Josh Cook (Bath) produced an excellent wet-weather performance during round three of the 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup season at Donington Park National Circuit this morning, Sunday, 20th April, to seal his first victory of the year by over three seconds.
Beginning the rain-hit first race of the day from pole position, Cook wasn’t able to get his SV Racing with KX car off the line as well as team-mate Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield), the latter finding more traction from the outside of the grid to take the lead into Redgate.
With excellent drive out of the Old Hairpin and up through Schwantz Curve, Cook positioned himself on the outside line into McLeans and found all of the grip he needed to superbly take the lead from Whorton-Eales with a fantastic pass.
Immediately pulling clear, by the end of lap two Cook’s advantage was over one second and from that point forward the win – coupled with Graduate Cup success – never looked in doubt. By the end of the 14 laps, Cook’s advantage was some 3.5 seconds.
“Off the line he [Whorton-Eales] got a better start than me, I bogged down a little bit and had a bit of wheelspin”, said Cook, “I could have squeezed him more but then, as we went down Craners, he braked when I didn’t expect and I actually shunted him pretty hard. I got a good run into McLeans, passed him there and then had to be as clean as I could and maintain the lead after that.”
Whorton-Eales’ initial challenger for second was Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing) who closed onto the tail of the SV Racing Clio by lap four. Having bravely grabbed third from Team Pyro’s Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) on the opening lap into the chicane, with two wheels on the grass at one stage, Colburn was especially strong when the track was at its wettest.
The lead quartet of Cook, Whorton-Eales, Colburn and Bushell pulled well clear of the chasing pack, headed during the early laps by championship leader Alex Morgan (Reading), but while piling on the pressure to try and take second Colburn went slightly wide out of the Old Hairpin.
Enabling Bushell to get a run on the Westbourne car, the Pyro driver grabbed third into Coppice and then set off after Whorton-Eales. With his car set-up to come on stronger during the drier, latter part of the race, Bushell was able to reel in the second placed man during the closing stages.
At the start of lap seven, Whorton-Eales was almost two seconds clear of Bushell but the Pyro racer punched in a series of fastest laps and into the 14th and final tour he was within touching distance of his rival. Nosing ahead through Hollywood, Bushell grabbed second and although Whorton-Eales got a good run through Schwantz to try and return the favour into McLeans the order stayed the same.
“We had the car set for the end of the race, we took a bit of a gamble on the rain stopping and we know water shifts offline quickly here at Donington”, said Bushell, “We were really quick towards the end pace-wise which was great. We need to try and get away from the start in the next one.”
Whorton-Eales explained: “That’s the first time I’ve been out in this car in the wet. I managed to have a fantastic start, beat Josh [Cook] around the outside, and then held second for the whole race up until the last lap. [Mike] Bushell was catching me towards the end, he’s always quick in the wet, then we had a little touch at the top at McLeans – there’s only one line there and I ended up third!”
Colburn eventually finished in fourth, 2.4 seconds shy of the podium places, with 20Ten Racing’s Jordan Stilp (Potterspury), who will begin round four later this afternoon from pole position, coming out on top in a fantastic battle over fifth place with SV Racing’s points leader Morgan.
Ash Hand (Nuneaton) managed to see off the Masters Cup class winner Paul Rivett (Banstead) in the fight for seventh place, having been as high as fifth during the early running, and closed back to within 0.1 seconds of Morgan at the flag. Another closely matched battle between Westbourne’s Devon Modell (Maidstone) and Pyro’s Rob Smith (Telford) over ninth place swung back and forth.
Understeer issues prevented Smith from successfully making a pass stick and on the final lap he was elbowed out of the top 10 by Lee Pattison (Scholes), the JHR Developments driver having started from the pitlane after power issues struck his Clio on the lap to the grid.
Race two of the weekend, round four of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup season, will take place at approximately 15.45 this afternoon. Live television coverage will be screened on ITV4 and ITV4 HD with streaming online at www.itv.com/btcc
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 Rd3):
1st Alex Morgan, 82pts; 2nd Mike Bushell, 79pts; 3rd Josh Cook, 71pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd3):
1st Josh Cook, 82pts; =2nd Rob Smith & Ant Whorton-Eales, 78pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd3):
1st Paul Rivett, 92pts; 2nd Lee Pattison, 88pts; 3rd Mark Howard, 72pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd3):
1st SV Racing with KX, 168pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 133pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 100pts