AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup team Total Control Racing endured a difficult sixth round of the season at Thruxton on Sunday, 29th April, when heavy rain and standing water made for one of the toughest and most challenging races in championship memory.Nicolas Hamilton, who started the race from a career-best sixth on the grid after a sensational run in rain-affected qualifying on Saturday, had high hopes of a strong finish for the Wednesbury team but so harsh were the conditions the 20-year-old wasn’t able to capitalise.Acknowledging the severity of the weather, race officials opted to begin round six behind the Safety Car so racing proper didn’t get underway until lap four. As the train of Clio Cup cars streamed across the start line and into the first corner, Allard, Hamilton’s car was pitched into a spin.Managing to recover down in 18th place, the second year racer pushed on to try and make up some lost ground as the rain persisted and he was up into 16th position prior to a mid-race Safety Car period, required following an unfortunate incident for TCR team-mate Rob Smith. Despite another hairy moment, Hamilton refused to be beaten and eventually finished in 18th to salvage a few points.
Smith, for whom the weekend marked his first in wet conditions at the wheel of his Clio, faced an incredibly tough challenge from 19th on the grid but he made good early progress and was 16th after the first racing lap.Running in the thick of the action in walls of spray, the 19-year-old saloon car rookie was caught out at Allard – having had to run quite worn rear tyres due to championship regulations governing the number of wet-weather tyres permitted for each driver – and the resulting spin led to a hefty impact with the barriers.“Sunday was a big learning curve for both drivers, it was torrential and there was a lot of standing water out there”, said team boss Lee Brookes, “For Rob, having never driven in the wet before, the conditions were not what you’d want and especially at a track as fast as Thruxton. There were lots of experienced racers having issues, as well as the inexperienced ones – that showed how tough it was.“Nic got caught out too, there was a lot of standing water and with all the spray in the pack it was difficult to see where the water was. I was pleased Nic just kept going and going, you couldn’t stop him, when he had a moment he’d be back on it and trying again. If it hadn’t been quite that bad I’m sure he’d have had a top result – we wanted it wet, just not that wet!.”
Oulton Park Island Circuit in Cheshire will host the seventh and eighth rounds of the 2012 AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup six weeks from now on 9th/10th June. On the same weekend, TCR’s Total Quartz Ginetta GT5 Challenge squad will also be in action at Rockingham in Northamptonshire with series front-runner Mike Robinson.2012 AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd6):19th Nicolas Hamilton, 28pts; 20th Rob Smith, 27ptsClick here for the Official Renaultsport web site - designed and built by Racecar