Herbert and Felix share Michelin Clio Cup Series wins at Croft

Luke Herbert (Chichester) and Peter Felix (Allestree, Derby) shared the wins during the second event of the inaugural Michelin Clio Cup Series with Protyre at Croft Circuit, near Darlington in North Yorkshire, over the weekend, 6th/7th July.

Delivering close, exciting racing which was thoroughly enjoyed by the spectators bathed in glorious sunshine, Herbert’s race one success in his family-run Clio gave him his third win of the year while EPM Technology/20Ten Racing’s Felix made his first visit to the top step of the podium in race two.

There were also overall podium finishes for Unique Autosport’s Rob Gaffney (Waltham Abbey) and EPM Technology/20Ten Racing’s Darren Wilson (Newark). In the ‘Roadcar’ class, featuring converted Clio Renaultsport 197 cars, Norway’s Tommy Ostgaard took his second double victory of the year after good battles with SWB Motorsport team-mate Sam Randon (Ashbourne) in both encounters.

Herbert produced a dominant display in Saturday afternoon’s race, continuing his great momentum from the season opener at Snetterton back in May. Privateer entrant Andy Jordan (Bridgnorth) actually started on pole position after a fantastic performance in qualifying, but Herbert made the better start to lead into the first corner, Clervaux.

Behind, Gaffney launched into second place from fourth on the grid after a terrific getaway while Jordan slotted in to third just ahead of Felix. Herbert managed to build a small gap over Gaffney in the early stages to lead by just under 1.5 seconds after two laps while, behind, the battle raged for the remaining podium position between Jordan and Felix.

At the end of the first lap, a well-judged manoeuvre at the hairpin enabled Felix to slice down the inside of Jordan to grab third. The pair then battled relentlessly over the next three laps until contact at the end of the fifth tour brought Jordan’s race to a premature end.

Back at the front, Herbert pulled further clear of Gaffney and by lap seven his lead was over 3.5 seconds while, with Jordan out of the race, Felix reeled in Gaffney and began to pressure him for the runner-up spot. With less than half a second separating the pair the stage was set for an enthralling battle but, on lap 10, Felix slowed a little coming out of the chicane and lost considerable ground.

Herbert continued to control the pace during the closing stages, allowing Gaffney to reduce his lead a little, but at the chequered flag the pair were still separated by just over three seconds as Herbert took his third win on the trot.

“This weekend the aim was to get better starts”, said Herbert, “So I worked on them and got a great start away from second to the lead and then the win. I was used to rear-wheel drive for three years, I was giving it too many revs [in the Clio] so I just lowered the revs and a bit more clutch control and just less wheel spin.”

Second placed Gaffney commented: “I made a good start, unfortunately I just couldn’t get round the outside of Luke [Herbert] at the first corner – he obviously had a bit of a slide and I couldn’t make anything of it really. It was good, we’re here to win, we like being on the podium but we want to be on top of it.”

Felix nursed his car to the finish to claim the final podium position, relieved to make it to the flag at all. He said: “It was a real good race and I think everyone enjoyed it. I did Andy [Jordan] on the inside into the hairpin on lap two or three, I got a lovely drive at him and he tried to come back at me but he made a bit of a lunge and I just turned in and unfortunately I think it damaged his car a little bit.

“There was a bit of drama I’ve definitely damaged my car, a very bad noise came from the transmission area as I released the clutch. I hit a kerb so I’ve damaged it, definitely, and I thought I was going to have to stop. I was a bit relieved when I crossed the line.”

Wilson finished in fourth with privateer Brett Lidsey (Dartford) fifth after coming out on top of a tight tussle with Ian Jordan (Bridgnorth). In the ‘Roadcar’ class, Ostgaard took a commanding win despite a dogged pursuit from Randon, the latter chased hard by Jake Honour (Melksham).

“Sam was pushing me hard from behind but I was able to hold off and just drive consistently and drive my own race to victory”, said Ostgaard, “I had my first laps round here on Friday so it’s been quite a learning curve. I think the circuit’s awesome!”

Felix ends Herbert’s winning run
In Sunday’s race, Herbert’s unbroken winning record came to an end with Felix taking a comfortable lights-to-flag victory. Taking pole position by an impressive margin of 0.4 seconds from team-mate Wilson, Felix made a good getaway at the start of the second Croft encounter to lead as Wilson just held off third placed Herbert.

Over the first three laps, Herbert piled on the pressure to Wilson but, try as he might, he couldn’t find a way past Wilson’s excellent defence. On lap four, though, the pressure was alleviated when Herbert made a mistake at the chicane and hit the tyre stack – forcing retirement. Andy Jordan was also caught-out by the incident, spinning in avoidance out of fourth place, although he did rejoin.

Courtesy of Wilson and Herbert’s early battle, Felix was able to streak away at the front and although the gap closed towards the end Felix was able to see off his team-mate by just over two seconds at the flag.

“I’m very, very pleased, first win and just very happy for 20Ten Racing”, said Felix, “The car was absolutely fantastic, a pleasure to drive. The balance was absolutely superb and that really enabled us to hold our position at the front and just edge away and Darren drove absolutely beautifully.”

Wilson added: “I made a good start, just tucked in behind Peter, and Luke was on my bumper for about three or four laps and I just tried my best to keep him behind me, the racing was very fair, no contact between either of us. Eventually I think Luke hit the tyres which caused him to go out so I could kind of have a respite then and I tried to chase Peter down but he was just too quick.”

Gaffney rounded out the overall podium in third after a mighty scrap with Ian Jordan that lasted until lap 11 when the pair made contact at the hairpin, pitching Jordan into a spin and dropping him down the order. Lidsey took fourth place, his best of the weekend, ahead of Scuderia Vittoria’s James Weston (Tunbridge Wells) and privateer newcomer Jason Tarling (Wickham Bishops).

Ostgaard again won the ‘Roadcar’ class but in very different circumstances to the first race having come from the back of the field after a difficult qualifying left him last on the grid. Not only did he have his best time of the session disallowed for setting it under yellow flags, he also caught traffic on his early qualifying laps which impeded him significantly.

Randon defended the class lead extremely well in race two but on lap six Ostgaard found a way through and pulled clear by five seconds. The winner said: “It was a great one, I really had to battle hard this race. I did everything I could to get a good start, was able to pass Jake [Honour] and from then on it was about pushing and trying to beat my team-mate Sam who didn’t make it easy for me.”

The third event of the inaugural Michelin Clio Cup Series with Protyre season, races five and six, will take place at Rockingham International Sportscar Circuit in Northamptonshire on 10th/11th August.

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.