Mike Robinson (Surbiton) wrapped-up the inaugural Michelin Clio Cup Race Series title with one race to spare at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire this afternoon, Sunday, 21st September, after claiming his eighth victory of the season in a highly-charged and dramatic first race of the weekend.
Going on to finish seventh in round 12, the Total Control Racing driver concludes the season with eight wins and scoops a prize test in a current fourth generation Renault Clio, as raced in the British Touring Car Championship supporting Renault UK Clio Cup.
“I’m really pleased to win the championship but there are slightly mixed emotions as it was a bit of a messy first race – it’s a shame there was some contact”, said Robinson, “My plan was to try and stay out of trouble and we did the hard work for that in qualifying.
“The TCR car has just been getting better and better all year, about halfway through the season we made a small change to the car and since then it’s just been invincible to be honest – big thanks to those guys, I’m over the moon.”
Round 11 was anything but predictable with lots of dramatic action from the outset. Robinson made a good start from pole position to lead but through Clervaux he was edged back to third as Luke Herbert (Chichester), making a sensational getaway from fourth on the grid, emerged in the lead with Robinson’s sole title rival David Dickenson (Wicklow) in second place.
Brett Lidsey (Dartford) made a fantastic getaway to leap from sixth into the top four but, at Tower, a multi-car tangle resulted in the 20Ten Racing driver retiring along with TCR’s luckless Andy Jordan (Bridgnorth). Finesse Motorsport’s Pete Bennett (Blundeston) was also a lap one casualty when he lost the rear of his Clio on the exit of the chicane and tagged the barriers.
Back at the front, Herbert built an impressive lead as Dickenson and Robinson ran nose-to-tail and even though third for Robinson would be more than enough for him to claim the coveted title he didn’t rest on his laurels and really got stuck in to the race. By the start of lap two, Herbert led by 1.7 seconds as the championship rivals diced and the Westbourne Motorsport driver looked in control.
By lap eight, though, Robinson and Dickenson had reeled in the leader – the latter posting the fastest lap of the race in doing so – and a titanic scrap ensued between the podium battlers. At the chicane on the ninth tour, Herbert ran slightly wide but managed to maintain first place. However, at the hairpin at the end of the lap, the complexion of the race changed dramatically.
As the lead trio approached the turn, Road Series driver Jake Honour (Devizes) was just ahead and on the exit unintentional contact between Dickenson and Herbert led to a chain-reaction of Herbert tagging the Clio Renaultsport 197 of Honour. The net result was a non-finish for Honour, retirement for Herbert and Dickenson too was delayed, but he managed to hold off Robinson to take the lead.
The twists and turns weren’t over there, though, as on the penultimate lap a brush between Dickenson and Robinson while disputing the lead resulted in an excursion for the Irishman with the front bumper on his Team Pyro car becoming dislodged – he ultimately fell to fifth by the finish.
Robinson went on to win the race, his fifth successive victory, by three seconds from a delighted Sam Randon (Ashbourne). The 20Ten Racing driver, who had qualified fifth before being edged back on lap one, managed to smartly pick his way through the chaos to claim a thoroughly deserved season-best result by 0.4 seconds from Pyro’s Brett Smith (Wellingborough).
Smith didn’t make the best of starts from third place but held fourth into lap three until a spin exiting the chicane dropped him to the tail of the top six. Recovering well, he headed home Pyro team-mate Ollie Pidgley (Downton) who won the Sport Class with one of his best drives of the year.
“I didn’t even know I was second until I came in to be honest!”, said Randon, “Everything cracked off at the last corner with the Road car and the two leaders, so I knew I was up into third as I saw Luke [Herbert] park up – but I didn’t know about David’s problems. It just played into my hands really.”
Tom Butler (Allestree) rounded out the top six after a strong drive from 12th on the grid for 20Ten with category debutant Charlie Fulk (Woking) just 0.9 seconds shy in seventh place for Pyro after an impressive showing. Both drivers were hit with five second penalties for exceeding track limits
Privateer Luke Pinder (Shipley) claimed his second race victory of the season in the Michelin Clio Cup Road Series, dominating the contest – especially with Honour’s untimely retirement – to comfortably win from Paint Perfect Motorsport’s John Creasey (Lincoln).
In round 12, the final race of the season, Dickenson came through to take his third victory of the year when Robinson – who actually took the chequered flag as the winner – was given a 30 second time penalty in lieu of a late drive-through for exceeding track limits.
Leading away again from pole position, the new champion was able to dominate at the front as he cleared off into the distance but at the halfway point he was served with a five second time penalty after being adjudged to have exceeded track limits. He was then declared to have infringed the limits again later on, so the additional half-minute penalty dropped him to seventh place.
While Robinson had been in a class of his own, the battle over second was hugely entertaining with Dickenson, Smith and Herbert all very evenly matched. In the end, Dickenson saw off Smith by just 0.6 seconds with Herbert – who had initially headed the group – finishing third. In the championship, Dickenson finishes the season as Vice-Champion with Herbert in third place.
“That was the most enjoyable race I’ve had in a long time”, said Dickenson, “It’s a fair way to end the year, Mike [Robinson] has been a bit of a step above this season. We matched him a few times but we fell down on qualifying, it’s been a great year though and I’ve really enjoyed every minute – a great way to go into the winter.”
Impressive privateer runner Paul Streather (Hinckley) concluded his maiden season in Renault Clios an excellent fourth in the driver standings with a highly competitive fourth place finish in the final encounter. The result made up for a disappointing puncture in round 11 earlier in the day.
Lidsey ended the race in fifth after one of his better performances of the campaign, while Pidgley made it two Sport class wins from two rounding out the top six. In the Road Series, meanwhile, Nic Harrison (Stretton) bagged his maiden victory at the wheel of his CGHimports.com car ahead of Creasey. Honour, who had been battling for the win, retired on lap nine when his car lost power.
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:
CHAMPION: Mike Robinson, 332pts; 2nd David Dickenson, 284pts; 3rd Luke Herbert, 232pts
Provisional 2014 Michelin Clio Cup Road Series Driver Standings:
CHAMPION: Anton Spires, 323pts; 2nd Nic Harrison, 249pts; 3rd Sarah Franklin, 215pts