Hamish Brandon notched up a third win of the season in the Power Maxed MINI Challenge to claw back points on championship leader in front of an adoring Mini Festival crowd at Cheshire’s picturesque Oulton Park circuit (8 August).
Following a six-week summer break, Brandon was itching to get back into the racing mindset, but mechanical issues prior to the weekend meant it was not known whether he would be racing at all when he left the comforts of Scotland en route to his favourite track in Cheshire.
However, the true ‘never say die’ ethos of Interceptor Racing and IN:MINI led to the team working solidly into the early hours of Friday morning to make sure the car was up and running, before getting a few hours sleep and making the journey to Oulton Park.
Proud of his team’s unwavering determination, Brandon was looking to reward the team for their hard work with another strong weekend and the Scotsman was able to set a best time of 1m55.371s in qualifying to line-up in the front row for the first of two headlinining MINI Challenge races on Saturday (8 August).
Brandon took the lead at the start and held the initiative through the opening few corners to build a substantial lead over his rivals, before an incident at Cascades involving a handful of Gen-3s saw the race red-flagged and the grid returned to its original starting line-up.
Brandon remained focused on what needed to be done and replicated his first flying start, but became entangled in a duel with the faster Gen-3s, which slowed him up considerably and allowed his rivals to close the gap.
Driving the widest MINI on the track, Brandon was able to keep the opposition at bay to take his third win of the season, much to the delight of the Interceptor Racing and IN:MINI team, who did an excellent job in providing a race-winning car.
With confidence high in the Panda Racing camp, another podium was on the cards when Brandon took up his position on the third row for the weekend’s second and reverse grid final race.
A good getaway was key to challenging at the front and, having disposed of several competitors, Brandon then had to slam on the brakes to avoid a heavy collision involving no fewer than six MINIs at the opening corner, dropping back to his original starting position.
The incident warranted a lengthy Safety Car appearance, but the race was resumed with just eight minutes remaining and Brandon pushed hammer to nail to slip past two of his rivals at the restart to move into the final podium position.
“When we left for Oulton Park we were still trying to source parts for the car and didn’t even know if it would be ready for testing on Friday, but the Interceptor Racing and IN:MINI guys did an absolutely fantastic job providing me with a race-winning car, I can’t thank them enough. It was great to reward their efforts with a win and a podium,” said Brandon. “They really went beyond the call of duty. I must also thank some of the other teams, competitors and friends in the paddock who also did everything they could to help us and make sure we could race. Without them too, none of it would have been possible, so I owe them a huge amount of gratitude.
“As for the racing, I had to take evasive action onto the grass at about 100mph to avoid being collected by the Gen-3 incident on the run towards Island bend during the first race. I got another great getaway into the lead at the restart and certainly felt I had the pace to build the gap I had to my JCW rivals, but I was caught behind a battling pair of Gen-3s. Nevertheless, I am over the moon to have held on for the win. In race two, the Safety Car put an end to my challenge for another victory. The car felt great and we had the pace to fight for another victory. Had the Safety Car not been out for the majority of the race, I could have gone on to win.”
Brandon continued: “As far as we are concerned, the championship is out of our hands and is Neil Newstead’s to throw away. We haven’t lost focus by any means and are fully committed to giving it our all and securing as many race wins as possible as you never know what the future brings, especially in motorsport.”
“While the MINI Challenge is a brilliant series and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time, the JCW was always a two-year programme, so the car is due to be sold after Snetterton. The Gen-3 class is an attractive option, although I’m currently looking at the possibility of a GT drive. Equally, my experience would make me competitive in another one-make or European series.”