(Photos from the last visit in 2018 to Croft Circuit for the UK Legends / Photo Credit : George McNeill)
Eight long months since the Legends Cars National Championship with MRF Tyres was last on track, concluding its 25th anniversary season, the eagerly awaited 2020 campaign will finally get underway just over a week from now at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire.
Originally scheduled to begin at Brands Hatch at the start of April, due to the enforced lockdown in the UK caused by the COVID-19 pandemic the Legends Cars calendar has been revised and will now be contested across five weekends and a total of 30 races – beginning at Croft on 11th/12th July.
The 2.1-mile track near Darlington, always a favourite with competitors, makes a welcome return to the championship for the first time since 2018 and will, of course, be the venue at which reigning champion Miles Rudman (Sutton Coldfield) gets his overdue title defence underway.
Having ended the unbroken four-year reign of John Mickel (Horsham) in emphatic style last year, Rudman will now be the driver with the target on his back. Taking eight race victories on his way to the memorable championship win, Rudman is very much determined to keep hold of his crown.
“I’m really looking forward to being back out there, I can’t wait”, said the 2019 champ, “I didn’t expect to be starting my title defence halfway through the year, but I’m just pleased we’re able to go racing again. When I won the championship last year the first feeling was relief more than anything, getting the monkey off my back. It’s been great to be champion, now I’ve got to try and defend it!”
Mickel, who has won a total of five Legends Cars titles during his phenomenally successful career, will be trying to make it a magical half dozen. After ending last season third in the standings, he is going to be as focused as ever in his bid to return to the top of the pile.
As announced at the Autosport International Show in January, which feels like a lifetime ago, former Vice-Champion Steve Whitelegg (Bury) makes a welcome return to the championship after a season on the sidelines. Even though he’s been away for 18 months, he’ll undoubtedly be as quick as ever.
Multiple race-winner Sy Harraway (Weston-super-Mare), fourth in the standings last year after winning the Rookie crown in 2018, will no doubt be as spectacular as always in his pursuit of the 2020 crown. So too fifth placed finisher from 2019 Will Gibson (Camberley), another of the consistent race winners and a definite championship threat.
Fellow race winners Paul Simmons (Lingfield), Jack Parker (Wolverhampton), Connor Mills (Upminster) and James Hall-Morton (Cleckheaton) – the latter, son of former champion Peter Morton, claiming his memorable first race victory last season – are all back.
Daniel and Elby Clark (Darras Hall) will be attracting plenty of attention, and not just because they will be battling on track as husband and wife. Daniel, a former MSA British Superkart Champion, starred on his return to Legends Cars action for the first time in 13 years last season at Donington.
Elby, who made her competitive debut in Legends during the 2019 season finale at Brands Hatch, is the sole female racer on the grid and will run in the Rookie class. Croft will also be notable for the Clarks in that it’s their ‘home’ track, just an hour by road from their Northumberland home.
Ever-improving Nick Bridgeman (Baldock), who was 12th in the standings last season, is another very welcome returnee alongside series mainstays Mike Schlup (Cuckfield), 13th in the standings in 2019, Bill Read (Oldham) and Neil Shenton (Middlewich).
Connor Hughes (Hullbridge) will be making his Legends Cars debut, and will therefore be eligible to compete in the Rookie class. Hughes is the son of former champion Paul Hughes and, just like his dad, Hughes Jnr will be running No.40 on his car.
Steve McGill (Bo’ness) is another newcomer to the National Championship and is entering for the full 10 round season, bringing experience from the Scottish Legends. The more condensed season which has arisen due to the COVID-19 situation has meant a more favourable calendar for McGill.
“It’s always been in play for me to come down and race in the National Championship, so I’m really looking forward to being out there”, he commented, “It’s a big commitment to come down from Scotland with all of the travelling to circuits like Brands, but the way the calendar is this year now works for me. I can’t wait to go to Croft, enjoy it with my family, and have fun.”
Former Superkart stars Chris Needham (Altrincham) and Gareth Sheridan (Altrincham) will share a ‘Team Car’ at Croft with Sheridan running on day one and Needham then contesting the Sunday action. Legends Cars regular Jonty Norman (Wakefield) will also be on track in his Team Car with a yet-to-be-determined team-mate.
Gerard McCosh (Biggar), Jon Critchlow (Northwich) and Mark French, all regulars in the Scottish Legends, will be part of the superb entry and will start from the back of the grid as they are not entered for the full-season championship.
In line with Government guidance linked to the coronavirus outbreak, the opening weekend of Legends Cars National Championship action will take place ‘behind closed doors’ meaning spectators will unfortunately be prevented from watching the first two rounds of the season trackside.
Competitors and teams will also be adhering to strict guidance laid down by organising club BARC (British Automobile Racing Club), with a series of protocols and social distancing measures in place to ensure the safety of all involved.
Qualifying on day one at Croft is provisionally set to get underway at 09.30 on Saturday, 11th July, with Heat One beginning at 11.50, Heat Two at 14.15 and the round one Final at 16.25.
On Sunday, 12th July, Heat One is scheduled to start at 12.05, Heat Two is expected to follow at 16.00 and the round two Final will conclude the weekend’s track action at 17.35.