Winrow On Title Brink ....


Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) took victory in round 16 of the 2008 ELF Renault Clio Cup at Oulton Park on Sunday, 27th July, in a race broadcast live on ITV4. The 26-year-old, who was Clio Cup vice-champion in 2007, took victory for Total Control Racing ahead of Team Pyro’s Ben Winrow (Earls Barton). Mike Robinson (Effingham) made it a great day for TCR by picking up his second podium of the season in third.

With 136 points left to race for over four rounds, Winrow, who has led the championship since the opening weekend and is yet to finish outside the top two on the road, is now 142 points ahead of nearest challenger Paul Rivett (Banstead) after he finished 10th. However, with each driver dropping their two worst scores, the actual lead is 113 points, although the title is now a formality for the 23-year-old at his home circuit of Silverstone.

The start of the race saw Winrow hold the inside line alongside Mardi Gras Motorsport’s Gavin Pyper (Fleckney) to lead through Old Hall, with Hodgetts right on their tail in third. EPS UK with Robertshaw Racing’s Robert Gaffney (Waltham Abbey) climbed two places from sixth ahead of TCR duo Alex MacDowall (Carlisle) and Robinson.

Amery Motorsport’s David Shepherd (Sandbach) made up three places on lap one to lie 11th, while Double Six Racing’s Rob Boston (Doncaster) gained four spots to be 12th. Having had a maiden podium in round 15, Team Wood Racing’s Lea Wood (Hereford) dropped from 13th on the grid to 16th.

In the lead battle, Pyper ran wide at Druids at the end of lap one and although able to rejoin the circuit he retired on lap two. The second tour also saw heavy contact between Full Speed Racing’s Phil Glew (Alford) and Shepherd as they tried to avoid the spinning Gaffney, who had run wide on the exit of Old Hall corner and bounced back onto the circuit. All three retired, along with Full Speed’s Chaz Small (Braunston) and the Safety Car was brought out for two laps to clear the debris, the race extended from 12 to 14 laps.

At the resumption on lap five, Rivett immediately took 10th place from Pyro’s Chris Rice (Beverley) with a late-braking move at Old Hall. Hodgetts managed to stay with Winrow as the race restarted and took the lead at Island Hairpin with a neat manoeuvre up the inside of the series leader. MacDowall was now third ahead of Robinson and Coastal Racing’s Carl Bradley (Morecambe), with Y4HR Miracle Drywash Stancombe Vehicle Engineering’s Niki Lanik (Ashurst Wood) completing the top six.

Mardi Gras’ Árón Smith (Rathfarnham) ran wide through the chicane and clouted the tyre stack to drop back to eighth, the track marshals doing a fine job to clear the circuit before the field came round on lap six. APO Sport’s Alex Osborne (Northampton) took seventh place and joined the leaders with a two-second gap back to Smith.

Hodgetts took a defensive line into Old Hall on lap seven as Winrow tried to regain the lead, while Valtra with FSR’s Peter Felix (Allestree) passed P9 Raceshop/Range Storage’s Lee Pattison (Liversedge) for 16th at the same corner, only to lose the place later in the lap. Wood picked up two places in as many laps by passing TCR’s Jonathan Ridley-Holloway (Barnstaple) for 12th on lap eight and then Rice on the following lap.

The ninth lap saw Winrow set the NGK fastest lap of the race at 1min 36.668s (82.89mph) as he continued to exert maximum pressure on Hodgetts, who refused to buckle and used his experience of winning five Clio Cup races last season to full effect. Meanwhile, Pattison passed Team Pyro with Dewsport’s Alex Dew (Bampton) for 15th.

Running in a strong third place, MacDowall almost lost his podium spot when he locked his brakes at the hairpin, just fending off Robinson on the run to the chicane. Down the order, Felix passed Dew at Cascades before Wood continued his momentum by overtaking Rivett for 10th.

Under pressure from Robinson, MacDowall ran wide at Cascades to kick up the dirt on lap 12 before finally running out of luck, and track, at Druids on lap 13. Running wide on the exit, the teenager spun across the track and into retirement against the barrier, moving Robinson to third ahead of Bradley, Lanik and Osborne.

With Hodgetts maintaining a comfortable distance to Winrow, the battle for the final podium place was to be decided on the final lap. Bradley, who has six fourth-place finishes this season, made a lunge in an attempt to secure a first podium but succeeded only in running wide at the hairpin. This allowed Lanik to pull alongside and the Austrian driver completed the pass at the chicane.

At the head of the field, Hodgetts took the chequered flag with just 0.581s to spare ahead of Winrow, Robinson taking a deserved third place a further four seconds behind.

Commenting after the race, Stefan Hodgetts said: “Obviously it’s great to win the race and it was really competitive with Ben. It was easier that he was going for the championship because I knew he wouldn’t take any risks but it was close all the way and great to race against him. The team prepared a great car for me and I’m delighted to go out there and win for them.”

Second-placed Ben Winrow said: “It’s been a great weekend, even though Stefan got the better of me today. It wasn’t important to win the race though and with Paul in 10th I’ve effectively won the championship today, even though it won’t be official until Silverstone.

“The season has gone brilliantly and I’ve been pushed all the way by Paul and then quick guys doing one-off races like Jonathan Adam at World Series and Stefan here. They’ve mixed it up a bit but I’ve been able to pull it out of the bag each time and it’s a great feeling.”

Third-placed Mike Robinson, who adds to his Donington Park podium, said: “It’s nice to be back up here. I didn’t think it was going to happen as the end of the race got nearer but Alex just made a small error and that was it. I hadn’t been qualifying well recently but got it together this weekend and managed to bring it home in third.”

2008 ELF Renault Clio Cup provisional drivers’ standings – round 16 (incl. dropped scores)

1 Ben Winrow             GBR            Team Pyro                                           440 pts

2 Paul Rivett                GBR            JHR Developments                             327 pts

3 Phil Glew                  GBR            Full Speed Racing                               298 pts

4 Carl Bradley             GBR            Coastal Racing                                    224 pts

5 Mike Robinson         GBR            Total Control Racing                            198 pts

6 Robert Gaffney        GBR            EPS UK with Robertshaw Racing       179 pts

7 Niki Lanik                  AUT            Y4HR Miracle Drywash with SVE        177 pts

8 Árón Smith               IRL              Mardi Gras Motorsport                         173 pts

9 Alex MacDowall       GBR            Total Control Racing                            167 pts

10 Gavin Pyper           GBR            Mardi Gras Motorsport                         154 pts

For all the latest ELF Renault Clio Cup Championship news visit the official Renault Sport UK website

 built by Racecar