Championship pendulum swings further in Bushell's favour with fourth win

VitalRacing with Team Pyro’s Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) almost has one hand on the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup champion’s trophy following his fourth win of the season earlier this afternoon, Sunday, 7th September, at Rockingham in a highly dramatic round 16.

Sealing a memorable weekend double, having also won the opening race on Saturday afternoon, Bushell heads into the five week break before the season finale at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in October with a 34 point cushion at the top of the standings on total scores – a lead of 28 when ‘drop scores’ are taken into consideration.

“It’s just been a perfect weekend really”, said an overjoyed Bushell, for whom the title pendulum has swung firmly in his favour, “To get pole and two wins, it’s the best it could have gone. Obviously, I’ve been helped by [Josh] Cook probably having the worst weekend of the year. I have a good lead now but you have to look at what’s happened to Josh this weekend – it all went away.”

While Bushell enjoyed his best weekend of the campaign so far, erstwhile points leader Josh Cook (Bath) endured nothing short of a nightmare. Contact in Saturday’s race ultimately led to a ninth place finish and after being adjudged to have made a false start in today’s encounter he was served with a drive-through penalty. Incredibly, his race then ended in the gravel trap at Tarzan on lap 11.

Although the SV Racing with KX driver had an outing to forget, the Danny Buxton-led squad did manage to wrap-up the coveted Team Trophy with two races to spare to claim its first championship success since debuting in the Renault UK Clio Cup in 2011.

Cook’s non-finish means, on overall totals, 20Ten Racing’s Jordan Stilp (Potterspury) has moved ahead of the SV Racing with KX driver – despite Cook bagging a couple of points for the fastest lap of the race – although on net scores Cook remains Bushell’s closest challenger.

“This has all been a knock-on effect from the penalty I was given at Knockhill”, said a dejected Cook”, “It was a poor first race, I got taken out, that person had points against them but that didn’t give me my track position back. I’ve then gone into today’s race off pole, I was sat on the line with the clutch in all the way, on the redline how I do my race starts, but the clutch overheated and started to drag.

“The last thing I was going to do was hold my foot on the brake while I was on the front row with the red lights on because that would have been absolute carnage. As a result, because the clutch was slipping, I couldn’t get a decent start anyway – then they gave the drive-through penalty.”

After seeing off pole-sitter Cook at the start, Bushell managed to edge clear of the battle over the remaining podium places after a few laps and went on to control the encounter from the front to win by a healthy 3.1 second margin.

The fight for second between Stilp and WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Banstead) was entertaining early on with the 20Ten Racing driver working hard to keep the multiple champion at bay. On lap four at Chapman Curve, though, Rivett made his way past with a great move and after a tight battle during the mid-part of the race, he pulled 2.6 seconds clear – also taking the Masters Cup win.

“This is what we need”, said Rivett, “It seems this year we’ve either had bad luck or second places most of the time so we could do with that elusive win. It took a little while to get past Jordan [Stilp] but we were quicker, although when I did get past he was in the tow then. I managed to get a little bit of a gap, closed on Mike [Bushell] but then he’d pull away again – I think it was fairly even.”

Stilp, who also took the Graduate win, added: “We knew we wouldn’t be that quick this weekend, but we tried our hardest. It was obviously great having a second place yesterday, we tried a bit harder to get the next step up today but still happy to get another podium for the championship.”

During the early laps Cook and Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing), who started sixth on the grid after a three place penalty from Saturday’s race, fought hard over fourth position, with Cook producing a sensational pass around the outside at Deene on lap three to take the spot.

Dramatically, though, Cook and team-mates Alex Morgan (Reading), Ash Hand (Nuneaton) and newcomer Simon Horrobin (Snodland) were all served with drive-through penalties. While Morgan and Hand took their penalties almost instantly, Cook remained on track for a few laps.

After setting the fastest lap on the fourth tour, Cook pitted to take his penalty before then making an unscheduled stop at the end of lap seven. Ensuring he would only manage to score a handful of points at best, on lap 11 a brake issue resulted in a slide into the gravel and retirement at Tarzan.

The net result of all of the drama was an excellent fourth place finish for Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield), the SV Racing with KX driver battling back fantastically well from ninth place at the end of lap one having been pushed out wide at Deene at the beginning.

Working his way through the order into fifth, aided somewhat by the drive-through penalties, he piled on the pressure to Colburn during the latter stages and made the breakthrough on the last lap, shading his rival on the run to the flag by less than 0.2 seconds.

Charlie Ladell (Felixstowe) rounded out the top six for WDE Motorsport with debutant Dan Holland (Dagenham) again starring for JamSport with seventh place from the rear of the grid. Devon Modell (Maidstone) placed eighth for Westbourne ahead of Hand and Morgan after their penalty stops.

There is now a five week break in the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup calendar with the championship finale, rounds 17 and 18, taking place over the weekend 11th/12th October at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent.

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 Rd16 – inc. drop scores):
1st Mike Bushell, 366pts; 2nd Josh Cook, 338pts; 3rd Jordan Stilp, 319pts

Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd16 – inc. drop scores):
1st Josh Cook, 376pts; 2nd Jordan Stilp, 367pts; 3rd Ant Whorton-Eales, 362pts

Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd16 – inc. drop scores):
1st Lee Pattison, 420pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 417pts; 3rd Mark Howard, 318pts

Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd16):
CHAMPIONS: SV Racing with KX, 812pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 632pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 541pts