Total Control Racing’s Mike Robinson (Surbiton) claimed his third win on the bounce and sixth victory of the Michelin Clio Cup Race Series campaign at Snetterton 300 Circuit this afternoon, Saturday, 30th August, to open up a 48-point lead in the championship title chase.
With any one of five drivers in with a chance of winning round nine, the action at the front was spectacular and nose-to-tail for almost the entire duration. Robinson led from lights-to-flag and, despite immense pressure, held off Westbourne Motorsport’s Luke Herbert (Chichester) to win with Team Pyro’s Brett Smith (Wellingborough) rounding out the Race Series podium.
“That was hectic to say the least”, said Robinson, “I thought at one point, especially at the beginning, there was a lot of squabbling going on behind so I might be able to get away but Brett [Smith] was very quick down the start-finish straight and kept coming back at me every time. Fair play to everyone, I don’t think there was any contact in that race but it was one of the most hard-fought.”
Anton Spires (Milton Keynes), meanwhile, dominated the Michelin Clio Cup Road Series aspect of the encounter for Westbourne to theoretically clinch the class crown. Increasing his advantage at the top of the Road Series standings to 99 points, with the category’s ‘drop score’ ruling taken into account Spires is still 75 points clear so the championship win will be a formality tomorrow.
“I had no idea what was going on in the first corner as we were three abreast, so I was cautious and dropped to third”, explained Spires, “I managed to get on the inside of Jake [Honour] at the second corner, then I saw the gap for the lead at Agostini so thought I better take it otherwise I may not get another chance. The main aim was to focus on keeping it smooth and taking the points.”
Broadcast live on Motors TV, the first ever television coverage for the Clio Cup Series, today’s race was sensational throughout and Robinson delivered a masterclass at the front of the field as he came under attack from all angles.
Before the action got underway, however, an unfortunate incident on the green flag lap, in which Andy Jordan (Bridgnorth) unintentionally made contact with Brett Lidsey (Dartford), resulted in both drivers being forced to retire before the race proper began with significant damage.
When the remainder of the field returned to form up on the grid, Robinson made a decent getaway from pole and saw off a fast-starting Smith on the run into Riches, with Herbert holding third ahead of Renault UK Clio Cup regular Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) and Paul Streather (Hinckley).
Unable to shake-off his pursuers, the stage was set for a vintage Clio Cup race and the lead drivers didn’t disappoint with some sensational close and fair racing, without the merest hint of contact. On lap two, the top five held a gap over sixth placed David Dickenson (Wicklow, Ireland) and of anyone, fourth placed Whorton-Eales looked the most eager to try and make a move.
Sizing up a pass on Herbert at Montreal on lap three, the SV Racing driver wasn’t able to make the move stick and the loss of momentum enabled privateer racer Streather to storm past on the run into Agostini.
It didn’t take long, though, for Whorton-Eales to recover and by lap five he was into third place ahead of both Herbert and Streather and all over the back of second placed Smith. At the start of lap six, only 0.5 seconds separated the lead trio and Whorton-Eales again readied an attack, taking second at Montreal from Smith who then slipped behind Herbert into Agostini.
Pushing hard, Whorton-Eales challenged for the lead at Montreal on lap seven but after locking-up the brakes he slipped back to fourth. Herbert, therefore, became Robinson’s next concern but the TCR man managed to see off his rival by 0.6 seconds at the chequered flag on lap 10.
Herbert, delivering his most competitive showing of 2014, impressed with such a hard-fought second place and also posted the fastest lap to claim two bonus points. Smith finished third, three seconds shy of the top two in the end, to just hold off Whorton-Eales, Dickenson and Streather.
“It was mad, I’m surprised we all stayed on the track as it was chopping and changing so much”, said an elated Herbert after the race, “What’s let us down all season has been my qualifying, it’s not been the car or the team, I’ve just been too worked up and had too much anxiety to get out there.
“What we worked on this weekend was focusing on being smooth, keeping it cool and I ended up qualifying near the front. The team has done a fantastic job in all aspects, it’s been a really brilliant start to the weekend.”
Championship debutant Ben Davis (Much Marcle) delivered a real star performance on his maiden outing in Renault Clios, securing the Sport Class victory by finishing in a highly impressive seventh overall for Finesse Motorsport Ltd/TECS Distribution.
Fellow youngster Ollie Pidgley (Downton) was eighth for Team Pyro after managing to usurp 20Ten Racing’s Sam Randon (Ashbourne) late on. Another Race Series newcomer, Alex Reed (Horsham), rounded out the top 10 for SV Racing.
Although under pressure from Nic Harrison (Stretton) and the returning Jake Honour (Devizes) off the start, Road Series champion-elect Spires stamped his authority on the class early on and he eventually won by a country mile from second placed Honour who, in turn, was some 15 seconds clear of third placed Jonathan Creasey (Lincoln) – the latter enjoying his best result of the year.
Tomorrow, Sunday, 31st August, the Michelin Clio Cup Race Series and Road Series will have separate encounters with the former’s race beginning at 11.45 and the Road Series contest getting underway at 14.00.
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 Rd9):
1st Mike Robinson, 250pts; 2nd David Dickenson, 202pts; =3rd Paul Streather & Luke Herbert, 185pts
Provisional 2014 Michelin Clio Cup Road Series Driver Standings (after Rd9):
1st Anton Spires, 289pts; 2nd Sarah Franklin, 190pts; 3rd Nic Harrison, 187pts