Tuesday 11 June 2013

Clio Cup 2013 : Oulton Park Round up

The Clio Cup pack blasts off the startline at Oulton Park
 Paul Rivett (Banstead) soaked up immense race-long pressure from Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) during the seventh round of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup at Oulton Park this afternoon, Saturday, 8th June, to seal his third victory of the year with a faultless lights-to-flag drive.

Making his pole position grid slot count, the Names.co.uk/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering racer produced a fantastic start to lead but – with the exception of a brief Safety Car period – never had a moment to rest.

Hodgetts’ KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria car was an ever present threat, never more than half a second behind the three-time champion, and to confirm his pace Hodgetts took the two bonus points for fastest lap, thanks to a time of 1m36.705 seconds (82.86mph) on lap 12.

Josh Cook (Bristol), who didn’t enjoy the best of starts from the front row, slipped to third on lap one but was thereafter able to run very similar lap times to both Rivett and Hodgetts. For the bulk of the 15-lap encounter, the JHR Developments driver was in the wheeltracks of the two leaders but just wasn’t quite able to mount a challenge. Even so, third gave him his first Graduate Cup win of 2013.

With Team Pyro’s Josh Files (Norwich) finishing in seventh position, having started the first race of the weekend in eighth place, Rivett was able to increase his lead in the championship to 19 points, having been only three points clear prior to round seven.

“Of all the people to have behind you in the Clio field, Stef [Hodgetts] is probably the hardest and he didn’t make that easy by any means at all”, commented Rivett, “I had to defend from him into the last corner of the last lap, otherwise I knew he’d really be trying to stick it up the inside.

“It’s a great win, lights-to-flag, and I got a cracking start. Hopefully we can do more of the same tomorrow and control it from the front. It’s going to be tough to do it again but if I can get another start like that, it’s half the battle.”

While Rivett led clearly through Old Hall at the start, Cook’s sluggish getaway dropped him into the clutches of both Hodgetts – up from fifth on the grid after a superb start – and his team-mate Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) who ran side-by-side through the first right-hander.

Hodgetts emerged in second place while Cook clung on around the outside at Cascades to edge ahead of Whorton-Eales for third. From that point forward, nothing changed among the podium places with the top three incredibly evenly matched.

“It was relatively boring after the first lap to be honest”, said Hodgetts, “Paul [Rivett] is a quality driver, he’s not going to make a mistake and you can’t pass that easily around here. Second is OK but I’m going to have a right go tomorrow for the win.”

The Clios negotate one of Oulton's fast bends
Reflecting on his second podium of the year, and first Graduate Cup success, Cook said: “I made a very poor start, probably the worst one I’ve ever done. I managed to hold it around the outside of Ant [Whorton-Eales] at Cascades, which was a bit sketchy, but I managed to get the place. I didn’t quite have the pace to stick with the top two, so we’ll make a couple of changes for tomorrow.”

Whorton-Eales’ involvement came to an abrupt end on lap two at the chicane when he tagged the tyre stack, leading to a three lap Safety Car period. When the racing resumed, the lead trio were able to edge back away from the rest of the pack which was headed by Pyro’s Alex Morgan (Reading).

Although Morgan slipped two seconds shy of the podium places by the end, he was able to pull over three seconds clear of JHR’s Masters Cup class winner Lee Pattison (Liversedge) who was heavily pressured by Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing) during the closing stages.

Files, who was passed for seventh brilliantly by Jake Giddings (Wisbech) on lap eight at Old Hall, managed to return the favour to the Finesse Motorsport driver on the final tour with Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells), on his first weekend driving with KX Racing colours, taking ninth.

The battle over the final place in the top 10 was hugely entertaining throughout, half a dozen drivers all within a chance of taking the position. In the end, Clio Cup rookie Ash Hand (Nuneaton) sealed the spot for Pyro by just 0.2 seconds ahead of Jordan Stilp (Potterspury), Devon Modell (Maidstone), James Nutbrown and Simon Belcher (Swindon).

Rob Smith (Telford) was also in the thick of the titanic battle at the tail end of the top 10 but sustained a right-front puncture after hitting debris left behind from Whorton-Eales’ incident at the chicane, dropping him to 15th place.

The drivers celebrate their success after Round Eight
Renault UK Clio Cup front-runner Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) claimed a richly deserved second victory of the 2013 season at Oulton Park Island Circuit this afternoon, Sunday, 9th June, during round eight of the championship – the halfway point of the campaign.

In front of the live ITV4 cameras, and tens of thousands of spectators enjoying glorious sunshine, the KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria driver took the lead at the exit of the first corner after a blistering start from fourth on the grid and delivered an inch-perfect performance despite huge pressure.

“It’s fantastic”, said Hodgetts, who earned the ‘BuyOils.co.uk Driver of the Event’ accolade, “We started P4 and, if you say about it Motocross-style, we got the hole-shot at the start. When you’re in the lead in these cars you can kind of control the race but, in order to do that, you need a fantastic car. We’ve been really fast all weekend, it’s just desserts we got the win.

“Turning up at these race meetings with all the crowds, there’s no better feeling than to race in front of that many people – it’s a massive privilege. To be on this package and in this championship is pretty cool to be honest!”

Pole-sitter, and championship leader, Paul Rivett (Banstead) had problems with a slipping clutch at the beginning which compromised his getaway. Although managing to see off the quick-starting Alex Morgan (Reading) initially at the exit of Old Hall, the Team Pyro driver hit back on lap two into the hairpin and held on to an excellent second place from that point forward.

While Morgan’s runner-up spot, his fourth podium of the year, moved him into second place in the championship ahead of team-mate Josh Files (Norwich), Rivett’s third position was enough to see him marginally increase his advantage at the top of the standings to 22 points.

“I’d say the season is probably going better than I imagined initially”, said Morgan, “I knew we were quick in testing during the pre-season but you never know until you line-up with the other guys where you’ll be. To be at the halfway stage of the season and have had four podiums, one each weekend, and be second in the championship is fantastic – I couldn’t have asked for much more.”

Hodgetts’ launch away from the second row was outstanding and although Morgan appeared to have the lead into Old Hall, the KX Racing driver was able to bravely move ahead around the outside while Rivett – recovering well from his difficult getaway – followed Hodgetts through on the outside line, taking second on the run down The Avenue and into Cascades.

Into lap two, Hodgetts, Rivett and Morgan were nose-to-tail and into the hairpin Rivett thought about looking to the outside of the race leader. In doing so though, the Names.co.uk/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering driver left the door open for Morgan to edge up the inside.

There was absolutely nothing to separate the top three throughout, Hodgetts smartly backing the others up lap after lap. On lap eight the Safety Car was deployed, following an excursion into the barriers at the top of Clay Hill for Ronnie Klos (Market Harborough), but after the re-start nothing changed at the front with Hodgetts, Morgan and Rivett covered by just 0.7 seconds at the finish.

The end of the race actually came one lap early when Finlay Crocker (Bathgate) made contact with the barriers at the top of Deer Leap, bringing out the red flags, just moments after Pyro team-mates James Nutbrown and Ash Hand (Nuneaton) had tangled at Druids.

Reflecting on his third place, Rivett said: “It was probably quite lucky I didn’t slip any further back at the start to be honest, once we got going in the race it was OK but at the start the clutch just didn’t bite and that really cost us.

“When Alex [Morgan] got by at the hairpin it was my mistake, I shouldn’t have gone to the outside of Stef [Hodgetts] – I was desperate to get the lead back after the clutch slip though! Championship wise we’ve got another podium, more points and we’ve extended the lead even more. It goes without saying, a huge thank you to all my fantastic sponsors as usual.”

Behind the lead trio, Finesse Motorsport’s Jake Giddings (Wisbech) produced a star performance with fourth – giving him his first Graduate Cup win of the season. After taking fourth place from JHR Developments’ Lee Pattison (Liversedge) on lap one, Giddings was a consistent threat to the podium placings but just wasn’t able to carve open an opportunity.

Pattison finished fifth, taking his second Masters Cup victory of the weekend, ahead of team-mate Josh Cook and Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing). KX Racing’s Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) made amends for his non-finish on Saturday with eighth while Total Control Racing’s Rob Smith (Telford) was ninth, just seeing off Files – the latter taking the extra points for fastest lap.

There are only two weeks to wait until the next outing for the Renault UK Clio Cup competitors with rounds nine and 10 of the 2013 campaign taking place at Croft in North Yorkshire on 22nd/23rd June.

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd8):1st Paul Rivett, 207pts; 2nd Alex Morgan, 185pts; 3rd Josh Files, 176pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd8):1st Team Pyro, 359pts; 2nd Westbourne Motorsport, 272pts; 3rd Scuderia Vittoria, 267pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd8):1st Josh Files, 213pts; 2nd James Colburn, 203pts; 3rd Jake Giddings, 179pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd8):1st Simon Belcher, 204pts; 2nd Graham Field, 191pts; 3rd Finlay Crocker, 139pts

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