Hamish Brandon MINI Challenge ascent at Castle Combe

Hamish Brandon narrowed the gap to his title rivals on the Castle Combe battlefield after securing two top five finishes in the Power Maxed MINI Challenge (2 August).  

Held in wet conditions, Saturday’s frantic 15-minute qualifying session saw many of the 27 drivers struggle for traction around the fast-paced Castle Combe circuit, as Pandamonium Racing’s Hamish Brandon put in an eighth best time – 1m25.021s.

Having set himself a target of getting in among the established frontrunners, Brandon did just that as he spent the duration of the 16-lap race entangled in a battle with championship rivals, Neil Newstead and Lawrence Davey.

The trio ran nose-to-tail for several laps battling for the third position, as Brandon continued to lap at a similar pace to the race leaders before crossing the finish line an impressive fifth and positioning himself well for the weekend’s final race.

As engine notes rose for the last time at the Wiltshire circuit, Brandon was quick to find grip from his front-wheel-drive John Cooper Works (JCW) MINI to storm to the front of the field, before a heavy incident involving two Cooper Class drivers, Chris Stoney and Josh Gollin, brought about a red flag stoppage.

After a lengthy delay, racing was resumed, and with some emphatic door handle-to-door handle racing developing, the Safety Car was deployed and the race shortened to just five green flag laps.

Brandon remained nose-to-tail with Henry Duprey for the duration of the race as the duo battled for the final podium place, but was unable to make a pass stick and crossed the line fourth to narrow the gap to the championship leaders.

“It was a mixed weekend, to be honest,” said Brandon. “Testing went really well and I felt really comfortable with the setup on the car, and the pace seemed to be there. But qualifying was a disaster. It was the wettest it could have been at Castle Combe, and the setup on the car didn’t suit the conditions and I really struggled for grip.

“Race one was really good. There was a drying line forming, so we gambled on running with full slick tyres, while some of the other drivers on the grid opted for a mixture of wets and slicks. It turned out to be the right choice, as the race came to us and we were able to climb up the leaderboard. It was really enjoyable.”

Brandon continued: “I made one of my best ever starts in race two, and straight away I was in the lead down to Turn 1 in a battle with Lawrence Davey. We managed to pull out a significant gap to third place but, unfortunately, the race was red-flagged. Sadly, my restart was terrible. I dropped down to tenth, but I got my head down and concentrated on getting back to the front. There wasn’t much between the top four and in the end I just missed out on a podium, but overall it has been a very good weekend and I feel even more confident in the car.”

The Power Maxed MINI Challenge resumes at the home of British motorsport, Silverstone, in two weeks’ time (16-17 August).

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