Whorton-Eales led away from pole position in his Maximum Motorsport car but after a brief safety car period was passed for the lead into the Becketts corner by WDE Motorsport’s Rivett.
At the next bend, Brooklands, there was another change at the front as Rivett made a small error. This forced Whorton-Eales to lose momentum and Team Pyro’s Sutton passed them both to take over first position.
From there the BMR Restart-backed driver was able to withstand intense pressure from Rivett, Whorton-Eales and the ever-present Hand for his fourth win of the season. Rivett set the race’s fastest lap (a new lap record) for two bonus points.
As a result Pyro’s Hand continues to lead the championship but, with the all-important ‘two dropped scores’ rule applied, by the noticeably reduced margin of 21 points over Sutton with Whorton-Eales 28 adrift in third. All three are now guaranteed to go to the season finale at Brands Hatch with a chance of the crown.
Rivett, fourth, is 53 points adrift of Hand and if he can keep within 68 of him in this afternoon’s second race he will also be going to the Kent circuit still in the title hunt.
Behind the top four in today’s opening race, Tom Witts (Maximum Motorsport) and Ben Davis (Rangoni Corse) enjoyed strong UK Clio Cup debuts in fifth and sixth positions. Pyro’s Josh Price crossed the line in fifth place but a time penalty for exceeding track limits relegated him to seventh.
Cooksport’s George Jackson was eighth as two more debutants, Tom Butler (20Ten Racing) and Italian Michele Puccetti (Rangoni), completed the top ten. Puccetti was also the highest finisher in the Masters Cup for older drivers.
Unfortunate not to be in the top six were both JamSport Racing’s Tom Grundy and WDE’s Dan Holland. They had run fifth and sixth behind the leading quartet but contact between their cars caused Holland to retire and Grundy to tumble down the order.
The earlier safety car period was triggered when JamSport’s Luke Kidsley, WDE’s Charlie Ladell and 20Ten’s Sam Watkins were involved in skirmishes shortly after the start which forced all three to retire. Puccetti and Cooksport’s Rory Collingbourne were also spinners but both were able to continue. Alex Sedgwick, who started his first Renault UK Clio Cup race from fifth on the grid, needed a pit stop in his Cooksport car and completed the runners in 16th.