16/07/2015

MID-TERM REPORT: GRAHAM FIELD

Talk to Graham Field about the first half of his 2015 Renault UK Clio Cup campaign and it’s clear he’s only looking forward, with a deep desire to continue the rate of progression seen so far…
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At 56 the Nottingham property manager is the oldest driver on the grid and also qualifies for the Masters Cup division (for the over-38 brigade).

It’s that which has brought the 20Ten Racing driver the biggest highlight of racing career – a maiden Masters Cup class win at Oulton Park meant a first ever appearance on the Clio Cup’s high-profile podium.

“That was a very special feeling,” said Field. “The first half of the season has exceeded my expectations in terms of enjoyment, personal performance and progression and if the second half only mirrors that then I’ll be very, very happy indeed.”

Before, quite honestly, adding: “I don’t measure myself against the others – I’m under no illusions about the depth and breadth of young talent ahead of me on the grid – although sometimes you can’t help it if you do! Out of all the years I’ve been following the Clio Cup and been involved in it I’d say this year is as good as it’s ever been.

“That puts me in a tough place. I’m in a race against myself to be honest.”

Not true, Graham! At Oulton Park he often mixed it with those who’d started around him on the grid and at Croft his race pace had further improved. Much of that is down to a greater understanding of both the latest fourth generation of Clio Cup car plus a new tyre compound provided by Dunlop for this season.

He continued: “Lap times, sector times, speed trap figures – everything keeps getting better in comparison to the others. I’m not necessarily right at the back of the grid in a race or qualifying and am lapping within the same second as at least two or three others.

“Go back to the first race at Brands Hatch Indy and I was lapped by six cars. If I went and did that race now I know that wouldn’t happen.

“My starts have got better as well. At Croft I was up to tenth briefly on the opening lap – the highest up I’ve ever been in a Clio Cup race and actually ended up having a really good dice with Rory Collingbourne and George Jackson. OK, I made some mistakes and they cost me dear in terms of places and overall time. But it’s a very tough championship and if you make mistakes you pay for them which is exactly how it should be at this level.”

Despite the level of competitiveness on track, Field says the goodwill among rivals within the Clio Cup paddock is exceptional – as witnessed at Croft when at least three teams offered to help SV Racing rebuild points leader Ant Whorton-Eales’s heavily damaged car following his qualifying shunt.

He said: “It is a fantastic grid of competitors. I’m thoroughly enjoying it which is the most important thing and, even though it is highly competitive out there, it remains a very friendly paddock and it’s a pleasure to be part of it.”

It’s clear that, for Field at least, that buzz also extends to the fact the Clio Cup is receiving such rave reviews in 2015 from the media, fans and competitors in other race categories.

“When you see the crowds coming in and, later, when you head out on the track and see how many people there actually are and also know we’re live on ITV4… you really can sense the atmosphere,” he enthused.

“It always seems to be a very appreciative and well-informed audience as well and it’s terrific being able to invite them into the awning for a chat and a look around the car. Despite the levels of professionalism in the Clio Cup the championship still maintains a very healthy connection with the public, just like the BTCC which is where I’m sure some of the young lads on the grid are going to be in the not-too-distant future.

“As I said before, it’s obvious just how much talent there is on the grid in 2015. If I can keep being dragged along by that talent in the second half of the season then I’ll be very satisfied.”