Luke Herbert (Chichester) made history at Snetterton 200 Circuit in Norfolk over the weekend, 11th/12th May, as the first ever race winner in the brand new Michelin Clio Cup Series with Protyre – before adding a thoroughly dominant second victory in race two of the season.
While the 23-year-old pole position qualifier had to work hard to break down the defence of long-time leader Rob Gaffney (Waltham Abbey) in the opening encounter on Saturday, the decisive pass coming on the final lap, Herbert ran unchallenged in Sunday’s race and was the class of the field.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend”, said the double winner, “It was an excellent result in the first race, pole and then the win. In race two there was a bit of a tussle at the hairpin on the first lap, luckily I didn’t get any damage, and then it was a case of putting in the lap times. I think it’s going to be a great series, I’m sure it’ll go from strength to strength throughout the year.”
In the ‘Roadcar’ class, Norwegian saloon car convert Tommy Ostgaard also secured a brace of clear wins at the wheel of his SWB Motorsport-run Clio Renaultsport 197. Heading home team-mate Sam Randon (Ashbourne) on each occasion, the 20-year-old impressed on his front-wheel drive debut.
“It’s quite different from the cars I’ve raced before, obviously, I didn’t get much practice either but it’s great fun”, said Ostgaard, “After qualifying I really started to get used to it and I was able to push harder every lap. It’s actually quite an easy car to drive, so it’s really a lot of fun as you can push it a lot on the limit and use the kerbs. It’s been two good races for us.”
Outstanding racing gets Clio Series off to perfect start
There couldn’t have been a better beginning to the brand new category on Saturday during the inaugural Michelin Clio Cup Series race, truly sensational action throughout the field providing a superb advertisement for the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) and Renault UK led series.
Herbert was the star of the opening qualifying session, taking the race one pole position by almost 0.4 seconds. Gaffney, who only announced his involvement at the eleventh hour, was second fastest ahead of Andy Jordan (Bridgnorth), Peter Felix (Allestree, Derby), Darren Wilson (Newark) and David Pierce (Larkfield). Ostgaard, meanwhile, claimed the Roadcar pole.
Herbert and Gaffney made an even start to race one but the latter managed to edge ahead into Riches. As they diced into the chicane though at the end of the first lap, a slide for Gaffney opened the door for the pole-sitter to move back through.
Gaffney hit back though at the Esses on the second tour and then defended for all he was worth as the Luke Herbert Racing-run Clio loomed large in his mirrors. Herbert swarmed all over the back of Gaffney’s car but the ex-Renault UK Clio Cup racer didn’t crack under the relentless pressure.
Meanwhile, third placed Jordan had Felix closing in and as Gaffney worked hard to keep Herbert at bay the lead four began to close-up. On lap eight at Chapman though, a challenge by Jordan for second place didn’t come off as the privateer picked up front-end damage which led to retirement.
Herbert was able to recover, albeit in third behind Felix, and the tangle enabled Gaffney to open a lead of 1.2 seconds. Herbert, though, was determined to regain the lost ground and after reeling off a string of fastest laps he took second from Felix on lap 11 before latching on to Gaffney’s tail.
The leader’s defence looked impenetrable but on the 15th and final tour, Herbert got a fantastic run out of Riches and shot past Gaffney on the inside at Montreal to grab the lead and the win. Gaffney finished just 0.2 seconds shy with Felix rounding out the podium only 1.4 seconds adrift.
“What you want to do is get out at the front and pull away from everyone but Luke [Herbert] was really quick, I couldn’t quite get that gap on him”, reflected Gaffney, “There was a lot of pressure but I’ve learnt a lot from racing in the main Clio championship before. We’ve proven we’ve got a quick car and can prepare a quick car, I’m really pleased.”
Third placed Felix added: “I had a really good race, a fantastic way to start the season and fantastic to start the new Clio series like that as well. I drove at the Media Day for 25 laps, then tested on Friday at Snetterton and that’s it so I’m still finding my feet again with the Clio. It was a very clean race, really good and very enjoyable. Luke [Herbert] did a cracking job, congratulations to him.”
Privateer racer Brett Lidsey (Dartford) produced an excellent performance to climb from seventh on the grid into the top four ahead of EPM Technology/20Ten Racing team-mates Wilson and Graham Mulholland (Duffield).
Scuderia Vittoria’s car racing rookie James Weston (Tunbridge Wells) claimed the victory in Class 4, for newcomers in the Racecar class, in eighth overall. In the Roadcar class, Ostgaard led comfortably throughout to win by almost six seconds with Randon the Class 5 victor – the top Roadcar rookie.
Herbert again in race two
Race two on Sunday afternoon was a more sedate affair which was initially led by Felix who beat Herbert off the line. Out of the chicane at the end of the opening lap though, the pole position qualifier got better drive and surged past Felix into Senna Straight. From then on, Herbert delivered a masterclass and posted a series of fastest laps en route to another great win.
The fight for the runner-up spot intensified during the latter stages with former Renault UK Clio Cup competitor Wilson closing on team-mate Felix with the best dry weather race of his career. Running nose-to-tail for the final three laps, Wilson piled on the pressure and on the run to the chequered flag he unexpectedly grabbed second when Felix had to switch off his engine due to a problem.
Andy Jordan initially ran in contention for the podium but lap two contact eliminated him from the race. Lidsey, therefore, came through to finish fourth with another strong drive ahead of Procom Team Racing’s Pierce and Mulholland – the latter starting in 11th after a qualifying excursion. Class wins again went the way of Weston, Ostgaard and Randon.
“The start went well for me, Ian Jordan in front had a bad start and that bunched everyone up”, said Wilson, “I went round the outside of him, got round the first corner and suddenly I was in fourth with a gap behind me. After Andy [Jordan] went off it was the top three of us and I got my head down to catch Peter [Felix]. Two 20Ten team-mates on the podium is fantastic, I’m really pleased.”
Michelin Clio Cup Series with Protyre will return to action eight weeks from now with the third and fourth races of the season taking place at Croft in North Yorkshire on 6th/7th July.
Along with headline sponsors Michelin and Protyre, the Clio Cup Series is additionally supported by Safety Devices, Mark Fish Motorsport, The Lubricant Consultancy and NGK Spark Plugs.