Robinson and Spires take Race and Road Series leads respectively

Total Control Racing’s Mike Robinson (Surbiton) rocketed to the top of the Michelin Clio Cup Race Series championship standings at a gloriously warm and sunny Oulton Park Island Circuit this afternoon, Saturday, 17th May, thanks to second place in round three and victory in round four.

David Dickenson (Wicklow, Ireland), who led the title race coming into the weekend, started superbly with a great win in the first encounter but driveshaft failure later in the day robbed the Team Pyro racer of the chance to consolidate his position.

Round four got off to a dramatic beginning when a multi-car tangle in the pack just off the startline resulted in Ollie Pidgley (Salisbury), Brett Lidsey (Dartford), Pete Bennett (Blundeston) and Malta’s Jacques Mizzi all coming to grief.

Although the Safety Car was initially deployed, red flags followed soon after so the fast-starting Tommy Ostgaard, who had taken the lead from pole-starter Robinson, had to try and replicate his fantastic launch again. Before the race got underway, though, Dickenson – who had been third at the time of the stoppage – ground to a halt on his way to the grid with driveshaft failure.

Ostgaard again made an excellent getaway at the wheel of his SV Racing Clio, leading once more from Robinson, but on lap three the TCR driver moved ahead at the hairpin and claimed his second win of 2014 on lap six by just 0.5 seconds. Ostgaard’s second spot was his first podium of the year.

“The first start was very chaotic and then I didn’t get the start I wanted from pole the second time, then I was disappointed when I saw the race had been cut to 10 minutes – I knew I had a lot of work to do and not a lot of time to do it”, said Robinson, “Thankfully Tommy [Ostgaard] made a little mistake at the hairpin and I managed to put the car in there. I’m pleased with the win.”

Westbourne Motorsport’s Luke Herbert (Chichester) climbed the podium for the second time this season with a great third place, having challenged hard for second during the early laps. Coming under pressure himself later on from Renault Clio returnee Jeff Smith (Wellingborough), Herbert held-off the British Touring Car Championship podium finisher by 0.8 seconds.

Fifth place went to TCR’s Andy Jordan (Bridgnorth) ahead of privateer runner Paul Streather (Hinckley), SV Racing’s Sam Randon (Ashbourne) and 20Ten Racing’s Tom Butler (Allestree) who rounded out the top eight. Smith, meanwhile, claimed the bonus points for fastest lap.

In the preceding third round, Robinson – who had shaded Dickenson by just 0.097 seconds in qualifying to claim pole position – was beaten off the line by the Pyro driver with Ostgaard third until a mistake at Knickerbrook put him wide, enabling Jordan to move into the top three.

Smith made a superb start from eighth on the grid, the former BTCC racer one of several drivers to have best laps disallowed in qualifying due to track limits infringements, but after some close early action he was elbowed out of podium contention to fifth before battling back to fourth.

Jordan fought hard to keep his vastly more experienced rival behind but their duelling allowed Pidgley and Herbert to close in. Following a shuffling of the pack, Pidgley emerged in fourth but Smith soon got back ahead and ultimately just missed out on the podium by 0.3 seconds.

Jordan’s faultless drive enabled him to bag his first podium of 2014 at the head of an unbelievably tightly packed train of cars featuring Smith, Pidgley, Finesse Motorsport’s Bennett, Streather and Herbert – less than two seconds splitting those six after a superb race.

Back at the front, Dickenson didn’t put a wheel wrong and managed to see off Robinson by 0.3 seconds – although the TCR man claimed the points for fastest lap. The result was actually declared at the end of nine laps when an excursion for Mizzi brought out the red flags.

“Mike [Robinson] got the jump on me at Rockingham when I was on pole, so that had been nagging at me since – I had to get a good start here”, explained Dickenson, “He didn’t give up at any point, he was always there, but it’s great racing against someone like Mike – I don’t think we touched once.”

Perfect weekend for Spires who takes Road Series points lead
In the accompanying Michelin Clio Cup Road Series, Anton Spires (Milton Keynes) delivered double pole position, two race wins and the fastest lap in each encounter which enabled the Westbourne Motorsport driver to move to the top of the standings and open a 13-point lead. In each race Spires had to fight back from sluggish starts but his pace was such the victories never looked in any doubt.

“It’s been a perfect weekend”, he commented, “Two poles, two fastest laps and two race wins – it was just the starts. I got back into first though each time and just tried to manage the gap, look after the tyres and then get to the chequered flag first. I want to thank everyone at Westbourne, it’s an amazing team and the car set-up has been perfect.”

Unable to capitalise on his grid-topping starting slot in round three, having dominated qualifying to secure his maiden pole start by a full 0.8 seconds, Spires fought back from third on lap one to win the first ever standalone race for the ‘Road Series’ by a 4.2 second margin.

Privateer racer Luke Pinder (Shipley) led for the first five laps after Spires’ slow getaway, only the rallying convert’s third ever circuit race, and the leader opened an advantage of 2.4 seconds on the opening lap alone.

After taking second from driver Nic Harrison (Stretton, Burton-on-Trent) on the third tour, though, Spires set a series of fastest race laps to reel in Pinder before passing his rival on lap six and then pulling well clear to claim a dominant first win.

Pinder fell into the clutches of Harrison at mid-distance but eventually finished three seconds ahead to take a well-deserved first podium. Erstwhile points leader Jake Honour (Devizes) had a tough battle on his hands with gear problems from the outset, but still managed to finish in fourth.

In round four, Pinder again enjoyed a turn at the front of the pack when he grabbed first place from early leader Harrison into Cascades on lap three. The delay for Harrison, who had rocketed into the lead from fourth on the grid after a false start, meant he fell to fourth with Spires and Honour also moving past. Harrison eventually had to serve a drive-through penalty, dropping him to seventh.

Pinder held off Spires for another couple of laps before the Westbourne driver sliced past, going on to win by 4.2 seconds. Honour, despite his ongoing problems with second gear, took third with Clio debutant Jodie Hemming (Burton-on-Trent) emerging victorious in the battle of the lady racers in fourth. The SWB Motorsport driver also bested Sarah Franklin (Kettering) in the earlier race.

Donington Park National Circuit in the East Midlands will host rounds five and six of the Michelin Clio Cup Race Series and Michelin Clio Cup Road Series a fortnight from now on 31st May/1st June. For the third race meeting of the season, both categories will return to the combined grid format.

Along with headline sponsors Michelin and Protyre, the Clio Cup Series is additionally supported by Ferodo and Safety Devices. The Michelin Clio Cup Road Series is also backed by DNA Tuning.

Provisional 2014 Michelin Clio Cup Race Series Driver Standings (after Rd4):
1st Mike Robinson, 94pts; 2nd David Dickenson, 91pts; 3rd Paul Streather, 80pts

Provisional 2014 Michelin Clio Cup Road Series Driver Standings (after Rd4):
1st Anton Spires, 126pts; 2nd Jake Honour, 113pts; 3rd Nic Harrison, 91pts