Panda Racing IN:MINI’s Hamish Brandon overcame power steering issues to maintain his run of strong results in the 2015 Power Maxed MINI Challenge , coming away from Kent’s famous Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit with back-to-back podiums (9-10 May).
Brandon took to Brands Hatch’s 2.43mile Grand Prix configuration for Saturday (9 May) morning’s qualifying, which was interrupted by the appearance of the Safety Car, halting any meaningful running for the Scotsman, who posted a time of 1m44.228s early on in the session to line up on the front row in second position.
In the weekend’s opening race, a waved yellow flag on the grid caused a field of confusion up-and-down the grid, with a tentative getaway for many of the drivers as they headed downwards the steep banking of Paddock Hill Bend for the first time.
Minor contact for Brandon at Paddock Hill saw him drop back slightly into the clutches of his JCW rivals and into a four-car train all vying for the lead. The quartet ran nose-to-tail for much of the contest, as Brandon brought his IN:MINI-prepared machine home in a commendable fourth position.
Race two the following day (10 May) saw Brandon once again negotiate his way through the carnage of Paddock Hill Bend, as multiple-car contact involving the new-for-2015 Gen 3 MINIs saw Brandon emerge from the dust and gravel in the lead of the JCW category.
As the race progressed, a Safety Car appearance brought a lull to proceedings. Contact for one of the frontrunners saw radiator fluid spray all over Brandon’s windscreen. Initial thoughts were that it was merely water, but the oily substance would obstruct his view of the famous Kent circuit.
Not to be deterred, Brandon dropped back slightly in order to clear his windscreen and give him an unencumbered run. He threw hammer to nail at the restart to cross the finish line in second position to secure his first piece of silverware on Brands Hatch’s GP configuration.
The weekend’s third and final race didn’t get off to the best of starts for the experienced MINI racer, as a power steering failure saw Brandon struggle to negotiate his way round the GP circuit’s 11 turns.
With heavy steering, Brandon lined up on the second row of the reversed grid in fourth position and used a bit of muscle, gained from his extensive winter fitness regime – he has been being put through his paces by Scott Weddle at Think Fitness – to fight on bravely.
Having dropped back a position to third, Brandon consistently set lap times similar to that of the frontrunners to maintain his position, before having to drive the widest Cooper S on track in the dying embers of the race to tighten his grip of the final step on the podium.
“I absolutely loved it this weekend,” said Brandon. “It was my first podium on the Grand Prix configuration and it felt very special, and was made even more special being on the Blancpain podium in front of the huge crowds that the series attracted to Brands Hatch.
“The IN:MINI team once again did a great job in giving me a competitive car. We need to go away and sort out the power steering issue, which was fortunate to have happened on the last race and not at the start of the weekend. It’s just one of those things that is out of your control and isn’t a big problem. I have to thank everyone that supported me once again this weekend, and to Scott Weddle at Think Fitness for keeping me in shape. We upped my fitness programme over the winter and I can really feel it benefiting me out on track.”