Brands Hatch Indy
Ashley Sutton (Pyro) takes pole position for his first ever Renault UK Clio Cup race.
Saturday’s opening round of the season is abandoned within half a lap after JamSport team-mates and 20Ten’s Mark Howard are involved in a nasty pile-up exiting Graham Hill Bend.
Sunday’s race is a UK Clio Cup cliff-hanger. Sutton looks to have victory in the bag on his debut only to learn the hard way as SVR’s Ant Whorton-Eales – filling his mirrors throughout – controversially muscles his way past for the win at the final bend. Ash Hand (Pyro) closes in on them at the flag to make it the closest UK Clio Cup top-three finish in history (0.508 seconds). Cooksport’s Paul Knapp is the Masters Cup winner.
Donington Park National
Things get even more exciting at the swooping Leicestershire track which becomes a triple-header fixture to make up for Brands Indy’s lost opening round…
Race one of three (held on the Saturday) turns into one of the closest UK Clio Cup races on record as seven drivers trip over one another in the battle for the lead. 0.513s covers the top three home – tighter even than that witnessed at Brands Hatch. Sutton is the winner. In fact just 0.638s cover the top four as the whole media centre – including all the BTCC press – stop everything to watch.
To Sunday… Hand bounces back from the disappointment of a retirement on Saturday to win race one while a time penalty for exceeding track limits relegates Sutton from second to seventh in the result; Whorton-Eales dominates to win the day's second race and also ends the weekend with bonus points for fastest laps in all three races. His championship lead grows to 22 points over second-places Sutton. Notably he is 45 points ahead of Hand who is in fourth…
Elsewhere Jack Mitchell (SVR) achieves his first Clio Cup podium result in race three with a third. The Masters Cup winners are SVR’s Ben Seyfried (twice) and Knapp.
Hand dominates with a clean sweep – pole position, victory and fastest lap – in both races, but there’s controversy in the second between him and team-mate Sutton. Their cars collide entering the chicane for the final time and both miss the corner before scrambling across the line… Holland shows promise by qualifying third for race one but it’s all over by the complex when he gets involved in a tangle with returning James Colburn (BKR). Howard (now with Pyro) wins twice in the Masters Cup. The points at the top now read: AWE 173; Sutton 160; Hand 149…
Oulton Park Island
Finally there’s a first win of the season for Paul Rivett and WDE Motorsport as they lead all the way in race one. It’s just what Rivett needs after problems at Brands Hatch and Donington.
Race two is full of incident. Whorton-Eales crosses the line first but he is later demoted to second in the result behind Hand after he’s judged to be at fault for a controversial clash between the pair in the closing stages. Jordan Stilp (20Ten) takes his second podium result of the season in third, but Sutton retires with accident damage to gift Charlie Ladell a Graduates Cup win. The scores: AWE 229; Hand 208; Sutton 182…
Graham Field (20Ten) and Howard share the Masters Cup honours.
It’s a win apiece for Sutton then Hand. The former romps to victory in race one as the latter is unable to find a way by Rivett for second. Race two sees a move by Sutton to unseat Hand from the lead on the opening lap backfire and he falls to third behind Rivett. By the time he’s past Hand is long gone.
Race two’s fastest lap is set by Whorton-Eales who also muscles by Rivett for an eventual third. He’s had to start both races from the back of the grid after a sizeable shunt in qualifying. He still leads the table but it’s getting tight: AWE 270; Hand 265; Sutton 244.
Peter Felix (20Ten) comfortably wins the Masters Cup in both races.
Two poles, two wins and a fastest lap (in race one)… Hand is in devastating form as he sweeps into the championship lead. It’s now seven wins for him plus new qualifying and race lap records around Knockhill. Sutton takes a second and a third and nabs two bonus points for race two’s fastest lap – they could prove vital later in the season. Whorton-Eales is only fourth then fifth for new team Maximum Motorsport. Lee Pattison takes a pair of Masters Cup wins in a one-off return with Cooksport. The points now are: Hand 331; AWE 312; Hand 299.
There’s drama aplenty as Hand’s winning streak is brought to an end. He’s fastest in qualifying but lacks a little pace in the races. Sutton wins race one as Hand re-passes AWE in the closing stages to take second. Rory Collingbourne (Cooksport), Rory Green (WDE) and George Jackson (Cooksport) celebrate best-ever results of fourth, fifth and sixth.
AWE wins race two ahead of Rivett and Hand who’s under pressure at the end from an inspired Jackson who takes Graduates Cup honours. Sutton finishes fifth in a hobbled car after spinning at the first bend in a tangle with Rivett before later becoming involved in a robust battle with Collingbourne. The points: Hand 386; AWE 369; Sutton 349.
Elsewhere Felix and Howard are Masters Cup winners. Newcomers Luke Kidlsey (JamSport) and Josh Price (Pyro) impress with their pace…
There’s the biggest UK Clio Cup grid in two years – 21 cars including an entry from crack Italian team Rangoni Corse – for the penultimate rounds as things really hot up in the title race…
Whorton-Eales is on pole for race one thanks to a record qualifying lap. But it’s Sutton who wins from Whorton-Eales and then Rivett – they cross the line covered by just 0.319s to set another closest top-three finish record for the third time this year! For the first time in a long time Hand is off the podium in fourth…
Race two comes down to a last lap dogfight between Sutton and Whorton-Eales. Having lain second all the way, Sutton nabs the lead exiting Copse for the final time – he keeps his foot flat as he runs onto the grass – but AWE comes back at him down the Wellington Straight. They are side by side through Brooklands and into Luffield but, after rubbing doorhandles, AWE comes out just ahead to win after a heart-stopping lap of racing.
Holland, now with WDE, achieves a maiden podium result in third as a time penalty demotes Hand to sixth. Rangoni’s Michele Puccetti is twice a Masters Cup winner and Tom Witts (Maximum) and Ben Davis (Rangoni) are the stand-out debutants.
Heading to the title-decider on the Brands Hatch GP circuit it’s a tie at the top: Hand 426; AWE 426; Sutton 409. Hand, though, is in the driving seat when the all-important two dropped scores rule is applied…
Brands Hatch Grand Prix
Whorton-Eales qualifies on pole for both races as there is again a large grid with 20 drivers entered – including Paul Streather who is to be a sensation on his debut with the Finesse team. Hand, however, appears to struggle in qualifying with a relatively subdued pair of sixths…
Race one is high in attrition with Whorton-Eales, Rivett and Streather (challenging for the lead) all out in the opening corners. Sutton wins with Hand avoiding the incidents to take second… It’s still looking good for him going into Sunday’s finale but it’s now down to just him and Sutton. Third for Cooksport’s first outright Clio Cup podium result and backing up earlier impressive runs at Thruxton and Oulton Park is the cool Jon Maybin.
The tension is near-unbearable as Sunday’s final round lives up to the rest of the season with plenty of unpredictability and a shock outcome. Sutton wins but three times he has to fight back past the determined Streather who takes second. But will it be enough for Sutton to win the title?
Behind, Hand runs third early on – enough for the title – but then his aspirations disintegrate as he’s passed by Kidsley, another impressive newcomer Ben Palmer (20Ten) and Grundy (again showing strong form after impressing at Silverstone). Hand crosses the line a dejected seventh as he realises that, having led all this way, the crown has slipped through his fingers at the last and Sutton is indeed the new Champion.
The final points are: Sutton 459; Hand 454; AWE 426.