Pandamonium Racing and Hamish Brandon will look back on 2014 with fondness after securing fifth position and exceeding all expectations during a superb maiden season in the headlining John Cooper Works (JCW) class of the POWER MAXED MINI Challenge.
Having finished runner-up in the Cooper Class in 2013, Brandon stepped up to JCW machinery with the multiple title-winning Excelr8 Motorsport this year and proved that the experience gained in the entry level category provided an excellent foundation by beating many of the MINI Challenge’s most seasoned campaigners.
On his JCW debut at a wet Donington Park in April, Brandon immediately made an impression on the highly competitive series and highlighted his potential by claiming a podium finish and a brace of top six finishes.
The Scotsman, who travels in excess of nine hours to distant circuits, continued to climb the leaderboard in an impressive opening half of the season that yielded seven top six finishes to position himself as a serious title challenger.
Consistently fighting door handle-to-door handle with the POWER MAXED-backed MINI Challenge’s more experienced drivers and coming out on top on several occasions, Brandon’s confidence behind the wheel of his Excelr8 Motorsport-run, front-wheel-driven, turbo-powered R56 MINI continued to grow.
Converting several front-row starts into strong points finishes at Oulton Park and Castle Combe, another season highlight came at the ‘Home of British Motor Racing’, Silverstone.
Having watched Formula 1 tour the 3.66mile Grand Prix configuration since a young age, Brandon had never raced at Silverstone prior to the MINI Challenge’s sixth meeting, and left the Northamptonshire circuit with a hat-trick of top six finishes to consolidate his fifth position in the Drivers’ standings and narrow the gap to the leading foursome, as the series headed to the world-renowned Brands Hatch circuit for the season finale.
Knowing that several drivers ahead of him would be fighting for the runner-up spot in the championship, Brandon kept his nose clean throughout the two races to conclude 2014 as only one of two drivers on the grid of over 20 competitors to finish each and every round of the season, securing fifth place in the standings and subsequently qualifying for the ‘Best of British’ shootout.
Open to the top six JCW class drivers and the Cooper Class Champion, Brandon would be put through his paces in several rigorous challenges, although his performances on the racetrack and in the gym would also be taken into account by the 2014 Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) Champion, Colin Turkington.
After winning the promotional challenge with over 1000 ‘likes’ on Facebook, Brandon headed to Silverstone in hope of securing the ‘Best of British’ award, worth up to £15,000.
“Prior to the start of the season, we set ourselves a goal of finishing inside the top six, and to finish fifth is fantastic,” said Brandon. “Having built the fundamental basics in the Cooper Class, we had a stable platform to build on when we graduated to the more competitive JCW Class and to record a podium finish on my debut and to be fighting for the lead against some very talented and experienced drivers towards the latter half of the season exceeded all my expectations for 2014.
“I feel as though I stepped up my game massively in terms of performance this season and was rewarded to be named on the MINI Challenge ‘Best of British’ shootout, which I had a lot of fun being involved with. Although I didn’t win the main prize, I was delighted to have collected an award for being the first driver since 2004 to have finished two seasons back-to-back with a 100 percent points scoring record, but the highlight of the competition for me was how everyone rallied behind me. I have to give a great deal of thanks to all my family and friends who helped generate so much interest in me, which has now given me a great amount of confidence that people care about what I do.
Brandon continued: “I plan on entering the JCW Class again for 2015 and, with one season in the pocket, will aim to attack for the championship title from the opening round. My qualifying performance has got better and better, which will hopefully provide me with a great starting position to taking some race wins.”