Another dramatic twist in the Clio Cup tale during Brands testing

Mere days after the news Renault UK Clio Cup title challenger Paul Rivett (Banstead) had been forced to withdraw from this weekend’s season finale at Brands Hatch due to surgery for an Achilles tendon injury, another dramatic twist in the tale took place during official testing at the Kent track this afternoon, Friday, 11th October – this time involving points leader Josh Files (Norwich).

Having made a perfect start to the weekend where he is all-but guaranteed to be crowned 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion by lapping 0.5 seconds faster than anyone this morning, Files’ car sustained huge damage during a luckless incident at Druids in the rain-hit afternoon run.

Opting to return to the pits late in the session with conditions becoming increasingly treacherous, the Team Pyro driver had an unfortunate lock-up of the brakes going into the hairpin and became beached in the gravel – but with no real damage to speak of to his car.

Almost immediately after, though, team-mate Ash Hand (Nuneaton) also had problems braking for Druids and his highly unfortunate excursion at the same place led to a hefty collision between the two cars and resulted in significant damage.

Pyro’s mechanics now face a very long night ahead to try and repair the two Clios, with a spare car potentially being brought down from the team’s Leicestershire base in case the damage to Files’ challenger proves too extensive to repair ahead of tomorrow morning’s qualifying session.

With Rivett out of the equation, due to the injury he sustained last week while working as a race instructor, Files can only be beaten to the coveted title by team-mate Alex Morgan (Reading). With a 62-point lead on drop scores, it would take bad luck in the extreme to prevent Files lifting the prized trophy. As today’s incident has proven, though, anything can happen!

“You couldn’t have scripted this”, said the championship leader, “The car is pretty much a write-off really, the team is working hard trying to repair what we’ve got but we’re looking at getting a car brought down tonight in case the damage is too much. As long as it drives straight, I’ll be happy.

“I’d decided to come into the pits as it was getting quite treacherous, so I was on my in-lap and I just locked-up at Druids. It was my fault completely, I went into the gravel and just kissed the barrier – it wasn’t even a kiss really as the touch was very light. Just as I was unbuckling myself from the car, Ash [Hand] went off at the same point and hit the rear of my car really hard. It was so unfortunate.”

Session one at the Kent track, which took place in drying conditions, was the fastest of the two with Files’ best lap of 1m48.276 seconds (80.90mph) placing him 0.547 seconds clear of Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing), who won the opening round of the season at the venue’s shorter 1.2-mile Indy Circuit.

Hand had started the day superbly well too with an excellent third fastest time, lapping just 0.072 seconds shy of Colburn, with Brands Hatch local Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) fourth on his first weekend running with assistance from reigning team champions Pyro.

Lee Pattison (Liversedge), the fastest of the Masters Cup runners, completed the top five ahead of Morgan – who won on his first weekend in Clios at Brands Hatch back at the end of March – with an impressive effort from Juta Racing’s Lithuanian driver Ignas Gelzinis putting him seventh.

KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria’s Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield), a first time winner during the previous event at Rockingham last month, was eighth quickest ahead of team-mate Josh Wakefield (Colchester) with Masters Cup points leader Simon Belcher (Swindon) rounding out the top 10.

Returning 2007 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion Martin Byford (Colchester), who is running as an eleventh hour replacement for Rivett at Names.co.uk / Stancombe Vehicle Engineering, was 14th on his first competitive outing in a Clio for six years and also his first run in a Clio on Dunlop tyres.

In the rain-hit afternoon session, Finesse Motorsport’s Jake Giddings (Wisbech) led the way from the highly consistent Colburn with Morgan third, Bushell fourth, Pattison fifth and Lithuania’s Tautvydas Barstys sixth for Juta.

Total Control Racing’s Rob Smith (Telford) was absent from today’s action due to commitments at Loughborough University, where he has just started a Masters degree in Automotive Systems Engineering. He will be on track, though, for the all-important qualifying session tomorrow, Saturday, 12th October, which will get underway at 10.50 ahead of round 15 at 16.30.

Round 16, which will be screened live across the UK on ITV4, ITV4 HD and streamed online at the www.itv.com/btcc website, is set to take place on Sunday, 13th October, at 13.30.

Renault UK Clio Cup is sponsored by www.buyoils.co.uk with support from ELF, NGK Spark Plugs, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd14 inc. drop score):
1st Josh Files, 342pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 304pts; 3rd Alex Morgan, 280pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd14):
1st Team Pyro, 650pts; 2nd Scuderia Vittoria, 549pts; 3rd JHR Developments, 447pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd14 inc. drop score):
1st Josh Files, 377pts; 2nd James Colburn, 320pts; 3rd Josh Cook, 295pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd14 inc. drop score):
1st Simon Belcher, 329pts; 2nd Lee Pattison, 313pts; 3rd Graham Field, 303pts