A dramatic weekend for Scuderia Vittoria in Clio Final
A dramatic weekend for Scuderia Vittoria in the final round of the AirAsia Renault Clio UK Cup at Brands Hatch featured another stunning performance from series newcomer Ant Whorton-Eales, but bitter disappointment for Luke Wright.Lichfield teenager Whorton-Eales raced to fifth position and fastest lap in race one, a superb achievement against drivers with vastly more experience. He backed that result up with seventh place in race two, recovering from a mistake earlier in the race.Dorset racer Wright qualified fourth for race one and on the front row – in second place – for race two, but was taken out on the first lap of race one by a rival. The resulting accident damaged his Clio so badly that he could not start the second race.Meanwhile, Scuderia Vittoria stepped up from two cars to four and also gave Australian Ash Miller and Hertford man Chris Smith their Clio Cup debuts at Brands. Smith, who like Whorton-Eales is a graduate of the Mini Challenge, collected a best of 11th, while Australian Mazda MX5 champion Miller took a best of 12th on his first race weekend in the UK.Wright felt that he could have claimed pole position: “I couldn’t quite hook a complete lap up around here,” he said. “I was on one absolute flier, but then got held up by two tenths into the final corner. That was a bit of a nightmare.”Worse was to follow. After a strong start, Luke was elbowed wide and taken into the barriers, causing extensive damage.Whorton-Eales took up the challenge for Scuderia Vittoria. From 11th on the grid he charged up the order, claiming fastest lap in the late stages before taking fifth place.In race two, Ant was challenging title contender James Dixon when he got sideways at Paddock Hill Bend. That dropped him back to ninth, but he recovered to seventh by the finish.“I just went in too hot, and after that I had to fight back. But it’s been a good weekend, especially getting fastest lap in the first race – and in only my second race meeting on slick tyres! I need to nail qualifying though – I didn’t really get a lap together on the new tyres.”Miller did a superb job on his front-wheel-drive debut to qualify 12th, within a second of pole position on what is acknowledged as one of Britain’s toughest circuits, while Smith took a strong 14th in qualifying. Miller lost ground on the first lap of race one when he tangled with Dixon, but recovered to finish just behind Smith. In race two, Miller was 13th while Smith exited the race due to an error on the second lap.“I only drove the car for the first time on Wednesday,” said Smith. “I’ve really enjoyed the step up from Minis, and you’ve really got to work on tiny differences in performance and set-up. The team is really professional. I was happy with my first race, but a bit annoyed to make the mistake in the second.”Miller said: “I’ve had a ball. When I got sideways in the first race during contact it was tough to remember to put the power on, because I’m used to rear-wheel drive! By the end I didn’t want the chequered flag to come out. In the second race I hung onto Nicolas Hamilton – Lewis’s brother. He defended very well, and then by the end of the race there was nothing left in my tyres to keep the others behind me. I finally had a brush with the wall on the last lap that shattered my rear windscreen – but I can’t wait to come back!”Team director Danny Buxton, the former Clio Cup champion who set the team up with fellow racers Tom Ferrier and Piers Masarati, was proud of his drivers and his team for the way it performed on what was potentially a very challenging weekend.“We’ve expanded to four cars, and it’s a credit to the guys that we have working here that it didn’t feel as though we’d doubled the number of cars we’ve got. The guys we have are fantastic, and it enables me to bring the drivers on and develop them.“For Luke it was a case of what might have been – he got knocked off and that cost him his front-row position, so that one got away from us. But he’s been the only new boy challenging this year, and he will be the man to beat in 2012.“Ant is a star in the making – I am seriously impressed. He just needs to concentrate his efforts in qualifying and then he will be capable of running at the front and winning.“Chris was thrown in at the deep end, and to be lapping within a second of the leaders on one of the longest circuits we go to does him a lot of credit. He showed some real promise for what will hopefully be more Clio racing next year.“Ash had never seen the circuit or, like Chris, driven the car, but he lapped at a good pace and you’ve got to say he did a fantastic job. He’s impressed me and he’s another one we hope to see back in the future.”As part of the ultra-popular British Touring Car Championship package, the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup enjoyed live coverage of its second race at Brands Hatch on ITV4 and ITV4 HD, and was streamed live at itv.com/touringcars.