Pandamonium Racing’s Hamish Brandon grew in confidence after challenging for the podium and achieving three solidly consistent finishes in the Power Maxed MINI Challenge at a sunny Oulton Park (12 July).
Opening the weekend with qualifying on Saturday morning (12 July), Brandon was quick to familiarise himself with Oulton Park’s 2.69mile International layout to position his Excelr8 Motorsport-prepared John Cooper Works (JCW) MINI sixth with a best time of 1m55.722s.
The 27-car field lined-up on the grid for the first of day’s three races in the knowledge that a relatively conservative approach might not required to avoid incidents that could potentially end their weekend prematurely.
In a race that saw six retirements, Brandon kept a cool head and negotiated his way past the slower Cooper Class without incurring any damage. and battled within the top six for the duration of the 11-lap contest before crossing the line an impressive sixth place, ahead of Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup runner Rob Smith.
After a three-hour interval, Scottish-based Brandon lined-up fourth for the weekend’s second race, where he was quick to stay with third-placed Chris Russell and challenge for a podium position.
Brandon continued to push his Panda-liveried JCW MINI racer as he defended heavily from Excelr8 Motorsport teammate, Chris James, who raced door handle-to-door handle for several laps.
The Hawick-based driver drove the widest MINI on the circuit, but was passed by both James and Neil Newstead as the race neared its conclusion to cross the line a respectable sixth position.
Having avoided any incidents throughout the day’s action, Brandon found himself on pole for the third and final race thanks to the reversed grid, and would be searching for his first JCW win.
As the five red lights went out for the final time at Oulton Park, Brandon bolted off the line to lead the 25-car field down to Old Hall Corner but, due to running on used rubber, fell into the clutches of his rivals.
The race progressed and the Cooper graduate was able to manage his tyre wear to set several personal best lap times and challenge the frontrunners, before crossing the line fourth, narrowly missing out on a podium finish.
“I’ve come away from this weekend very, very happy,” said Brandon. “I know we were not on the podium, but the team and I have been looking at data and have found that we are much closer to the frontrunners than we have been in previous rounds, which is very positive. I feel a lot more confident in the car and am able to push a lot harder, whereas before I would ease off.
“We were only allowed two sets of tyres on Saturday and I pushed a little too hard on them in the first race, as I began to understeer a lot towards the end, but I finished sixth, which was good. I had very little grip left on my tyres for race three, but we were able to match the leaders’ pace.”
Brandon continued: “Overall, it has been a really good weekend for both me and the Excelr8 Motorsport team. I’ve maintained the gap to fourth in the Drivers’ standings, I would have liked to close it, but I’ve opened a gap to sixth place. Hopefully, now I feel a lot more confident in the car, can close that gap to fourth at the next meeting.”