Jack Mitchell’s happy with the work he’s done so far to hold fifth in his maiden Renault UK Clio Cup season, but believes stronger results and greater consistency will be key to holding onto the position.
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Mitchell was a late signing for SV Racing but also something of a coup – he was after all last year’s Ginetta Junior champion. Furthermore at 16 he would become one of the youngest drivers in Clio Cup history… There’d been some very promising speed in testing building up to the season and at Brands Hatch, scene of his Ginetta title triumph six months earlier, he came close to springing a shock in qualifying only for a brave gamble on tyre choice to backfire and lead to a frustrating opening race.

Mitchell recalled: “Ant (Whorton-Eales, his SVR team-mate) and I gambled on switching to slick tyres with about ten minutes left in qualifying. At the time I was P3 but we were sure the track – damp up to that point – was going to start drying. If so slicks were going to be the thing to be on but we knew we needed quite a few laps to get heat into them for the end.

“As it turned out, our timing was about two minutes off. One more lap and we would have been there – Ant set the fastest final sector, but it was too late. The chequered flag was already out and while the others managed to improve we didn’t and I slipped back to ninth.

“That dictated my race, really. I got stuck in that mid-pack and struggled to make any places. At the end I had contact with one of my team-mates, Ben Seyfried, and he spun out of the lead of the MasterS Cup class.

"It didn’t go down well at the time but it wasn’t all my fault as the onboards later showed… On video you can see I’m alongside his driver’s side door and he started turning in. I backed out and that put my left front into his right rear which made it look more sinister than it was.”

Mitchell, though, would make amends at Donington Park a few weeks later with fifth, fourth and third place results.

He added: “Race one was the grid from Brands’s race that was abandoned so I was back on row five but did quite a bit of overtaking to get fifth which I was happy with. Race two I held off Paul Rivett for a long time until he got me near the end – it was frustrating and a lesson learnt, but I was still happy to have held off a driver of his calibre for so long.

"Race three (pictured above left) I had a big scrap with Ashley Sutton for second, but third place – my first podium in the Clio Cup – was still very pleasing. That’s been my best race to date and not just because of the end result.

“Thruxton was next up and if I’m honest I came away feeling disappointed with my weekend. I never fully got grips with the car moving about around the back. While I was there or thereabouts the results were not what I’d been hoping for after the progress we’d made at Donington. But it’s all part of the learning curve ahead of 2016.

“I should have had much better results than I did at Oulton Park. In both races I was involved in scraps – first with Charles Ladell and then, later, with Paul Rivett – whereby they both got the switchback on me and I got swallowed up by the three or four cars that were right behind. Oulton is where I had my biggest drama of the season so far as well – in qualifying George Jackson had gone off and pulled a load of mud onto the racing line entering Cascades. I went spinning off on it and the car ended up bouncing up in the air off the track.

“I was quite happy at Croft. In race one I had a pretty lonely fourth but in race two I pulled off a great move on Ladell at the final bend to beat him to fifth in the run to the line. I put him on the defensive and he understeered slightly wide and there was a gap which I was never going to say no to! There was a bit of rubbing between us at the exit but the move was already done by then…”

So now for the rest of the season, which resumes at Fife’s undulating Knockhill circuit in a month’s time with the first two of eight races that remain. It's clear Mitchell is determined to build on his strengths and iron out any weaknesses and end the season with the Clio Cup title in mind in 2016.

“I want to hold on to fifth in the championship – I’d be very happy with a top five in the points in my first Clio Cup season,” said Mitchell. “I don’t feel it’s gone too badly so far. I’ve been gradually improving each weekend in all areas – particularly on racecraft and raw pace over a lap. I need to be better at starts – that’s what’s been getting me down as I’ve been gifting people places off the line.

“It’s very close for fifth – I’m only two points ahead of Jordan Stilp and he’s only two ahead of Ladell – so I need to stay consistent and with improved results. It’s going to be very hard now to catch the four in front (SVR team-mate Ant Whorton-Eales, Ash Hand, Ashley Sutton and Rivett) on points, but I want to get in among them moreon track and get some more podiums in the remaining eight races.”