On the eve of the eagerly awaited Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup finale at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit, the battle for the 2014 championship looks set for a true grandstand conclusion following officially timed testing at the Kent track today, Friday, 10th October.
Championship leader Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) ended the day with the fastest time of all thanks to his best lap of 1m41.148 seconds (86.60mph) from the dry morning run, but in a wet afternoon session his chief rival Josh Cook (Bath) emerged as the quickest on treaded Dunlops.
VitalRacing with Team Pyro driver Bushell was almost 0.5 seconds clear of the chasing pack during the opening session, which did begin on a drying track surface, while Cook was third behind his SV Racing with KX team-mate Ash Hand (Nuneaton) – the latter the best of the Graduate Cup runners.
Torrential rain prior to the afternoon outing resulted in a very wet surface for session two and Cook enjoyed a similar level of dominance in those conditions to that which Bushell had delivered earlier in the day.
Cook’s best time in the wet, 1m50.445 seconds (79.31mph), placed him nearly half a second clear of team-mate Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield), the latter bumping Bushell back to third in session two on his final lap of the afternoon.
“The first session was a bit of a surprise, I didn’t expect to be quite that fast as we didn’t use new tyres – we didn’t see the point with the track not being at its best”, commented Bushell, “The car felt good and then, in the wet in the afternoon, we didn’t use particularly good tyres again so I’m pleased with the day as a whole. It’s the best start to the weekend I could have hoped for.
“If I had a preference for the races, I’d like them to be wet as I’ve always been good around Brands in the rain. It’s going to be very close at the front regardless and, whatever happens, it’s been a great year. If I do win, I won’t have done it the easy way!”
Wet-weather pace-setter Cook said: “In the first session we had the pace but we tried a lot of changes as we know we have the car in the dry, we want to make sure we can try and win this weekend. After it rained, it did start to dry up in session two so I banged in two quick laps and then pitted. The others had more laps at the end but nobody was able to go as fast as we did.
“It was a good day, nice to be fastest in FP2 and even better to be half a second up the road. I’m happy with how everything is going, we’ve got the pace in the dry and this afternoon showed we have it in the wet too. Today doesn’t mean anything, but we know we have the car to try and win.”
Behind the top three for the day of Bushell, Hand and Cook, Alex Morgan (Reading) made it three SV Racing with KX cars in the top four with a lap just 0.078 seconds faster than 20Ten Racing’s Jordan Stilp (Potterspury) while Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing) was sixth quickest.
Whorton-Eales placed seventh, only a fraction shy of Colburn, with WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Banstead) the best of the Masters Cup contingent with the eighth fastest time. JamSport’s Dan Holland (Dagenham) was ninth with WDE’s Charlie Ladell (Felixstowe) completing the top 10.
Qualifying for the final two rounds of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup season will take place at 11.20 tomorrow, Saturday, 11th October, with the first of the weekend’s two races following at 16.15. On Sunday, 12th October, the final encounter of the 2014 campaign will begin at 13.30 and will be broadcast live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD with live online streaming at www.itv.com/btcc
The Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup is additionally supported by ELF, Performance Friction, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup standings (after Rd16 – minus drop scores):
1st Mike Bushell, 366pts; 2nd Josh Cook, 338pts; 3rd Jordan Stilp, 319pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd16 – minus drop scores):
1st Josh Cook, 376pts; 2nd Jordan Stilp, 367pts; 3rd Ant Whorton-Eales, 362pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd16 – minus drop scores):
1st Lee Pattison, 420pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 417pts; 3rd Mark Howard, 318pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd16):
CHAMPIONS: SV Racing with KX, 812pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 632pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 541pts