Smith stars at Donington with victory in only second Clio race

Team Pyro’s Brett Smith (Wellingborough) produced a remarkable performance during round six of the Michelin Clio Cup Race Series at Donington Park National Circuit this afternoon, Sunday, 1st June, to claim victory on his first weekend in the championship.

After exceeding his own expectations with a superb second place finish in round five on Saturday, his maiden Renault Clio encounter, the 22-year-old went one better today in a Safety Car affected encounter to see off experienced points leader Mike Robinson (Surbiton) and impressive privateer Paul Streather (Hinckley).

“It’s fantastic to get the win”, said Smith, “To be on the podium in the first race yesterday and then be on the top step today is more than I hoped for at the start of the weekend. The Safety Cars we had played to my advantage really, I made good re-starts and it all went well.”

Robinson’s fifth podium in as many races enabled the Total Control Racing driver to move 25 points clear of chief rival David Dickenson (Wicklow, Ireland) while Streather’s second podium of the year meant the Race Series rookie maintained his top three placing in the championship.

Pole position qualifier Andy Jordan (Bridgnorth) was unable to take the start of the race due to the damage sustained by his 2.0-litre Clio in yesterday’s encounter, so TCR team-mate Robinson was the effective pole-starter ahead of Smith and Dickenson.

Leading away from the front, Robinson held first place into Redgate but lower down the order a multi-car tangle at the right-hander resulted in the deployment of the Safety Car. Following a spin for Andy Wilkins (Harpenden), his Pyro-run car was then collected by Michelin Clio Cup Road Series competitor Sarah Franklin (Kettering) who had nowhere to go.

While Franklin was able to continue, eventually finishing on the Road Series podium for the second time this weekend, Wilkins was forced to retire his Race Series Clio and Road Series runners Jake Honour (Devizes) and John Creasey (Lincoln) were also caught-up in the melee.

Before the action fell under Safety Car conditions at the end of the opening lap, Smith managed to get alongside Robinson into McLeans and duly moved through into the lead with Dickenson third, Westbourne Motorsport’s Luke Herbert (Chichester) fourth and Streather in fifth.

At the re-start on lap five, Smith made a perfect getaway to lead Robinson by a full second across the line while Herbert applied major pressure to Dickenson. With little to separate the lead group, the action was fierce but Smith managed to stay far enough ahead of the train behind.

Herbert then turned up the wick with the fastest lap on the ninth tour but an attempt to pass for third into Redgate went awry, both drivers running wide on the exit and enabling Streather to nip through into the podium placings. The Safety Car was then redeployed on lap 11 after Brett Lidsey (Dartford) ended his race in the chicane gravel after contact from Pyro’s Ollie Pidgley (Salisbury).

Racing resumed on lap 14 for one final circuit of the Donington Park track and Smith, once again, made a textbook getaway before taking the chequered flag 0.5 seconds clear of Robinson, with Streather just 0.2 seconds further back. Dickenson claimed fourth in the end, just ahead of Herbert, with SV Racing’s Sam Randon (Ashbourne) rounding out the top six after a great drive.

“The start was fine but the first couple of laps the car felt looser than it did yesterday – we’d made a change”, explained Robinson, “Brett [Smith] made a move at McLeans, he had the inside line and I then tucked in behind him and thought I’d stay there and then have a little go at him later on.

“He was really quick during the first half of the race but then the car started to come to me during the second half. I don’t want to say too much too soon, but it’s nice to go into the eight week break with a nice lead in the championship. Brands is my local circuit, I’m looking forward to that, and hopefully we can come home from there with some more trophies.”

Third placed Streather added: “I’m absolutely thrilled to bits. Running the car myself with family and friends, being our first year in Clios, I couldn’t expect better really. I’m absolutely stoked to be where I am, running with the front guys. It’s fantastic being back on the podium.”

Westbourne Motorsport’s Anton Spires (Milton Keynes) managed to avoid the first corner dramas at the beginning of the race to hold the lead in the Michelin Clio Cup Road Series division, ahead of driver Nic Harrison (Stretton, Burton-on-Trent) and the recovering Franklin.

Dominant once more, Spires eased to a clear victory – even with the Safety Car interventions – as Harrison picked up his fourth podium of the year in second. Despite the opening lap contact, and troubles later on with her Clio coming to a standstill at one stage, lady racer Franklin managed to claim her second rostrum of the weekend.

“This win was a little bit easier”, said Spires, “I turned the first corner, luckily escaped any damage, and when I looked in my rear-view mirror there were no cars behind me. I managed to maintain a pace I was happy with, I looked after the gearbox and came through with another win. I’m very happy to have built the momentum from Oulton Park to here at Donington.”

Rounds seven and eight of the Michelin Clio Cup Race Series and Road Series will take place eight weeks from now, over the weekend 26th/27th July, at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent.

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 Rd6):
1st Mike Robinson, 154pts; 2nd David Dickenson, 129pts; 3rd Paul Streather, 117pts

Provisional 2014 Michelin Clio Cup Road Series Driver Standings (after Rd6):
1st Anton Spires, 194pts; 2nd Jake Honour, 141pts; 3rd Nic Harrison, 139pts