Races five and six of the inaugural Michelin Clio Cup Series with Protyre brought yet more wins for Luke Herbert (Chichester) at Rockingham International Super Sportscar Circuit over the weekend, 10th/11th August, taking his tally of victories for the season to five.
While the end result may have been the same as it has for all but one race this year, Herbert did have to work harder than ever to see off the threat of ever-improving first time podium finisher Andy Jordan (Bridgnorth) and seasoned campaigner Peter Felix (Allestree) in both encounters.
Norway’s Tommy Ostgaard maintained his unbroken run of wins in the ‘Roadcar’ class but, like Herbert, he had to fight for it – particularly in the opening race on Saturday which delivered a monumental three-way battle with Sam Randon (Ashbourne) and Jake Honour (Melksham).
Herbert started on pole position for the opening race, qualifying 0.3 seconds clear of Jordan, and by holding the inside line he was able to maintain first place through Deene Hairpin. Jordan, though, lost second on the exit to 20Ten Racing’s Felix with the latter’s team-mate Darren Wilson (Newark) running in fourth ahead of Procom Team Racing’s David Pierce (Larkfield).
Herbert led Felix by just 0.5 seconds heading into lap two, with Jordan and Wilson not far behind, but the pace-setter was able to pull out an advantage over his pursuers and by lap six his lead was almost three seconds. Although struggling with his tyres towards the end, Herbert had enough in hand to take his fourth victory of the year by 1.5 seconds.
“Every race is getting more difficult”, said the winner, “At Snetterton I had a massive lead, at Croft I didn’t win both of the races and now, at Rockingham, they’re getting closer! Looking in my mirrors and seeing them [Jordan and Felix] scrapping was a relief, especially when my tyres went off.”
Felix held second position until lap six at Deene when relentless pressure from Jordan finally told, the latter diving past on the brakes. In his attempts to stay with Jordan, Felix then tried a bit too hard and dropped a long way back after a big moment exiting Gracelands on lap 10.
Brett Lidsey (Dartford) fought his way through into fourth, having slipped to seventh place on the opening lap, with James Weston (Tunbridge Wells) fifth for Scuderia Vittoria ahead of Wilson – the 20Ten driver losing a potential top four after a moment early on. Pierce, meanwhile, took seventh.
“Luke [Herbert] just managed to get inside me at the start, then I sat back a bit and tried not to put too much pressure on him so we could both get away”, explained Jordan, “Eventually he was able to pull away though. I did start to reel him in a bit towards the end, just not enough.”
In the ‘Roadcar’ class, season-long dominator Ostgaard started on pole position but through Turn One he ran three abreast with SWB Motorsport team-mate Randon and the similar Clio Renaultsport 197 of competition rookie Honour.
Randon managed to emerge from a fantastic early scrap with the class lead but the battle continued until mid-distance with all three youngsters chopping and changing positions. On lap two, Ostgaard dived up the inside of Randon for the lead at Tarzan but as they held each other up, privateer runner Honour was able to move to the front of the pack into Brook.
Getting good drive through Turn One in Honour’s slipstream, Randon dived back through on the inside at Deene to re-take the Roadcar lead but Honour soon headed the trio again until Ostgaard made his way by at Deene on lap four.
As Randon and Honour fought hard over second place, Ostgaard was finally able to break clear from mid-distance and eventually sealed his fifth win from five starts by 5.6 seconds. The fight for second raged until the closing stages when a moment for Randon on lap 10 enabled Honour to take his best result of the season after, by far, his most competitive run of the campaign.
“I had a bad start so Sam [Randon] and Jake [Honour] were on both my sides”, said Ostgaard, “We kept swapping positions for most of the laps until I got a gap on Jake and then I just controlled the race. It was a really exciting race, I’m really pleased to win that one.”
Herbert and Ostgaard on top again in Race Six
Race six qualifying on Sunday was incredibly tight with Jordan getting within just 0.080 seconds of Herbert’s pole position time on his final lap of the session. Felix just shaded Wilson for third by a mere 0.004 seconds during the closing minutes while Ostgaard was quickest in the Roadcar class.
Herbert and Jordan made a fairly even start to the race but Felix was the fastest away from the line and surged through from third place to challenge for the lead at Turn One. Boldly hugging the inside line through the Oval banking, Felix edged ahead and Jordan grabbed second to elbow Herbert down to third at Deene. At Tarzan, though, Herbert hit back to retake second from Jordan.
Although Felix was able to initially break away to a lead of around one second, Herbert and Jordan soon latched onto his tail with the trio as one through Deene on lap three. Herbert set the fastest lap on the third tour but Felix hit back the next time around, determined to stay ahead.
Herbert wasn’t to be denied though and after posting the fastest lap on the fifth tour he dived up the inside of Felix on the brakes at Tarzan on lap six – slight contact delaying both. Out of the turn, Felix was able to nose back ahead into Brook but Herbert had better drive out of the chicane onto the Oval and moved past for the lead into Turn One.
Felix, who was unable to fight the move on the outside line, also lost out to Jordan so was shuffled back from the lead to third in the space of two corners. Herbert pulled away from that point forward and stamped his authority on the race to take his second win of the weekend by 4.1 seconds.
“Peter’s start was good, although he was over the white line around the first part of the banking, but if I was in the same situation I’d have done exactly the same”, said Herbert, “I managed to get back past Andy [Jordan] on the first lap and then Peter was a little bit more difficult.”
Although struggling with the steering on his Clio after the scrape with Herbert, Felix managed to drive around the issue and closed back in on Jordan as Wilson also joined in the party. On lap 12, Wilson closed right up behind his team-mate and dived past Felix into Deene to take third.
At Brook, though, a spin for Wilson while tight behind Jordan dropped him out of the podium reckoning. Felix re-assumed third, which he held to the flag, with Lidsey coming through to take fourth ahead of Weston and the recovering Wilson.
“I thought I drove a lot better in that race than Saturday’s”, said Felix, “I got a good start, I was happy in the lead, then Luke nibbled down the inside and I didn’t want to defend too much to back everyone up. He came through and smacked the right-front corner and that put the steering out. So I had to adapt my driving to the understeer but it was a cracking race.”
In the Roadcar class, Randon moved into the lead on lap one after a good getaway but Ostgaard hit back soon after and controlled things thereafter. Randon remained in touch though, crossing the finish line just a couple of seconds shy of his team-mate. Honour’s race, meanwhile, ended on lap eight when he retired his Clio with possible electrical gremlins.
Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent will host the final two races of the inaugural Michelin Clio Cup Series with Protyre season on 21st/22nd September.
Along with headline sponsors Michelin and Protyre, the Clio Cup Series is additionally supported by Safety Devices, Mark Fish Motorsport, The Lubricant Consultancy and NGK Spark Plugs.