Former champion Byford returns as devastated Rivett forced to miss title decider through injury

Renault UK Clio Cup title contender Paul Rivett (Banstead) will miss the decisive final two rounds of the 2013 season at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit this weekend, 12th/13th October, after sustaining an injury to his right Achilles tendon.

The dramatic developments, which pretty much guarantee Team Pyro’s Josh Files (Norwich) the championship crown before a wheel even turns at the Kent venue, began to unfold for three-time title winner Rivett last week when he was involved in an accident at Brands Hatch while instructing.

An unfortunate damper failure on the car in which he was a passenger, as the vehicle headed into Graham Hill Bend, resulted in a heavy frontal impact into the barriers at the top of the embankment directly ahead of the turn.

Following an initial prognosis of no actual breakage to his ankle, foot or leg and no further damage other than severe swelling, doctors on Tuesday, 8th October, identified a snapped Achilles and the multiple Clio Cup champion underwent surgery to repair the tendon yesterday afternoon.

Speaking from his hospital bed, a devastated Rivett said: “I’m absolutely gutted, dealing with the pain of the injury comes second to the pain of not racing. They didn’t pick it up last week when I first went to hospital, they thought it was just swelling originally.

“I went to the physio, someone Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne [three-time British Superbike Champion] uses, and they said there was something properly wrong. They did a brilliant job, sent me back to hospital and then they got me back in for surgery. There’s a long road to recovery ahead.”

With Rivett forced out of the finale at almost the eleventh hour, his Names.co.uk / Stancombe Vehicle Engineering squad quickly got to work identifying a replacement driver to enable it to fulfil sponsorship obligations.

Following a series of telephone conversations over the last couple of days, team principal Colin Stancombe has secured the services of 2007 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion Martin Byford (Colchester) who makes a return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship support category for the first time since claiming the coveted title six years ago.

After moving into the SEAT Cupra Championship in 2008, budget restrictions meant Byford spent the next few years making selected appearances in a variety of categories. In 2011 he graduated into the BTCC for a part-season with a Volkswagen Golf and last year, partnering Richard Adams and David Green, Byford won the MSA Britcar Endurance Championship at the wheel of a Lotus Evora.

In a neat twist this weekend, Byford’s return to action in the Renault UK Clio Cup will make a little piece of history – he will be the only driver to have competed in the first ever race in the UK for the third generation Clio Cup car and also in the 2.0-litre racer’s swansong outing in the national series.

“At this stage I really don’t know what to expect, Paul has obviously done it in that car so there’s nothing wrong with it, hopefully we can run towards the front”, said Byford, “I’m under no illusions though, it’ll be incredibly tough against drivers who have been racing all year. I got the call late on Tuesday from Colin…it didn’t take long for me to say yes!

“This will be the first time I’ve raced a Clio since the day I won the championship, it’s been a long time away and a while since I’ve raced front-wheel drive. It’s quite nice I was there at Brands for the first race in this Clio in 2007 and now I’ll be there for the last. I’m really looking forward to it.”

While crestfallen not to be able to battle for the title at Brands Hatch this weekend, SVE team boss Stancombe is relishing the opportunity of working with Byford as the team aims to end the season with two strong results for Rivett’s sponsors.

“We were always up against it coming into Brands anyway”, said Stancombe, “We needed a minor miracle, we’ve done major ones before but the minor ones seem to be harder! We’re absolutely devastated Paul can’t race, even more devastated for him – it’s unbelievable bad luck.

“The sponsors have a lot of important guests coming down to Brands so we had to find a driver we know will do a great job. We needed a very safe pair of hands for the weekend, a very quick pair of hands, and that’s what we have with Martin. Hopefully we can take away two good results.”

Rivett, who has been instructed by doctors to remain in recovery and not even attend Brands Hatch as a spectator, added: “Of all the people to step in and race my car, I couldn’t think of anyone better than Martin. He’s a good friend, I’ve known him a long time and we’ve had some great races together. I’m really pleased he’ll be out there.”

Following pre-event testing this Friday, 11th October, qualifying will begin at 10.50 on Saturday, 12th October, with round 15 scheduled to get underway at 16.30. On Sunday, 13th October, the final race of the season will start at 13.30 and will be screened live on ITV4, ITV4 HD and streamed online at www.itv.com/btcc

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.