Will Gibson (Camberley) boosted his Legends Cars Championship with MRF Tyres title hopes on a fabulous weekend of racing at Donington Park National Circuit, the rapid front-runner taking three excellent race victories and increasing his tally of wins for the season to 12 – the most of any driver.
Taking away a major haul of points, enough to move to within just 55 points of second in the standings, Gibson was fast from the outset in qualifying on Saturday, 20th August, and he duly departed the Leicestershire track on Sunday, 21st August, on a high.
Championship leading two time, and reigning, champion Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) ensured he continued to bank huge points with two more race wins while Steve Whitelegg (Bury) claimed his third victory of 2022 in the round 10 Final on Saturday, his season going from strength to strength.
Kieran Beaty (Hexham) put together his strongest weekend yet with some superb racing and a maiden podium with third in Heat Two of round 10 on Saturday. Beaty, who along with brother Mark heads up series sponsor Parc Lane Cars, impressed throughout at Donington.
Another highlight showing came from Ben Higgins (Powys) who produced a star drive in round 11 Heat Two on Sunday to seal not only another Rookie class win, but more notably his first outright podium. The result was very well deserved after a nightmare up to that point with reliability issues.
The event also marked the racing debut of Dr Dan Clarke (East Keswick), Global Head of Science and Technology at SulNOx – the series partner which provides fuel conditioner for the cars, helping Legends Cars to significantly reduce emissions. Clarke took a best finish of 21st place on Sunday in the ‘Team Car’ he shared with Rickie Leggatt (Worthing), Leggatt taking a best of 12th on Saturday.
Victories shared on Saturday between Rudman, Gibson and Whitelegg
Heat One on Saturday provided a close conclusion between Rudman, Gibson and Whitelegg, just 0.2 seconds covering the top three, but a true grandstand finish was unfortunately prevented due to the presence of yellow flags at the Roberts Chicane on the final lap. The initial start was aborted, due to a problem with the gantry lights, and at the re-start Nathan Anthony (Horley) was the early leader.
Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) hit the front at the end of lap one, before Rudman grabbed the lead the next time around as Gibson too came into play. He passed Rudman on lap five before the champion hit back on the sixth tour, and they ran nose-to-tail to the flag with Whitelegg closing in. John Mickel (Horsham) started from pitlane due to an Anglesey penalty, and stormed to sixth.
The opening day’s second race showcased a Legends Cars masterclass from Gibson and Marcus Pett (Boston) in how to work together to break the tow, escaping the pack by some 12 seconds. Gibson took over the lead from Pett on lap two and was never headed thereafter as the pair ran line astern all the way to the flag on lap eight.
Parc Lane Cars’ Kieran Beaty starred to seal his maiden podium from Mickel. Beaty led early on, having started on the front row, and raced impressively to see off Nick Bridgeman (Baldock) mid-race. Mickel came through to fourth ahead of the returning Sean Smith (Marlow) and Charlie Budd (Henley-on-Thames), but last lap dramas dropped Rudman out of the top 10 to 19th.
Saturday evening’s round 10 Final served up a fantastic battle between Whitelegg, Rudman and Mickel. Whitelegg, starting 12th, wasted no time in scything his way into the lead before the end of lap one and then tried to open a gap to Paul Simmons (Lingfield) and Mark Beaty (Gosforth).
By lap five, though, Rudman had surged into second place – having started on row nine – and Mickel too was with him, from 20th on the grid. Over the final five laps of the race a superb back and forth scrap evolved but Whitelegg was able to see off Rudman and Mickel to bag his third win of the year.
Andy Bird (Calne) was best of the rest in fourth while Kieran Beaty came through to finish fifth to cap his best day yet in Legends ahead of Simmons. Mark Beaty, meanwhile, had to settle for seventh after an issue on lap three which caused him to momentarily slow. Anthony, meanwhile, produced a terrific drive to 11th place from an enforced pitlane start – the result of a penalty from Heat Two.
Rudman wins again, Gibson enjoys Sunday double
From third on the grid in Heat One of round 11 on Sunday, Rudman had a fantastic opportunity to try and make it 11 wins for the year and he duly made that a reality – but had to work hard for it after a fantastic battle late on with Gibson and Mickel. Rudman moved into the lead soon after the start and led Pett and pole-starting Rookie Luke Simmons (Lingfield).
Behind, Mickel closed in and Gibson started his sensational march through the order from 24th on the grid. Pett hit the front on lap three, but Rudman re-took the lead with two laps to go. After trading first place with Gibson on the final tour, Rudman shaded it on the line with Gibson an excellent second despite a slow puncture. Mickel was on the podium again just ahead of Smith.
Due to timetable delays created by incidents in other categories, Heat Two was reduced from eight laps to six. Rookie driver Higgins started on pole from Kieran Beaty and Gibson, with the latter moving to the front before the end of the opening tour. Dominating from that point forward, Gibson stormed into the distance to take his 11th win of the year by six seconds and he set fastest lap.
Behind, Whitelegg came through from eighth on the grid to move into the top three by lap four and he then grabbed second soon after where he remained to the flag. Chris Needham (Altrincham) was set for third place as the flag neared, but Higgins got the drive out of the chicane on the last lap to seal his maiden outright podium and a fantastic Rookie win. Mickel and Beaty completed the top six.
As with the preceding race, the round 11 Final was reduced in distance due to the earlier delays and so it ran over eight laps rather than 10 on Sunday evening. Unfortunately, there was then a further delay when a multi-car tangle at Redgate on lap one, involving around a dozen cars, led to red flags.
When the race was re-started, there was just enough time to complete the eight laps before the evening curfew. Bird led away from pole ahead of Parker, who moved to the front on lap two as Mickel, Rudman and Gibson all made progress. Mickel hit the front on lap three but by lap six Gibson had taken the lead ahead of Rudman, Mickel and Parker as they broke clear of the rest.
Rudman led into lap seven and maintained his place at the head of the train into the final tour, but he missed out when the slipstream came into play and slipped to fourth. Gibson surged past to win by 0.1 seconds from Parker with Mickel third. Higgins impressed in fifth, top Rookie, ahead of Bird.
Will Gibson – Rd10 Heat Two, Rd11 Heat Two and Rd11 Final Winner:
“I’m really, really happy! Three wins, two seconds – it couldn’t have gone too much better to be honest. There were a few little issues over the weekend, but we’re back to using the original chassis from the start of the season and it’s like a rocket ship. It’s going the right way now, we’re closing the gap in the championship and if we have a bit of luck who knows what could happen. I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who helps on these weekends, I couldn’t do it without them.”
Miles Rudman – Rd10 Heat One and Rd11 Heat One Winner:
“It was great to start the weekend with a win, it was close and nice to get the first win. Initially at the start I was having a bit of a battle with Will [Gibson], but then it was better to work with each other as there was nothing in it. Sunday was a tough win, there were a lot of fast guys around but I managed to get the win on the last lap. It was a great race, so close and good points for us.”
Steve Whitelegg – Rd10 Final Winner:
“I thought from the position I started in, 12th on the grid, I’ve got to get to the front as soon as possible – which I think I did! I needed to try and get away, these guys [Rudman and Mickel] are fast and they did pass me. The three of us had a cracking ding-dong battle, I’m happy with that and I enjoyed it. We’re chalking up the wins slowly but surely this season.”
Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk will host rounds 12 and 13 of the Legends Cars Championship with MRF Tyres season, the penultimate event of 2022, over the weekend 17th/18th September. All of this weekend’s racing will be available on YouTube and across a variety of other platforms, including Amazon and Freesports TV, in the coming weeks courtesy sponsors Parc Lane Cars and SulNOx.
Provisional 2022 Legends Cars National Championship Points (after Rd11):
1st Miles Rudman, 5510pts; 2nd John Mickel, 4970pts; 3rd Will Gibson, 4915pts;
4th Steve Whitelegg, 4240pts; 5th Marcus Pett, 4075pts; 6th Jack Parker, 3190pts