Morgan stars at Brands with victory on debut weekend

Saloon car racing rookie Alex Morgan (Reading) produced a star performance during round two of the Renault UK Clio Cup at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit this afternoon, Sunday, 31st March, to win only his second ever ‘tin-top’ race – earning him the ‘Driver of the Event’ accolade.

Having impressed on his debut outing earlier in the day, finishing fourth in the season-opening race, the Team Pyro driver beat round one winner James Colburn (Worthing) off the line at the start and never looked back, despite immense pressure throughout.

Initially leading Colburn, Josh Files (Norwich) and multiple champion Paul Rivett (Banstead), after a brief early Safety Car period – required to retrieve the stranded car of the unfortunate Ronnie Klos (Market Harborough) – Morgan settled into a good rhythm and never looked unduly under threat.

Colburn had to work hard to keep his Westbourne Motorsport-run Clio in second ahead of Rivett at the re-start and it wasn’t long before the series veteran pounced, slicing past his younger rival along Cooper Straight after Colburn had lost momentum when sliding slightly wide at Graham Hill Bend.

As the race unfolded, PER HIRE/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering driver Rivett piled on more and more pressure to Morgan but the series newcomer – competing for the first time since 2008 when he raced in Formula Renault – didn’t crack and claimed a memorable, and very popular, victory.

“I couldn’t have asked for much more on my debut”, said a delighted Morgan, “Having not done a practice start, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get away cleanly in the races, but I was lucky enough to get away really well. After getting the lead into the first bend, I just plucked away, treated it like qualifying, and kept pushing and pushing.

“Rivett did fill my mirrors every lap, that did make it quite difficult, but luckily I didn’t put a foot wrong to give him a chance to get past. I definitely couldn’t have predicted this before the weekend, I knew in testing we’d been quick but I just had to keep working at it and it turned out brilliantly.”

During the second half of the race, there was never little more than a couple of tenths of a second between the lead quartet of Morgan, Rivett, Colburn and Files and the order remained static to the chequered flag – only 0.9 seconds covering all four. For Rivett, finishing on the podium having only secured the budget to go racing a couple of days prior to the event resulted in a beaming smile.

“I was lined up to do the ITV4 commentary for this race”, said the three-time champion, “My name was down on the sheet of paper…I really didn’t expect to be here racing this weekend. I’ve got to say a great big thank you to our new sponsor, and, of course, PER HIRE as usual.

“This race was only the fourth time I’ve driven on the Dunlop tyres, we had one test session – we missed most of the first with a problem – then qualifying and the two races. We’ve just got quicker and quicker every time and we’re going to get faster too, so watch this space at Donington! We arrived here this weekend without any testing and we’ve still come away with great points.”

The battle for fifth was equally tight with KX Racing’s Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield), Total Control Racing’s Rob Smith (Telford), second KX driver Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) and Finesse Motorsport’s Jake Giddings (Wisbech) all within a whisker of each other. Whorton-Eales’ performance was of particular note, having scythed his way through the order from 13th on the grid.

Two of the stars of round one both had less fortunate outings in this afternoon’s encounter, not least JHR Developments’ Josh Cook (Bristol) who was unable to take the start after spinning into the barriers along Cooper Straight on his way to the grid.

Westbourne’s Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) was unable to try and add another podium to his tally after running wide at Paddock Hill Bend on lap one. Dropping from the lead group to 13th, he battled back into ninth at the finish ahead of team-mate, and Clio rookie, Jordan Stilp (Potterspury).

Scuderia Vittoria’s Finlay Crocker (Bathgate) did the double in the Masters Cup by claiming his second win of the weekend, this time having to work much harder with reigning class champion Simon Belcher (Swindon) pressuring during the closing stages.

Colburn’s overall third place, meanwhile, gave him back-to-back Graduate Cup wins and he also departed Brands Hatch with a three-point lead in the main championship chase. Morgan is second in the Renault UK Clio Cup standings with Rivett third.

Reflecting on the first weekend, points leader Colburn said: “We have had bad luck in the past at the start of the season. This year we’ve started well, hopefully we’ll hit the middle of the season well and finish it well. I’m still learning the Dunlop tyres but really happy to be leading the points.”

There are only three weeks to wait until the next instalment of Renault UK Clio Cup action with rounds three and four of the new season taking place over the weekend 20th/21st April at Donington Park in Leicestershire.

Renault UK Clio Cup is sponsored by with support from ELF, NGK Spark Plugs, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rds1&2):
1st James Colburn, 57pts; 2nd Alex Morgan, 54pts; 3rd Paul Rivett, 48pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Entrant Standings (after Rds1&2):
1st Westbourne Motorsport, 94pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 87pts; 3rd Scuderia Vittoria, 62pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rds1&2):
1st James Colburn, 64pts; 2nd Ant Whorton-Eales, 50pts; =3rd Josh Files & Jake Giddings, 42pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rds1&2):
1st Finlay Crocker, 64pts; 2nd Graham Field, 53pts; 3rd Simon Belcher, 28pts