Panda Racing IN:MINI’s Hamish Brandon continues to go from strength-to-strength in the Power Maxed MINI Challenge after standing atop the winners’ rostrum and spraying the victory champagne for the second time this season (27-28 June).
With all generations of Minis and fans lining Brands Hatch’s spectator banks, Brandon, who travels in excess of nine hours to some circuits, kicked-off his weekend by positioning his John Cooper Works (JCW) MINI on the front row in qualifying (Saturday 27 June), just one tenth off pole position, under clear blue skies and soaring temperatures.
The first of the weekend’s three races looked to be a highly promising one for Brandon, as he bolted off the line and took the lead of the JCW class and was dicing with several of the faster third-generation F56 MINIs, only to be punted off at Druids, where a damaged radiator spelt the end of his race.
With heavy rain a precursor to Sunday’s first of two races and washing away the previous day’s rubber, the wet conditions played into the hands of Scotsman Brandon.
Starting from the back row after recording his first DNF in two and a half seasons, Brandon once again bolted off the line, as the field tussled for position on the run to the steep incline at Paddock Hill Bend.
With 24 cars all vying for position, it was a frantic scene once again at Druids, but this time Brandon emerged several positions higher with no damage, able to continue his charge for a podium position on the run down towards Graham Hill Bend.
Brandon continued to climb the leaderboard with each passing lap and, by the close of the fifth tour, he was up to second position, which he would hold to the chequered flag, to secure his eighth piece of silverware of the season.
Lining up in fourth position for the start of the third final race, Brandon was determined to conclude his trying weekend with a second podium finish by once again leaping off the line to shut the door on main title protagonist Neil Newstead and move up to third position before reaching Turn 1.
In typical race three fashion, drivers traded paint in a bid to get the better of their rivals, but Brandon opted to keep his nose clean and methodically negotiated his way past two more of his competitors to take the lead at the exit of Druids.
Brandon would continue to lead the race, before the first of two Safety Car appearances neutralised the field.
At the restart, Brandon caught the JCW field napping to hold the initiative and lapped several tenths quicker than Newstead in second place to cement his lead further en route to setting the fastest lap, before the race was red flagged five minutes from the end due to a heavy incident that saw one of the Gen-3 MINIs roll onto its roof at Paddock Hill Bend.
Spraying the victory champagne and collecting his Scalextric set for the second time this season, Brandon was happy to have concluded his weekend with a win after a disappointing start, saying: “Testing went ok and, in qualifying, the car felt great, as we were just a tenth of a second off pole. In the opening race I was into the lead before the first corner and really thought we were on our way, as I felt we had the pace required, but there was an unfortunate incident where somebody collected me from behind. It really was a horrible way to start the weekend.
“Saturday night was spent clearing our heads and the guys at IN:MINI did a fantastic job to put the car back together. For Sunday, I said to the guys that there is no point in thinking about the championship. I just wanted to go out there and get the best result I possibly could and have some fun. I got a great start in the first race and finished in second, which was a good way to repay the guys for all the hard work they did on the car.”
Brandon continued: “I was 100 per cent committed to winning the third race and we scored maximum points with the fastest lap and, with the championship leader finishing behind me, we have clawed some points back, which is a great way to end the weekend. We have a six-week break before heading to Oulton Park, which is also one of my favourite circuits, as you have to be fully committed to each corner, so I’m already itching to get back in the car and go racing.”