Legends Cars Open 25th Anniversary with a Thriller

Celebrating Twenty-five years as one of UK’s greatest national racing championships, the Legends Cars supported by MRF Tyres got underway for 2019 in some style around the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit on the Easter Weekend. Sunday 21st April would play host to round one, with round two commencing on the Bank Holiday Monday. Conditions couldn’t have been any better for the season opener and to celebrate an anniversary, a whole host of drivers were ready to mount a title challenge, more so than ever the five times champion John Mickel. Mickel had won the title in the last four seasons since returning to the championship and for 2019; was hungry for more success in trying to defend his crown for title number six. An impressive field of twenty-five drivers in the twenty-fifth season would make life difficult for Mickel, but the reigning champion had always gone well at Brands Hatch. Included within the entry list for 2019 was plenty of previous race winners, including three from the top five of the 2018 standings; third place finisher Sean Smith, Miles Rudman and lastly Jack Parker. The sixth-place finisher from 2018 Paul Simmons would also be there in 2019 as part of the Mickel Motorsport camp. Race winners Will Gibson and Marcus Pett made a return along with “The Only Van in Legends Racing” driver, Nathan Anthony. Nathan was still searching for his opening win in Legends Cars but in previous seasons shown plenty of speed in the Van and therefore considered one to watch in 2019. The last one from the top ten in 2018 to return to the grid was the reigning Rookie Champion Sy Harraway, joining as part of the Pro24 camp. Sy secured a couple of wins in his rookie year and now with more experience, would certainly be looked at as a front runner. There were plenty more exciting prospects throughout the rest of the field and loads likely to string some surprises around Brands Hatch in round one, but a welcomed return to Legends Cars in 2019 was Essex boy Connor Mills. An exciting talent within Motorsport who unfortunately has struggled for budget, Connor rose up the ranks to British Formula 4 / F4 and since then has found his feet in Legends Cars, dripping in and out of the championship in recent seasons. Driving for Matt Roach Racing, Connor was expected to add to his race wins tally and it was hoped that he would be contesting the full season. It was going to interesting to see how his pace compared to the regulars after missing most of the season in 2018. His first taste of track action would be the opening qualifying session Sunday morning.

Hall-Morton outdoes Experience to Record Final Win

The opening race of the 2019 season saw Jack Parker drawn on pole position, alongside Nick Bridgeman, with Marcus Pett and Miles Rudman on row two. The quickest driver from qualifying, Nathan Anthony in the Legend Van would start on row five after the draw in ninth position. Conditions were perfect for racing and getting the tyres up to temperature, so when the lights went green, Miles Rudman blasted from row two on the rolling start to lead into Paddock Hill Bend, with Parker and Pett contesting second. Rudman’s pace pulled him clear by over a second in the early stages, by rookie champion Sy Harraway started closing the gap once he moved into second. By the halfway distance, lap five, Harraway was 0.267 second shy of Rudman, with Connor Mills up to third but two seconds further back. It wasn’t until lap nine though that Rudman had been caught and Harraway moved ahead at Paddock Hill Bend. The pressure of the move however allowed Mills to slip up a place as well, dropping Rudman to third at Druids corner. The chasing pack reduced the gap at the front significantly and by the final lap, six cars were separated by less than a second. Rudman would lose out further in the melee with Thomas Granger moving ahead into third. For the race win, Mills ran Harraway close to the flag, but lost out by 0.107 seconds, setting the tone for the season in how close the racing is in Legends.

Round One – Heat One Top Three:

  1. Sy Harraway (No.83 – Coupe 1250) = 10 Laps = 9:24.280s
  2. Connor Mills (No.82 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = +0.107s
  3. Thomas Granger (No.26 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = +0.151s

Heat number two of the opening round would see James Hall-Morton lined up on pole position, alongside Robert King. Heat one winner Sy Harraway would start back on row six, but his rival from earlier Connor Mills would have an advantage of starting fifth on row three. From the rolling start, James Hall-Morton got the break on his rivals, jumping into the lead and ahead of Connor Mills. Connor got a lightening start to jump three ahead of him and by lap three, the heat one runner up led the field. The pace of Connor and James allowed them to break slightly away from the field, as Mile Rudman climbed from mid-pack to slot into third. Rudman would hold a slender advantage for the final podium spot until the closing stages, when Sean Smith reduced the gap and jumped into third on lap nine, leaving Rudman to fend off John Mickel. Positions down from third to eighth were covered by less than a second at the flag. In the closing stages out front, James Hall-Morton had upped his pace and massively closed on Mills, challenging at every opportunity to grab the lead. Connor was eager to go one better than heat one and by 0.062 seconds did enough to fend off a last lap attempt from Hall-Morton. The run to the flag was crucial for Mills in taking his first win of the season.

Round One – Heat Two Top Three

  1. Connor Mills (No.82 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = 10 Laps = 9:22.906
  2. James Hall-Morton (No.32 – 32 Chevy Coupe 1250) = +0.062s
  3. Sean Smith (No.21 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = +1.867s

For the opening final of the weekend, Nick Bridgeman held pole position, with the highest point scorers Sy Harraway and Connor Mills down on row eight. Alongside Bridgeman on the front row was Mike Schlup, with Robin Fountain and Robert King behind on row two. When the lights went green, Bridgeman got away well, but it was the former champion, Robin Fountain who led at the end of lap one. Fountain’s lead didn’t last long as from row four; Marcus Pett grabbed the top spot, followed closely by a charging pack of seven. The pack was split up after lap five however as contact at Druids ended the race for a few of the front runners, including Connor Mills and Sean Smith. At the front there was a change for the lead, as James Hall-Morton jumped Pett, as John Mickel followed him through and up to second. Mickel took over the race lead two laps later as Robin Fountain dropped Hall-Morton to third. Determined to regain top spot, James Hall-Morton upped the pressure to the two in front and on lap twelve, was leading Fountain by 0.086 seconds. The three would run wheel to wheel right up to the chequered flag as Hall-Morton did enough to hold off Fountain and Mickel, the final being Mickel’s first podium of 2019. After fourteen dramatic laps, Miles Rudman ended up fourth, only 0.600 seconds from the podium spots and Robert King completed the podium.

Round One – Final Top Three

  1. James Hall-Morton (No.32 – 32 Chevy Coupe 1250) = 14 Laps = 13:14.071s
  2. Robin Fountain (No.31 – Coupe 1250) = +0.083s
  3. John Mickel (No.4 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = +1.867s

Mills on top on his return to the Championship at end of Day Two

The opening heat on Monday under the scorching Kent sunshine saw Connor Mills drawn on the front row, alongside pole sitter Paul Simkiss, with the Van of Nathan Anthony on row two alongside Rickie Leggatt. Winner of round one, James Hall-Morton would line back on row eight and was expected to go well in a hunt to lead the championship at the end of the season opener. When the lights went green after the rolling start, Mills blasted into the lead to leave Simkiss, Leggatt and Anthony battling over second place on the run down to Graham Hill Bend. The pace of Mills was impressive, as the Essex young gun, in non-typical Legends style broke out into a lead of two seconds by the end of lap four and continued to break away. As the rest of the field fought to be second, Sy Harraway had moved up the order to grab that position and dice with Sean Smith. With the field bunched, lap eight saw drama down in fifth, as Rickie Leggatt spun exiting Graham Hill Bend and narrowly avoiding contact, dropping down to fifteenth. Back at the front, Connor Mills drove superbly to be the first double winner of the 2019 season, taking the chequered flag by 3.948 seconds after ten laps. Sy Harraway pulled clear to take second, whilst third was hotly contested, as Sean Smith grabbed the final podium spot by 0.452 seconds ahead of Nathan Anthony. The top five was completed by Marcus Pett, just ahead of pole sitter Simkiss.

Round Two – Heat One Top Three

  1. Connor Mills (No.82 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = 10 Laps = 9:23.007
  2. Sy Harraway (No.83 – Coupe 1250) = +3.948s
  3. Sean Smith (No.21 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = +4.115s

The second heat of the day saw Will Gibson and James Hall-Morton lined up on the front row, with Robert King and Jack Parker just behind on row two. Connor Mills, heat one winner would line up down the field on row nine, in seventeenth. Lights out saw James Hall-Morton grab the early advantage, with Jack Parker slotting into second, but it wasn’t long for Miles Rudman to become the chaser. Between laps three and five, Rudman and Hall-Morton swapped for the lead with Parker waiting in the shadows. The top three running side by side and bumper to bumper allowed the chasing pack to close in, which included John Mickel and Connor Mills. With the race entering the final few laps, seven drivers were in contention for the win, with Rudman under massive pressure and the leading driver. Moves at every corner shuffled the pack and on the final lap, no positions were secured. On the run to the chequered flag, Parker grabbed the advantage to win by 0.040 seconds whilst Mills grabbed the final podium spot just ahead of John Mickel. Sy Harraway took a well fought fifth, only just ahead of James Hall-Morton. To understand how close the race was come the finish, the top six were covered by 0.871 seconds.

Round Two – Heat Two Top Three

  1. Jack Parker (No.13 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = 10 Laps = 9:25.027s
  2. Miles Rudman (No.7 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = +0.040s
  3. Connor Mills (No.82 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = +0.160s

With the final grid determined by overall points from heats reversed, Connor Mills would start down on row nine with a mountain of a task to overcome a competitive field, however before he had a real chance to fight his way through, the race was brought to a halt. An off at Paddock Hill Bend between Will Gibson and James Hall-Morton unfortunately saw Gibson roll onto his roof, luckily being unhurt in the process. The grid was reformed and the final of fourteen laps was re-run, with all taking to the track. From pole position, former champion Robin Fountain was away at the front, but came under pressure from Paul Simmons in the early stages. Simmons from row three found himself into the lead on lap three, before losing it to Jack Parker a lap later. Fountain regained control on lap five as Simmons faded to fourth, but on a charge from row nine was Mills, fifth at the end of lap five and lapping as quick as the leader. Positions were totally flipped on lap six as the 2018 rookie champion Sy Harraway found himself out front, ahead of Simmons and Fountain. A few laps were ticked off with Harraway defending every section of the circuit, before his deadlock on the lead was broken. Lap eleven was when Connor Mills made his attack, crossing the line 0.034 seconds ahead of Harraway and began to try and clear off. Harraway was able to bump draft superbly in the closing stages but Mills held on, taking the final by 0.082 seconds ahead of Sy Harraway, with Robin Fountain completing the podium. Jack Parker came home in fourth, with defending multiple champion John Mickel completing the top five. Mickel had started on row eight, in fifteenth position and climbed the order in the earlier part of the race to run fifth for majority of the final.

Round Two – Final Top Three

  1. Connor Mills (No.82 – 34 Ford Coupe 1250) = 14 Laps = 13:08.969s
  2. Sy Harraway (No.83 – Coupe 1250) = +0.082s
  3. Robin Fountain (No.31 – Coupe 1250) = +0.787s

With the opening two rounds completed and the winter cobwebs blown away, there is a slight break until the drivers would be back on track for rounds three and four, at the Welsh circuit of Anglesey on the May Bank Holiday weekend, 25th and 26th. Heading across the border, it’s Connor Mills who holds the championship advantage, sitting on top with 960 points, boosted by his hat-trick of wins, multiple podiums and only one DNF. Connor’s rival entering rounds three and four at Anglesey is the 2018 Rookie Champion Sy Harraway, only forty points back following a brace of podiums and a win on Sunday morning. The reigning and five times champion John Mickel is in the hunt for sure after opening rounds and sits third on 910 points and with so many points on offer over a weekend, will be one to keep an eye on as the season progresses. Full the full points table throughout the season, we recommend you visit www.legendsracingeurope.com for all the latest news, results and the 2019 calendar, which to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary sees the Legends Cars visit fantastic circuits in the UK in support of the British Truck Racing Association or as part of the all impressive line-up for the seventh American Speedfest.

To check out our full photo album from the season opener, including the rest of the racing action at Brands Hatch, please click here for Sunday and here for Monday.

Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs