Victory for Josh Cook (Bath) during the penultimate round of the 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup at a rain-hit Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, Saturday, 11th October, has set-up a tantalising final day decider with the round 17 winner closing to within 18 points of series leader Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells).
Bushell, who drives for VitalRacing with Team Pyro, went into the first of the weekend’s encounters at his local track with a 28 point advantage on ‘drop scores’ but was only able to finish in fifth place after an action-packed encounter in which Cook’s SV Racing with KX team locked-out the top four.
Post-race, though, fourth placed finisher Ash Hand (Nuneaton) was given a time penalty following a lap six incident with WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Banstead) so Hand drops to seventh in the amended classification. Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) and Alex Morgan (Reading) rounded out the podium with Bushell elevated into fourth, WDE’s Charlie Ladell (Felixstowe) fifth and Rivett sixth.
“That was hard work”, said Cook, “It probably looked a little bit different from the outside, but I just needed to try and keep a little gap from Mike [Bushell]. It’s great to bring it home with the win and starting from pole tomorrow, we’ll have to see what we can do. Everybody loves it going down to the final race, we’ll try and put on a good show.”
The drama began before today’s race even started when the darkening skies deposited increasingly heavy rain as the cars headed off on the formation lap. After returning to the grid, officials then declared a delayed start to enable drivers to switch to wet-weather tyres on the grounds of safety.
Rivett, lining-up second on the grid, managed to get the jump on pole qualifier Hand when the lights went out and Cook too managed to get ahead of his team-mate on the run into Paddock Hill Bend from third on the grid. Bushell, meanwhile moved up from sixth into the top four.
Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing) and 20Ten Racing’s Jordan Stilp (Potterspury), both outside contenders for the coveted Renault UK Clio Cup title going into today’s encounter, each saw their hopes ended at the first corner after unfortunate spins. Colburn did manage to recover well into eighth position, but Stilp had to settle for an uncharacteristic 12th place in his hobbled Clio.
Back at the front, Cook managed to get ahead of Rivett to lead with Bushell slicing his way into third ahead of Hand. As Rivett started to come under increasing pressure from Bushell, Cook was able to build a substantial cushion and then, on lap three at Paddock Hill Bend, Rivett slid wide into the gravel so Bushell gladly shot through into second position.
Rivett did manage to recover to the track in third place, ahead of Hand, Morgan, Whorton-Eales and Ladell, and a hugely entertaining scrap between those five developed. Cook extended his lead to almost three seconds by the start of lap four, but Bushell did begin to chip away at the leader. Then, on lap eight, the Safety Car was deployed due to an excursion at Druids for Dan Holland (Dagenham).
When the racing resumed on lap 10, Cook made a great re-start while Bushell had to keep a close eye on his mirrors with Hand – who disposed of Rivett on lap six – pressuring hard. Producing a great pass into the first turn, Hand moved into second place but Bushell hit back quickly into Surtees.
Triggering some intense action, the duo battled hard and also managed to edge closer to Cook as the race neared its conclusion with Hand posting the fastest lap of the race on lap 11. Out of Druids on the penultimate tour, lap 12, Hand managed to squeeze ahead of Bushell for second and Morgan, Whorton-Eales, Ladell and the recovering Rivett also tried to get a piece of the action.
Into the final lap, Cook was well clear of the rest as his pursuers tripped over one another and he claimed his sixth outright win of the campaign by 2.8 seconds along with victory in the Graduate Cup class. Whorton-Eales capped a terrific drive from eighth on the grid with second ahead of Morgan, who made his first appearance on the podium since the opening event of the year at Brands Hatch.
“I’m glad they decided to delay the start really, we were all on slicks and if the race had started I don’t think we’d have had any cars finish the race”, commented Whorton-Eales, “When the sun came out, the glare meant you couldn’t see some of the corners and where you were braking. We didn’t have great pace in the car but I managed to pick up the pieces with second in the end.”
Morgan added: “I knew we were in for a treat, especially the spectators, and for me it was key to get off the line well. Before I knew it, three corners in, someone had driven into the side of me so I had off-set steering for the whole race. The pace was good though and I had a great battle with Ant [Whorton-Eales], to come out with third place is fantastic after some of the difficulties we’ve had.”
Simon Horrobin (Snodland), making only his second appearance in Renault Clios, and SV Racing team-mate Paul Donkin (Bishop Auckland), debuting in the one-make category this weekend, rounded out the top 10 in ninth and 10th respectively.
Reflecting on the Brands opener, points leader Bushell said: “I think the race showed how quick [Josh] Cook and I are in the wet here, we trounced the field over the first couple of laps and pulled a good gap. I need to finish sixth or higher tomorrow and that’s what we’ll be looking to do.”
The final race of the season is scheduled to begin at 13.30 today, Sunday, 12th October, and will be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD with online streaming at the www.itv.com/btcc
The Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup is additionally supported by ELF, Performance Friction, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup standings (after Rd17 – minus drop scores):1st Mike Bushell, 388pts; 2nd Josh Cook, 370pts; =3rd Jordan Stilp & Ant Whorton-Eales, 331pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd17 – minus drop scores):1st Josh Cook, 408pts; 2nd Ant Whorton-Eales, 390pts; 3rd Jordan Stilp, 387pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd17 – minus drop scores):1st Paul Rivett, 449pts; 2nd Lee Pattison, 448pts; 3rd Mark Howard, 318pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd17):CHAMPIONS: SV Racing with KX, 872pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 654pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 563pts
Official website: www.renaultsport.co.uk/championships/cliocup built by RACECARTwitter: @UKClioCup
Full results and timings available at www.tsl-timing.com