An early incident during free practice wasn’t enough to stop Panda Racing IN:MINI’s Hamish Brandon from recording yet more podium finishes in the Power Maxed MINI Challenge at Northamptonshire’s Silverstone Circuit (12-14 June).
Contact early on during the first of two free practice sessions on Friday (12 June) resigned Brandon to the pit lane for the remainder of the session, scuppering his chances of getting dialled in to Silverstone’s high-speed confines ahead of the weekend’s three races.
The IN:MINI team was able to repair the stricken JCW MINI with 20 minutes of the final free practice session remaining, in which Brandon was able to shake down his car in order to make sure everything was working.
With typical British summer weather taking effect on Saturday (13 June), Silverstone resembled a river rather than a race circuit, but Brandon positioned himself on the second row of the MINI Challenge UK grid in third position for the first race later that day.
Holding his position off the line, Brandon would then dispose of Erkka Lindstedt on the second lap to move up into the runner-up position, where he then set about chasing down category leader, Neil Newstead.
With heavy amounts of standing water catching out several drivers, Brandon kept his IN:MINI-prepared JCW within the white lines up to the chequered flag to open his weekend with silverware, adding to his ever-expanding 2015 trophy cabinet.
In stark contrast to the previous day’s action, Sunday’s (14 June) opening race was held in dry conditions, where Brandon lined-up on the front row alongside pole-sitter Newstead, and, again, maintained his position off the line, as the 37-car field charged through Copse and towards the Maggots and Becketts complex for the first time.
As the race reached the halfway point, Brandon’s mirrors were filled by Lindstedt, who eventually found a way past the Scot, only to be handed a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits and thus handing the position back to Brandon.
The weekend marked the first time all three MINI categories shared the same track and Brandon lined-up fifth for the weekend’s third and final race, where he climbed one position on the second lap to knock heavily on the door of yet another top three finish.
It was then on the third lap that Brandon used his years’ of knowledge and experience within the MINI Challenge to slip past Kevin O’Connor, only for his rival to retake his position the following lap.
The pair ran nose-to-tail for the remainder of the nine-lap contest, with never more than fourth tenths of a second separating them, Brandon narrowly missing out on claiming a hat-trick of podiums after bringing his car home in fourth position.
Having set out to haul in a load of points, Brandon reflected on another positive weekend, saying: “Considering the weekend started off with quite severe damage, concluding it with two podiums and strong points means we are satisfied with the way everything panned out. I was taken out in testing during a hot lap and I wasn’t able to get back out on track until the very end of the day, when we discovered that we had a badly damaged damper. I’m quite happy that qualifying was wet, as it levelled the playing field and I really enjoy driving in the rain. We pushed from the word go and were sitting on pole for the majority of the session, before I got stuck behind some slower Coopers, which allowed the other guys to go slightly quicker in the final moments of the session.
“The first race was probably the most fun I have had. Even though it was very wet and got wetter towards the end, I was driving as hard as I could. I wanted to win and wasn’t thinking about anything else. I battled for the lead lap after lap and was happy to have finished second. It was a great way to bounce back following testing on Friday.”
Brandon continued: “Sunday was a good day as well. I got a great start and was right on the tail of the leader, taking chunks out of him through the corners. I made a little mistake midway through the race, which allowed the guy in third to overtake me, but I saw that he was handed a five-second time penalty, so I stuck as close to him as possible to secure second. I then suffered some front-end damage during the third race, which affected my straight-line speed. Overall, it was a highly positive weekend and I’m happy to come away with a strong amount of points. We will see what we can do at Brands Hatch in a fortnights time.”