Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup championship leader Josh Cook (Bath) claimed his third victory of the 2014 season at Oulton Park International Circuit this afternoon, Saturday, 7th June, to boost his advantage at the top of the driver standings to 33 points.
Producing an excellent performance from fourth on the grid, the SV Racing with KX driver managed to just see off a major challenge from Team Pyro’s Lee Pattison (Scholes) to take the chequered flag a mere 0.3 seconds clear after 12 laps.
Moving into third straight away, Cook held position prior to a two lap Safety Car period – triggered when team-mate Ash Hand (Nuneaton) was knocked into retirement after contact – before reaping the benefits of a dramatic re-start.
Race leader, and pole position qualifier, Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) led the train of Renault Clios into Old Hall when the action resumed but on the exit he lost the rear of the car and snapped back across to the infield where he lightly touched the barriers. The SV Racing driver did manage to rejoin, but had to settle for 10th position at the finish.
Unfortunately for second placed Pattison, he was marginally delayed as he was forced to get off the throttle and that gave Cook all the invitation he needed to slice past for the lead on the run down The Avenue and into Cascades.
While punching in a series of fastest laps, and ultimately ending up with the best of the race on the penultimate tour with a time of 1m53.461 seconds (85.41mph), Cook had to work incredibly hard to keep Pattison behind whose times were only hundredths of a second shy. As well as the overall win, Cook claimed the Graduate Cup spoils with Pattison doing likewise in the Masters Cup class.
“That was a tough race, it wasn’t easy”, said Cook, “I managed to pull a little bit of a gap on Lee [Pattison] but it was that close, I’d make one small mistake and then he’d be right back on me – it was hard work keeping him behind.
“At the re-start, I was a bit further back and could see a bit more what was happening with Ant [Whorton-Eales]. I got a bit of a gap front and back and as soon as Ant went sideways, when that wheel touched the grass I knew he was going one way or the other, I just had to keep my foot in and luckily he went the right way. I just managed to get the move done on Lee [Pattison] into Cascades.”
Runner-up Pattison reflected: “To be fair I was just plodding along quite happy in second, Josh [Cook] had a couple of moments where he thought I was really coming after him but after the problems we’ve had so far this season it’s nice to just be back on the podium.
“If you look at the pace we’ve shown all year, only for things out of our control to go wrong, we should be top two or three in the championship. If Ant [Whorton-Eales] hadn’t lost it at that corner, I think we could have won it – I had to lift and Josh just got enough of a run on me.”
Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing), whose pre-event testing schedule on Friday was badly impacted after an unfortunate excursion, delivered a very strong drive to finish in a clear third place to secure his second podium in as many races.
“After having no testing on Friday, and having never been here to Oulton in this car at all during the pre-season – while the other guys have – I’m really pleased with third”, commented Colburn, “We’ll go for a slight set-up change tomorrow, we struggled a bit with understeer today, and hopefully we’ll be back fighting at the front again.”
During the closing stages, Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) – running this weekend with his newly branded VitalRacing with Team Pyro car – reeled in the Westbourne driver after working his way to the head of a hugely entertaining five car battle which also involved Alex Morgan (Reading), Paul Rivett (Banstead), Jordan Stilp (Potterspury) and Devon Modell (Maidstone).
Bushell’s pace, lapping just 0.017 seconds shy of Cook’s fastest lap time, was all the more notable considering his heavy excursion at Island Bend in qualifying which flipped his Clio. Thanks to some fantastic work from the Pyro mechanics, Bushell’s car was repaired in time and had he been able to work his way through from ninth on the grid any quicker, a podium would have been a possibility.
Morgan held fourth place expertly for the bulk of the encounter, despite being under constant attack, but Bushell got excellent drive out of Lodge Corner at the end of the ninth tour and at Old Hall at the start of the next lap he managed to slice past the SV Racing driver on the inside.
Significantly reducing Colburn’s advantage over the last couple of laps, Bushell got to within 1.4 seconds of the podium. Morgan managed to cling on to fifth position from WDE Motorsport’s Rivett, only 0.2 seconds splitting them at the line, while Stilp claimed seventh for 20Ten Racing.
Championship rookie Charlie Ladell (Felixstowe) finished his maiden Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup encounter in eighth position, although post-race he was served with a two point penalty for his part in the incident with Ash Hand. After slipping back on the last lap, Modell placed ninth for Westbourne just over a second ahead of the recovering Whorton-Eales.
The eighth round of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup season will take place at around 13.30 tomorrow, Sunday, 8th June, and will be broadcast live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD with streaming online at the www.itv.com/btcc website. Whorton-Eales again starts on pole ahead of Colburn.
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 Rd7):
1st Josh Cook, 190pts; 2nd Mike Bushell, 157pts; 3rd James Colburn, 151pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd7):
1st Josh Cook, 206pts; 2nd James Colburn, 180pts; 3rd Ant Whorton-Eales, 163pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd7):
1st Lee Pattison, 208pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 184pts; 3rd Mark Howard, 119pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team Trophy standings (after Rd7):
1st SV Racing with KX, 375pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 285pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 251pts