Victory in round four of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup at Donington Park this afternoon, Sunday, 20th April, capped off a superb double-winning weekend for SV Racing with KX driver Josh Cook (Bath) as well as elevating him to within just four points of the championship lead.
On a remarkable day for Cook and also for Danny Buxton’s SV Racing squad, the KX Akademy backed driver headed home a sensational one, two, three, four finish for the Cheshire team – Cook taking the chequered flag over two seconds clear of Ash Hand (Nuneaton) with points leader Alex Morgan (Reading) third and Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) just missing the podium by 0.6 seconds.
While his round three success earlier in the day came in very tricky wet conditions, round four took place on an almost completely dry track surface. No matter what the weather threw at the weekend, though, Cook ultimately proved unstoppable with another win as well in the Graduate Cup class.
“As soon as I managed to break away from the guys and they were out of my tow, I knew I could get my head down and get some qualifying laps in”, said the double winner, “I couldn’t have asked for much more, it’s been absolutely brilliant and hopefully we can take this momentum into Thruxton.”
For SV Racing team principal Buxton, the top four lock-out proved highly emotional: “It’s incredible, I’m hugely overwhelmed. There has been so much hard work over the winter to bridge a gap we knew was there to [Team] Pyro as they ran the car in Europe last year. We’re not all the way there yet, I’m not under any illusions, but fair play to the boys – this is an amazing result.”
Not dissimilar to his round three display, Cook was able to dominate the second of the weekend’s races as the chasing pack spent the entirety of the encounter tripping over each other in the battle for podium glory.
Jordan Stilp (Potterspury) began the race on pole position, his first ever in Clios, but contact between the 20Ten Racing driver and fellow front-row starter Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) yards from the grid enabled Cook to sweep through for the lead – having qualified in fourth place.
As Bushell moved across to the right-hand side of the track, Stilp maintained his course and the inevitable contact unfortunately sent the Team Pyro car spearing back across the circuit into the barriers on the outside of the track.
Resulting in the deployment of the Safety Car, when racing resumed on lap four Cook led a top six comprising Morgan, Hand, Whorton-Eales, the delayed Stilp and WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Banstead). Whorton-Eales was eager to make quick progress and with a late move on the brakes at Redgate he snatched third from Hand while, further around the lap, Rivett took fifth from Stilp.
An absolute battle royal raged for the duration of the 16 lap contest between the SV Racing quartet, Stilp and Rivett, providing sensational viewing for the thousands of trackside spectators and those watching at home live on ITV4, with James Colburn (Worthing) also coming into the picture during the closing stages for Westbourne Motorsport.
At the end of lap six, Whorton-Eales dropped down to the tail of the lead battle after running wide over the gravel at the chicane but he was able to work his way back ahead of Stilp and Rivett before the finish. Morgan also had a moment of his own, on a patch of water on lap eight, which enabled his pursuers to really turn up the heat through the final third of the race.
At the end of lap 11, Hand got alongside Morgan on the run to the chicane and with neither driver wishing to back off both ended up taking a trip across the gravel. Hand emerged in second place with Morgan then forced to fight a rear-guard action against Rivett and Whorton-Eales.
Into the final lap, Cook was well clear with Hand having cemented second place as his own following his most competitive drive of the season. The dual over third position, though, was far from finished as Morgan, Whorton-Eales and Rivett were almost three abreast down Craner Curves.
As Morgan somehow fended off his attackers to seal his third podium of the year, Whorton-Eales took fourth and Rivett managed to claim fifth on the line – as well as the Masters Cup win – despite having slipped back to sixth at McLeans when Stilp, who set the fastest lap of the race, got ahead.
“It was absolutely unbelievable how hard that race was, it was hectic”, reflected Hand, “At one point I was fifth, then I was second, then I was fifth again – you really never knew at any point where you were going to finish. Once I broke away from the train near the end, I knew I’d be fine.”
Morgan, who clings on to the lead of the championship, added: “I’m massively relieved with this podium, we’ve had some massive issues through testing and qualifying. I made a brilliant start, got into second and then my heart sank with the Safety Car. I’m happy to get third place though.”
Colburn finished seventh, just 0.3 seconds shy of the top six, with team-mate Devon Modell (Maidstone) eighth just ahead of Pyro’s Rob Smith (Telford) and JHR Developments driver Lee Pattison (Scholes). In a local East Midlands battle, 20Ten Racing’s Craig Milner (Matlock) managed to see off the challenge of Mark Fish Motorsport’s Mark Howard (Westborough) for 11th position.
There is now a two week break in the 2014 calendar with rounds five and six of the season set to take place at Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire over the weekend 3rd/4th May.
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 Rd4):
1st Alex Morgan, 107pts; 2nd Josh Cook, 103pts; 3rd Ant Whorton-Eales, 80pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd4):
1st Josh Cook, 114pts; 2nd Ant Whorton-Eales, 103pts; 3rd Rob Smith,96pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd4):
1st Paul Rivett, 124pts; 2nd Lee Pattison, 116pts; =3rd Mark Howard & Craig Milner, 94pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd4):
1st SV Racing with KX, 228pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 145pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 130pts