel took a fairly lonely third although he did reduce the gap to 1.5 seconds during the closing stages. Fourth went to Hall-Morton ahead of Harraway and Anthony – the latter’s Se-Van billowing smoke as it crossed the line.
In Sunday’s Final, Mills made the early running from second on the grid but his race was run after just a few corners when his car expired at the Old Hairpin. Simmons gladly inherited the lead and while Rudman and Smith both took their turns at the front, the outcome was only settled at the flag.
The trio battled tooth and nail during the latter stages, with absolutely nothing to separate them, and after 12 pulsating laps Simmons managed to claim a long overdue victory by a fraction on the drag to the line with Smith second and Rudman third.
Mickel delivered an impressive drive to fourth after being forced to start from pitlane, just three laps into the race he was already on the cusp of the top 10 and at the flag he was only a second shy of the podium. Gibson finished fifth from Harraway and the very impressive Clark.
Will Gibson – Double Donington Park Winner:
“Our new car is brilliant now, it’s working really well and I’m more comfortable in the new chassis than I was with the old one. We’re normally fast at Donny so it’s fantastic to have two wins, we’ve been quick again all weekend this weekend so hopefully this will start to turn our year around.”
Sy Harraway – Saturday Heat One Winner:
“It’s been an up and down weekend. I’m pleased to have started off with a win in the first race, one of the highlights though was P2 from a pitlane start
John Mickel – Saturday Final Winner:
“It was nice to take a win and we had a good weekend overall, the car was good so now we just need to go again at Snetterton next time out and be consistent there as well. What happened in race two on Sunday was unfortunate, it is what it is so we just need to move forward.”
Miles Rudman – Sunday Heat Two Winner:
“That was a tough race all round, Sean [Smith] kept me honest throughout and it was about being in the right place at the right time. About halfway through I realised we’d broken away from the others, when you work together like that you can break away. It was a really good race.”
Paul Simmons – Sunday Final Winner:
“What a race! We managed to get the drive out of the chicane at the end on the final lap, so I’m happy about that as it was really close [with Smith and Rudman]. I did just enough to win, big thanks to all the team at Mickel Motorsport.”
Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk will host the fifth event of the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres season over the weekend 7th/8th September. All of the incredible action from the Donington Park races will be broadcast on Amazon Prime, BARC TV and Front Runner in due course, sponsored by 24hr Solutions.
Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points (after Rd8):
1st Miles Rudman, 3470pts; 2nd John Mickel, 3450pts; 3rd Sean Smith, 3365pts;
4th Sy Harraway, 3125pts; 5th Marcus Pett, 3010pts; 6th Connor Mills, 2885pts