James Colburn (Worthing) took a richly deserved victory during the opening round of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup at a cold Brands Hatch Indy Circuit this morning, Sunday, 31st March, to get his championship bid off to the best possible start.
Overhauling Westbourne Motorsport team-mate, and pole-sitter, Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) off the line, Bushell struggling to find requisite grip on his damp grid slot, Colburn initially shot past into the lead from second place and was followed by JHR Developments’ Josh Cook (Bristol).
With his rear Dunlops not quite up to temperature though, Colburn went slightly wide at Graham Hill Bend which gave Cook the opportunity to take the inside line for Surtees and grab the lead prior to the Safety Car being deployed – the result of a start-line tangle involving Simon Belcher (Swindon), Ronnie Klos (Market Harborough) and Lithuania’s Tautvydas Barstys.
Racing resumed on lap four with Cook leading the field away but it was Colburn who started to punch in fastest lap times as he kept within just half a second of the leader. Getting the gap down to a mere 0.2 seconds into lap 10, the next time around Cook got out of shape at Graham Hill which gave Colburn the chance he’d been waiting for and he duly shot past into Surtees.
Although the top three of Colburn, Cook and Bushell remained very close throughout the second half of the season-opener, the order remained unchanged with 20-year-old Colburn chalking up the win and, with it, victory in the Graduate Cup. Cook finished runner-up, just 0.9 seconds behind, with Bushell only half a second further adrift in third.
“Last year it wasn’t great to start with so we wanted to kick this one off with a bang, I think we’ve shown that with second and first place starts for both races and now a win”, said Colburn, “I led halfway round the first lap but in Clios your rear-tyres are never quite hot enough at the start, I went a bit wide at Graham Hill so Josh [Cook] got through. Later on, he did the same though!”
Behind the top three, former single-seater racer Alex Morgan (Reading) delivered a fantastic drive for Team Pyro in his first ever saloon car race, and also his first weekend of competitive action since the end of the 2008 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 Championship, to take an excellent fourth place.
Although Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) had managed to battle through impressively into the top four from an uncharacteristic 12th on the grid, his great work was undone when he was deemed to have exceeded track limits, incurring a five second penalty. Worse was to come for the KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria driver though when he was given a drive-through penalty for the same offence.
Before serving the penalty though, Hodgetts was passed by Morgan into Paddock Hill Bend into the final lap with multiple champion Paul Rivett (Banstead) following the Welshman through to claim fifth for PER HIRE/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering.
Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) rounded out the top six for KX Racing, a great performance from 13th on the grid, ahead of Finesse Motorsport’s Jake Giddings (Wisbech), eighth placed Aaron Williamson (Spalding) – who carved his way through from 14th on the grid – Total Control Racing’s Rob Smith (Telford) in ninth and car racing rookie Ash Hand (Nuneaton) in 10th for Team Pyro.
“It was my mistake”, reflected Cook on the error which cost him the lead, “I got my foot stuck under the brake pedal going into Graham Hill, I was lucky to keep the car on. Last year was good and this is a good start, I’m looking for the championship this year and I’m just disappointed as I was in the lead. I had no testing on Friday because of engine issues, so we ran a trial set-up which worked OK.”
In the Masters Cup class, Finlay Crocker (Bathgate) opened his 2013 account with a victory in 17th place overall for Scuderia Vittoria, three spots ahead of championship newcomer Graham Field (Southwell, Nottinghamshire) in the lone 20Ten Racing entry.
Round two of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup is scheduled to get underway at 15.35 this afternoon, Sunday, 31st March, and will be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD, with the addition of live online streaming at www.itv.com/btcc
Renault UK Clio Cup is sponsored by www.buyoils.co.uk with support from ELF, NGK Spark Plugs, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.