Ben Winrow (Earls Barton) continued his early season domination of the 2008 ELF Renault Clio Cup with a lights-to-flag win in round seven at Hampshire’s Thruxton circuit on Saturday, 17th May. The Team Pyro ace started from pole and held off a brief threat on lap one before easing to victory by three seconds. Steven Hunter (Dronfield), the JHR Developments Team Principle making a guest appearance, finished in a fantastic second place ahead of Total Control Racing’s Alex MacDowall (Carlisle) who scored a maiden Clio Cup podium.
In the earlier qualifying session, Winrow secured his seventh and eighth pole position of the season, breaking the record of seven held by 2005 champion Jonathan Adam. At the start of the race, Winrow ran side by side through the Complex with JD Pierce with Robertshaw Racing’s Derek Pierce (West Kilbride) but managed to keep his nose in front heading into Noble.
Hunter saw his front row start negated by a poor getaway as Pierce and Full Speed Racing’s Phil Glew (Alford) came past him. MacDowall gained one place to fifth as Y4HR Miracle Drywash Stancombe Vehicle Engineering’s Niki Lanik (Ashurst Wood) dropped back, while JHR’s Paul Rivett (Banstead) gained two places to 11th.
In midfield, a spin by EPS UK with Robertshaw Racing’s Robert Gaffney (Waltham Abbey) caused several drivers to take avoiding action, Pyro duo Chris Rice (Beverley) and Jeff Smith (Wellingborough) and Full Speed’s Glenn Bell (Portadown) forced into retirement. Solutions Racing with Dewsport’s Alex Dew (Bampton) recovered back to the pits and attempted to continue but could not fix the fault completely.
With Bell’s car stranded at the Complex the Safety Car was brought out for three laps. At the restart on lap five, Glew was forced to defend his third place from Hunter as Rivett nipped past TCR’s Mike Robinson (Effingham) into eighth. Mardi Gras Motorsport’s Árón Smith (Rathfarnham), like his team-mate Gavin Pyper (Fleckney) starting from the back row of the grid after being excluded from qualifying for leaving the pit lane during the qualifying session thus breaching parc fermé regulations, made up three places at the restart to lie 16th.
Lap six saw Scotsman Pierce, following his excellent podium finish in round five a fortnight ago, throw away another potential podium with a spin at the Complex as he defended from Glew, who inherited second. Glew then set the fastest lap to that point on lap seven, which, with Winrow slowing to pass back-marker Gaffney, halved the leader’s advantage.
As the race entered its second half, Rivett began to control the race for sixth ahead of Amery Motorsport’s David Shepherd (Sandbach) and TCR duo Mike Robinson and Jonathan Ridley-Holloway (Barnstaple). Contact on lap nine at Club chicane between JHR’s Richard Cannon (Chesterfield) and P9 Raceshop/Range Storage’s Lee Pattison (Liversedge) saw both cars damaged but able to continue, although Pattison would retire at Club chicane on the penultimate lap. The incident allowed Smith to gain two further places to 13th having passed Team Wood Racing’s Lea Wood (Hereford).
With five laps of the extended 15-lap race remaining, Winrow began to re-establish his lead over Glew who in turn edged away from Hunter. The experienced Hunter, winner on his last racing visit to Thruxton in 2006, reversed the margin on lap 11 and was in position to challenge for second on the run to Club chicane on lap 12. Glew ran slightly wide leaving a gap for Hunter to go for and he forced his way ahead as Glew, having lost momentum, then lost places to MacDowall and Lanik.
The battling ahead allowed double former Clio Cup champion Rivett to close the gap, despite struggling with a brand new car after his Donington Park accident. Lap 13 saw Glew re-pass Lanik as Rivett more than halved what had been a 4.4s deficit. While Winrow began the final lap with a three-second lead he would hold to the flag, Lanik was unable to hold off the charging Rivett who completed the pass even before he got to the usual overtaking zone at Club.
In the frantic scramble for the line over the high kerbs at Club, Ridley-Holloway just lost out to team-mate Robinson after their race-long duel as another TCR driver, Nick Adcock (Bromyard) was held off by a mere 0.3s by APO Sport’s Alex Osborne (Northampton) with Smith a similar margin behind the pair.
Commenting on his third win and seventh podium in succession, Ben Winrow said: “Once again my thanks go to my team who continue to give me an excellent car to drive. In the middle section of the race the guys behind started to work together and I made a slight error that allowed them to catch up. I had to refocus and keep my head because I knew my tyres would hold up well having saved them in qualifying. It’s great to win again and hopefully I can do the same tomorrow.”
Second-placed Steven Hunter said: “I absolutely loved being out racing in Clio Cup again. I made a shocking start but after that it went really well and it wasn’t too hard to get back into the rhythm of racing. Phil made a small mistake but it was enough to get through. There was a touch but he said he ran wide and it was his mistake. The light rain at the back of the circuit was playing on my mind a bit but I just tried to concentrate on the job in hand.”
Third-placed Alex MacDowall, commenting on his maiden Clio Cup podium adding to his 2007 Clio Winter Cup podium, said: “I managed to keep my position at the start and as most people tried to drive around the outside I went to the inside and found some space. It was an enjoyable race and after going past Niki into Goodwood, I got past Phil when Steven got through. I feel as though this result has been coming so I’m glad it’s finally arrived.”
Round eight of the 2008 ELF Renault Clio Cup takes place on Sunday, 18th May, scheduled to start at 13.30. It is due to be broadcast live on ITV4 as part of the channel’s coverage of the British Touring Car Championship meeting.
2008 ELF Renault Clio Cup provisional drivers’ standings – round 7
1 Ben Winrow GBR Team Pyro 222 pts
2 Paul Rivett GBR JHR Developments 137 pts
3 Phil Glew GBR Full Speed Racing 121 pts
4 Carl Bradley GBR Coastal Racing 111 pts
5 Mike Robinson GBR Total Control Racing 105 pts
6 Árón Smith IRL Mardi Gras Motorsport 98 pts
For all the latest ELF Renault Clio Cup Championship news visit the official Renault Sport UK website www.renaultsport.co.uk
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