Renault UK Clio Cup title fight roars into Rockingham

Northamptonshire’s unique US oval-style Rockingham circuit this weekend (Sat 27-Sun 28 August) hosts the latest rounds of the Renault UK Clio Cup’s nail-biting 2016 title race with former Champion Mike Bushell and the equally experienced Ant Whorton-Eales currently the men to beat…
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Rockingham’s circuit configuration alone – half of which comprises its banked ‘NASCAR’ oval track including the fearsome Turn 1 – makes it stand out on the calendar. It is also the only anti-clockwise circuit used during the season as well as abrasive meaning Dunlop’s race tyres used in the UK Clio Cup will be worked to the maximum.

As ever both UK Clio Cup races this weekend take place alongside the latest rounds of the high-profile Dunlop British Touring Car Championship – meaning a huge trackside crowd as well as live television coverage on ITV4. Certainly Rockingham’s vast grandstands which offer – again almost uniquely in UK motor sport – views of the whole circuit further add to the appeal.

Team Pyro’s Bushell is 19 points ahead of Whorton-Eales who races for the local Northampton-based JamSport team. But with 32 awarded for a win and six races to go (two each at Rockingham, Silverstone and Brands Hatch) it means there are still 192 to be won.

That means the next eight drivers in the standings could in theory yet be crowned Champion although this would require dire misfortune for both Bushell and Whorton-Eales as well as the following Max Coates in third and Paul Rivett and Lee Pattison in equal fourth. Ciceley Motorsport’s Coates is 53 points behind leader Bushell while 78 is the gap that 4Front Motor Group with WDE’s Rivett and Team Cooksport’s Pattison need to make up.

Like the rest of the grid each will be acutely aware however of the championship’s ‘two-dropped-scores’ rule which means every driver must discard their worst two results when it comes to totting up their end of season totals. Apply it now and the top five actually close up with 78 points becoming 58.

Indeed it is Bushell who has most to lose with a greater combined overall dropped score than the rest (38) which in fact bumps him back to second, three points behind Whorton-Eales who presently has only 16 to discard…

For the record Bushell and Whorton-Eales have each won twice in the past around Rockingham while three-time Champion Rivett has three wins there.

Behind the current top five, sixth-placed Paul Streather could still come back into it but time is running out for Finesse Motorsport’s opening round winner.

Meanwhile and in no particular order Bushell’s Pyro team-mates Senna Proctor, Josh Price and David Dickenson, PP Motorsport’s Anton Spires, Cooksport’s Rory Collingbourne and Shayne Deegan, WDE’s Charlie Ladell and Rory Green and Ciceley’s Dan Zelos and Ollie Pidgley are each capable of frustrating the title protagonists.

Certainly they have less to lose and the same goes for JamSport’s other drivers Luke Kidsley, Chris Smiley and George Jackson. Northampton's Kidsley in particular will be looking to star on his home circuit following his maiden podium result last time out at Snetterton. It is a truly quality grid…

There is also an intriguing Entrants’ championship battle brewing. Pyro is presently on course to successfully defend its 2015 crown but must keep alert to the chasing JamSport and WDE squads which are separated by a mere two points in second and third.

The UK Clio Cup drivers will first be on track at Snetterton on the Friday (26 August) with two timed practice sessions to enable them to fine-tune their cars’ set-ups to the circuit’s characteristics. On the Saturday comes the half-hour timed qualifying session (11.20am) that will decide the starting grid orders for the two races. The first of those takes place later that afternoon (4.10pm); the second on Sunday (1.00pm). Both are 14 laps in distance.