Michelin Clio Cup Race Series championship leader Mike Robinson (Surbiton) increased the gap at the top of the standings to 19 points at Donington Park National Circuit today, Saturday, 31st May, after just managing to fend off category rookie Brett Smith (Wellingborough) for the round five win.
Getting the weekend off to the perfect start with his third pole position on the bounce, edging out hugely impressive newcomer Smith by a mere 0.039 seconds, Robinson was able to make his Total Control Racing-run Clio wide enough throughout the 12 laps to keep the Team Pyro driver at bay.
“I didn’t expect Brett [Smith] to be that close considering he hadn’t raced a Clio before, he was all over me”, said Robinson after his third victory of the season, “Every time I looked in my mirrors he was there, he had his lights on, he was trying everything! I felt like I had it under control for most of the race, it was just when we came up to lap backmarkers. It’s very nice to extend the points lead.”
Smith was nothing short of sensational on his debut weekend at the wheel of a 2.0-litre racing Clio, the car Josh Files piloted to the blue riband 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup title. Making an excellent getaway at the start of this afternoon’s race, the 22-year-old was a constant thorn in Robinson’s side but the latter used all of his experience to good effect.
The two leaders managed to pull well clear of the chasing pack, thanks in part to a lap three incident halfway down Craner Curves which resulted in the second TCR car of Andy Jordan (Bridgnorth) firing off the circuit into the barriers on the outside when in the fight for third place. In the end, Robinson managed to seal the win by just 0.178 seconds.
“I came into this with no track time really, the test on Thursday was absolutely wet, so I was really happy to be second on the grid – I was aiming for the top six”, said an elated Smith, “On the last lap I had a really good chance at Coppice, Mike [Robinson] held the middle of the road so I tried to cut to the inside but he just managed to shut the door. This has really spurred me on for tomorrow.”
Brett Lidsey (Dartford) was just as thrilled with his first podium of 2014 for local squad 20Ten Racing, which is based in Little Eaton near Derby, although he was reeled in by Westbourne Motorsport’s Luke Herbert (Chichester) during the closing stages.
Starting in ninth position, Lidsey put together an excellent opening lap to climb into fifth and when contact occurred between Jordan and Jeff Smith (Wellingborough) on the third tour he was able to sweep through to grab the final rostrum placing.
Herbert, who had qualified seventh, was elbowed down to eighth initially but produced searing pace and only just missed out on the fastest lap of the race by 0.1 seconds. Closing on Lidsey lap after lap during the second half of the race, Herbert was within only 0.192 seconds at the chequered flag.
“The podium was unexpected”, said Lidsey, “It’s my first time racing at Donington so I was a bit nervous, to say the least, not knowing the track as well as the other boys. Progression is the key and that’s what we’ve achieved today – I’m really happy, big thanks to the team.”
Jeff Smith wasn’t able to make it a father and son podium with Smith Jnr following his tangle with Jordan, but as well as finishing in the top five he posted the fastest lap – establishing the Race Series lap record for Donington’s National Circuit.
Norwegian racer Tommy Ostgaard rounded out the top six for SV Racing after an excellent drive from 10th on the grid, finishing ahead of former championship leader David Dickenson (Wicklow, Ireland) who salvaged seventh position after a robust opening lap left him firmly on the back-foot.
Pyro’s Ollie Pidgley (Downton, Salisbury) claimed eighth and the Sport Class win, having run as high fourth during the early going, while privateer Paul Streather (Hinckley) was ninth and SV’s Sam Randon (Ashbourne) completed the top 10.
Spires wins again in Road Series to increase championship advantage
Westbourne Motorsport’s Anton Spires (Milton Keynes) continued his tremendous momentum in the Michelin Clio Cup Road Series aspect of the category, taking his third consecutive victory and the bonus points for fastest lap to further increase his championship lead.
Privateer runner Luke Pinder (Shipley) put the cat among the pigeons in qualifying with a superb performance, particularly as it was his first ever weekend at Donington Park, by just shading Spires for pole position by a mere 0.074 seconds. Making it count at the start, Pinder maintained first place ahead of Spires with Jake Honour (Devizes) in third ahead of Sarah Franklin (Kettering).
Try as he might, Spires just couldn’t find a way past Pinder but as the race reached mid-distance he managed to get alongside on the run into Coppice on lap six to grab the lead. Pinder tried to stay with the championship leader, which he successfully managed, but on the last lap his car slowed and he was robbed of a deserved second place. Honour and Franklin, therefore, completed the podium.
“I concentrated on the start first of all, I fell back too many places at Oulton so I really wanted to get that right today and it was a bit better”, said Spires, “Going into Redgate I got a little bit of a tap, but still managed to come out in second, and from then on I was just trying to keep up with Luke – he had really good race pace. It was a really good race between us, I’m gutted for him he didn’t finish.”
Round six of the Michelin Clio Cup Race Series and Michelin Clio Cup Road Series will get underway at 13.40 tomorrow, Sunday, 1st June. TCR driver Jordan is expected to line-up on pole position for the first time this year, dependant on overnight repairs, with Pinder on the Road Series pole.
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 Rd5):
1st Mike Robinson, 126pts; 2nd David Dickenson, 107pts; 3rd Paul Streather, 92pts
Provisional 2014 Michelin Clio Cup Road Series Driver Standings (after Rd5):
1st Anton Spires, 160pts; 2nd Jake Honour, 141pts; 3rd Nic Harrison, 111pts