Robinson & Spires increase respective points leads at Brands

Total Control Racing’s Mike Robinson (Surbiton) claimed his fourth victory of the Michelin Clio Cup Race Series season at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit this afternoon, Saturday, 26th July, to extend his lead at the top of the standings to 32 points.

Third place for David Dickenson (Wicklow, Ireland), his first podium since winning round three at Oulton Park, enabled the Team Pyro driver to maintain second in the championship while a superb runner-up spot for privateer Paul Streather (Hinckley) means he is just seven points further back.

Round seven of the Race Series season was actually red flagged on lap 14 when Pyro’s Jeff Smith (Wellingborough) lost control of his Clio at the exit of Paddock Hill Bend, the resulting impact with the barriers leaving the car stranded in the middle of the track. Thankfully emerging safely, Smith was nevertheless taken to hospital for precautionary reasons.

“I’m really happy with that win, happy to extend the championship lead and stay out of trouble once again”, said Robinson, “I thought the start was always going to be the key, Jeff [Smith] was a little bit slower away and that gave me a gap into Paddock. I thought I might have a bit of pace to get away, but then Jeff started to catch me up – a bit of a tussle started to brew behind me which helped.”

In the earlier Road Series contest, the categories enjoying standalone contests this weekend for only the second time, Westbourne Motorsport’s Anton Spires (Milton Keynes) mounted a strong recovery after a sluggish start to seal his fifth consecutive win and increase his lead to an incredible 78 points.

Jessica Hawkins (Chatham), making her first competitive appearance of 2014, steered her SWB Motorsport Clio Renaultsport 197 to a deserved third place finish behind ex-rally driver Luke Pinder (Shipley) who led two thirds of the race before succumbing to the recovering Spires on lap 11. Early podium contender Nic Harrison (Stretton, Burton-on-Trent) was sidelined with power troubles.

Lights-to-flag success for Robinson in Race Series
Having qualified on pole position for the first of the weekend’s two Race Series encounters by a margin of 0.2 seconds from nearest challenger Smith, Robinson signalled his intent from the outset and at the start he held the advantage as Smith’s son Brett challenged his dad for second.

Into lap two, Robinson had opened a lead of almost a full second with Smiths Snr and Jnr second and third, Streather fourth, Dickenson fifth and Luke Herbert (Chichester) rounding out the top six. Smith Snr then quickly punched in a couple of fastest lap times to put Robinson under pressure.

The leader’s advantage was cut to a mere 0.2 seconds into the seventh tour and the order among the lead group remained unchanged until a moment for TCR’s Andy Jordan (Bridgnorth) dropped him outside the top 10 from seventh – promoting Sport Class leader Ollie Pidgley (Downton).

Dramatically, on lap 10, Brett Smith got out of shape at McLaren and ended up off the circuit – an excursion which also delayed Smith Snr. The result into lap 11 was an increased lead of 1.9 seconds for Robinson with Streather moving through to second, Jeff Smith down to third and Dickenson in fourth ahead of Herbert , Pidgley and Finesse Motorsport returnee Pete Bennett (Blundeston).

Then, on lap 14, Smith Snr’s moment exciting the first corner led to substantial contact with the barriers and the resulting red flag was rapidly following by the chequered flag. Robinson took the win ahead of Streather, Dickenson, Herbert, Sport Class winner Pidgley and Bennett. Brett Smith recovered to finish seventh ahead of SV Racing’s Sam Randon (Ashbourne).

“From the outset it was really close”, said runner-up Streather, who also set fastest lap, “I was pushing and pushing Brett Smith, I managed to force him into an error and the same with Jeff Smith too. We’re running on such a tight budget, it means so much to me to finish near the front.”

Unstoppable Spires continues winning momentum
After comfortably taking the round seven Road Series pole position by 0.3 seconds, points leader Spires looked all set to for his fifth win on the trot but a less-than-spectacular getaway meant second placed qualifier Pinder surged into the lead with Harrison holding third.

Into McLaren, though, Harrison served up an excellent pass on the inside to wrest second from Spires to trigger a great battle over the next few laps as Pinder edged away. At Paddock Hill Bend on lap six, Spires managed to get the run on Harrison to retake second but the latter’s race then took a dramatic turn when his race-converted Clio Renaultsport 197 roadcar lost power.

Eventually crawling back to the pits, Harrison’s car did manage to fire back into life but the number of laps lost meant he was a non-classified finisher – costing him the chance of moving into second in the championship.

Spires, now in clear air, punched in some fastest laps and latched onto Pinder’s tail by lap 10 where light contact at Graham Hill Bend led to both getting slightly out of shape. Running absolutely together on lap 11, at McLaren Spires managed to shoot past on the inside to move ahead and he managed to eventually win by 1.8 seconds. Second position for Pinder equalled his best finish so far.

“I was a bit annoyed to fall to third at the start, but I kept my cool and found places where I could overtake”, explained Spires, “After I passed Nic [Harrison] and didn’t expect to catch Luke [Pinder] as quickly as I did, but the car was really consistent – Westbourne put together a really great car.”

Harrison’s car troubles enabled the returning Hawkins, competing in only her second race in more than eight months, to take a deserved podium in third place almost 4.5 seconds clear of the close fourth position battle between Sarah Franklin (Kettering) and John Creasey (Lincoln).

Franklin drove well to keep the Paint Perfect Motorsport racer at bay to secure fourth and, with Harrison’s non-score and the non-appearance of Jake Honour (Devizes) this weekend due to his Clio being rebuilt, the lady racer leapt into second in the championship.

Round eight of the 2014 Michelin Clio Cup Road Series will get underway at 11.05 tomorrow, Sunday, 27th July, with the equivalent Race Series encounter following at 15.00.

Along with headline sponsors Michelin and Protyre, the Clio Cup Series is additionally supported by Ferodo and Safety Devices.

Provisional 2014 Michelin Clio Cup Race Series Driver Standings (after Rd7):
1st Mike Robinson, 186pts; 2nd David Dickenson, 154pts; 3rd Paul Streather, 147pts

Provisional 2014 Michelin Clio Cup Road Series Driver Standings (after Rd7):
1st Anton Spires, 228pts; 2nd Sarah Franklin, 150pts; 3rd Jake Honour, 141pts