Excitement was at fever pitch ahead of the opening day of the season which produced three different winners from the first three races. Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) was victorious in Heat One, Jack Parker (Wolverhampton) took the spoils in Heat Two and Steve Whitelegg (Bury) claimed the win from a dramatic round one Final – his first triumph since 2018.
Former champion Rudman started off day two with his second victory of the weekend before five-time title winner John Mickel (Horsham) took his first success of the season in Heat Two. In the round two Final history was made when Nick Bridgeman (Baldock) took a very popular maiden win in a red flag shortened encounter – second for Rudman delivered him five podiums from the six races.
In the Rookie Championship, multiple Pick-Up Truck Champion Scott Bourne (Worthing) put together the strongest weekend – taking a best finish of 13th – and leads from ex-Ginetta driver Charlie Budd (Henley-on-Thames). Former Silhouette racer Chris Brockhurst completes the top three.
Rudman, Parker and Whitelegg all make winning starts in Rd1
With bright sunshine overhead, anticipation was high ahead of the first race of 2021 but red flags were shown at the end of lap one after several cars came to grief on oil which was deposited from Parker’s car after a mechanical issue. Mickel had been leading from Will Gibson (Camberley).
Heat One was re-started over four laps and Mickel again led from Gibson, before 2019 champion Rudman hit the front on the penultimate lap. He claimed the win by 0.7 seconds from Mickel with Gibson third ahead of an impressive Mike Schlup (Cuckfield) and Cadwell local Marcus Pett (Boston).
Nathan Anthony (Horley) charged into the lead on the first lap of Heat Two in his Se-Van and in only his second race back after a year away he shone, heading the pack until lap four. Parker smartly made his way through the bunch and after grabbing the lead on the fourth tour, he dominated.
Taking the flag at the end of lap six 3.6 seconds clear, it was the perfect response to the Heat One disappointment and also earlier woes in qualifying when an axle problem put him in the barriers. Sean Smith (Marlow) charged through to second, ahead of Robin Fountain (Boston) who ran second to Anthony during the first half. Anthony ultimately took fourth, from race one winner Rudman.
Parker looked to be en-route to his second win of the day in the round one Final but, on the last lap, a tangle with Chris Needham (Altrincham) resulted in the latter dropping to seventh at the flag and Parker recovering to eighth place. Needham had led comfortably early on, before Parker’s charge.
Into the penultimate lap just 0.379 seconds separated Parker, Needham and third placed Whitelegg and it was the 2018 Vice-Champion who took the chequered flag after the incident, four tenths of a second clear of Smith to claim his first race victory in three years.
Rudman closed out a successful first day of the season in third, a fraction behind Smith, from Steve McGill (Bo’ness), Mickel and Gibson. Connor Hughes (Hullbridge) produced an impressive showing, running in the podium battle for the first five laps until an unfortunate retirement on the sixth tour.
Sensational first win for Bridgeman as Rudman doubles-up
Sunday’s round two action started with a second win for Rudman, after a close battle at the front with Gibson, reigning champ Daniel Clark (Darras Hall) – who was fastest in morning qualifying – and Needham. The early lead was held by Needham from Gibson and Rudman, but on lap three Gibson managed to move to the front.
Heading Rudman and Clark, with Needham edged back to fourth, Gibson then lost the lead to Rudman on lap four. Heading the way by 0.3 seconds into the sixth and final lap, Rudman went on to win from Clark, Needham, Pett, Mickel, Parker, Whitelegg and Gibson.
Heat Two delivered the first win of 2021 for Mickel, who moved to the front on lap three and never looked back. Scottish racer McGill led by 1.2 seconds at the end of lap one from Schlup with Mickel in third, but the latter wasted no time in closing the gap and passing both.
He was followed through by Rudman, Pett, Gibson and Clark and although the lead contenders were all evenly matched Mickel held on by just 0.1 seconds at the flag on lap six. Rudman, Gibson and Smith were next over the line, just half a second covering the top four, from Pett and Clark.
Round two’s Final produced a richly deserving first time winner in Bridgeman, who led every lap before red flags were shown early into the seventh and penultimate tour. Starting the race on the front row, Bridgeman led Mark Beaty (Gosforth) at the end of lap one before Anthony took second.
Anthony rapidly closed down the 1.3 second advantage held by Bridgeman and they ran nose-to-tail between laps four and five. Rudman, who had stormed through from 21st on the grid, grabbed second on lap five and set about pressuring the leader who was a fraction ahead into lap seven.
Moments later red flags were shown due to a stranded car on track and the result was counted back to the end of lap five. Bridgeman was declared the winner from Rudman and Anthony – his first top three of the new season. Paul Simmons (Lingfield) finished fourth from Smith and Mickel.
Miles Rudman – Rd1 Heat One Winner and Rd2 Heat One Winner:
“It’s been a long time [since the end of last season], I’ve been dying to get out in the car and I’m delighted we’ve had such a strong start with a couple of wins. It’s a shame about the red flags in the last race as we would’ve won that, but overall we’ve had really strong results with five podiums from six races. Friday practice was the first time back in the car since last season, so I’m really pleased.”
Jack Parker – Rd1 Heat Two Winner:
“We had a bad start – the back axle bar went in qualifying and put me into the pitwall, then we found the engine had a blown head gasket. I lost oil in Heat One, so didn’t finish the race, but it was great to hit back with the win in race two. On Sunday we had a good first and second race, but more problems in race three after a bit of a pile-up. It’s a long season, hopefully we can draw it back.”
Steve Whitelegg – Rd1 Final Winner:
“The intention this year is to finish every race as high as we can, to have that consistency, and as it turned out I had a better chance in the Saturday Final, starting higher up, due to bad luck in Heat Two. The level of competitiveness is unbelievable this year, everyone has stepped it up again and so I’m extremely pleased to come away with a win – brilliant for the team too with Nick’s first win.”
John Mickel – Rd2 Heat Two Winner:
“It’s gone really well this weekend, although it was a shame the last race was stopped with a red flag. There didn’t seem to be a lot between us and the others on pace, we’re somewhere about where we should be and pretty happy overall. It’s been good, onto the next one at Brands.”
Nick Bridgeman – Rd2 Final Winner:
“It’s amazing! We had a poor start to the weekend with two DNFs, but to end with my first ever win is fantastic – I’m very happy. I picked what I wanted to do in the last race, get away and try and fight off the fast boys at the end when they came through. The team has done an awesome job, two wins with me and Steve [Whitelegg] and Tom [Brown] has done great on his first weekend in cars too.”
Next on the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres calendar is the first of three 2021 visits to Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent. Joining-up with the behemoths of the British Truck Racing Championship, the action will take place over the weekend 5th/6th June.
Provisional 2021 Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres Points:
1st Miles Rudman, 1090pts; 2nd John Mickel, 965pts; 3rd Sean Smith, 795pts; 4th Will Gibson, 770pts; 5th Daniel Clark, 705pts; 6th Marcus Pett, 700pts