08/04/2016

Plenty to ponder from Brands Hatch's opening Renault UK Clio Cup rounds

A pole position on their debut for one new entry; first-time winners; one driver surpassing 4000 career points; a different look to the top of the teams’ standings… Brands Hatch’s opening rounds of the 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup threw up all sorts of fascinating statistics.
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To qualifying first and what looked to be a maiden pole position for JamSport Racing with driver Ant Whorton-Eales only for the result to change during scrutineering. Inheriting the pole therefore were newcomers Daniel Rowbottom and Team Ecomotive – a quite stunning effort.

It is believed to be the first time since the start of 2001 (Tim Mullen/Team Firstair) that an all-new team-driver combination has started from pole on its debut. Rowbottom also joins the likes of 2015 Champion Ashley Sutton in becoming one of only a handful of drivers to start their first race in the championship from the very front.

Ultimately Paul Streather and Lee Pattison were the winners at Brands Hatch. Streather’s victory in race one, for Finesse Motorsport, was his first in the UK Clio Cup – notably it was only his third race in the category following his sensational debut in last year’s season finale. Pattison’s win also marked a memorable first win for British Touring Car star Josh Cook’s Team Cooksport squad.

Significantly Brands Indy marked the first UK Clio Cup event since the end of 2014 at which Team Pyro had failed to win either race. Similarly one has to go back to Oulton Park last June for the last time one of its drivers had not qualified on the front row of the grid. And even further than that – 2014’s finale – for the last time one of its drivers did not finish a race inside the top three (its best placing in last Saturday’s opening round at Brands was ‘only’ fourth).

All this does is serve as a reminder once more of just how much more competitive the grid has become in 2016.  Pyro’s cars of course were always in the mix at Brands Hatch – driver Mike Bushell took fourth and third places, just as he did in 2014 before going on to win the title – but Mark Hunt’s squad came away from Kent lying only third in the Entrants’ standings, behind WDE Motorsport and Cooksport. One would be hard pushed to find the last time Pyro was left sitting outside the top two in this particular table.

And so to WDE Motorsport... Third and second place results at Brands for lead driver Paul Rivett contributed majorly towards its tally but so, too, did team-mate Charles Ladell’s efforts which netted two fine fifth places – remember it is the combined scores of a team’s two highest-placed drivers in each race that counts.

For Rivett, Brands heralded another milestone in his illustrious UK Clio Cup career as he broke the 4000-points-scored barrier. It’s a mind-boggling number.

Other fascinating facts leap out so, Rowbottom aside, let’s begin with ‘personal bests’ in qualifying: Second for Streather; third for Dan Zelos and Ciceley Motorsport; sixth for Anton Spires and PP Motorsport; fifth for Josh Price; ninth for David Dickenson; 13th for Ollie Pidgley; 14th for Senna Proctor; 19th for Paul Plant and Vanquish Motorsport.

In a race the following established ‘best-evers’: sixth for Coates/Ciceley; seventh for Rowbottom/Ecomotive; tenth for Plant/Vanquish; 11th for Proctor and Pidgley; 14th for Spires/PP; 20th for Zelos.

Finally there can be only one winner at Brands when it came to most positions gained in terms of race results compared to starting grid positions and that is Whorton-Eales who made up an astonishing 32 places in total (23rd to eighth and then 23rd to sixth). Paul Plant was the next best with a total of 17 (19th to tenth and then 22nd to 14th) followed by Ladell on 13 (12th to fifth and tenth to fifth).

Ladell’s meteoric start in race one when he made up seven positions in the first 15 seconds (certainly by the time the cars rounded Paddock Hill Bend for the first time) is surely some sort of record on its own…