Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) climbed into the top four of the Renault UK Clio Cup driver standings at Rockingham in Northamptonshire this afternoon, Saturday, 14th September, after converting pole position into victory in round 13 of the season.
Marking the KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria racer’s fourth win of the campaign, the team actually celebrated a fantastic one-two finish with Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) producing a stunning drive through the order from 12th on the grid – the pair split by just 0.4 seconds at the finish. It was also Whorton-Eales’ second Graduate Cup class win of 2013.
“It’s great to have another win, it’s a fantastic venue here at Rockingham”, said Hodgetts, “Ant [Whorton-Eales] kept me very, very honest. I wasn’t cruising at all, I was driving the car as fast as I could and he did a great job to finish second. We’ve got the car hooked-up really well this weekend.”
In terms of the championship battle, things took a very dramatic twist when Paul Rivett (Banstead) was sent into retirement on the second lap after sustaining a broken left-front wheel in an incident with JHR’s Josh Cook (Bristol) at Yentwood.
“I feel my championship is wrecked now”, said the Names.co.uk /Stancombe Vehicle Engineering racer, “I was pushed wide on the exit of the hairpin, then I was sitting on the inside for the next corner…there was contact and it pretty much ripped the wheel off the front of the car.”
With series leader Josh Files (Norwich) ending the race in third position, and claiming the additional bonus points for fastest lap, the Team Pyro driver now holds a 28-point advantage on ‘drop scores’ ahead of tomorrow’s encounter.
After a truly dominant performance on slick Dunlop tyres in damp conditions during this morning’s qualifying session, Hodgetts lined-up on pole position for the first of the weekend’s outings. Despite being beaten off the line by fellow front-row starter Jake Giddings (Wisbech), the KX Racing Clio of Hodgetts had the inside line for Turn One and he maintained the lead at Deene Hairpin.
As the 25-strong pack of Clios descended on the sharp left-hander, though, Giddings was pitched into a highly unfortunate spin on the exit. Managing to recover back into the race, the Finesse Motorsport driver eventually took the chequered flag in 15th position.
Through the ensuing second corner chaos emerged Juta Racing’s Ignas Gelzinis behind Hodgetts with the incredibly fast-starting Whorton-Eales slicing his way into the top three ahead of Files, Scuderia Vittoria’s Devon Modell (Maidstone) and Pyro’s Alex Morgan (Reading).
Following the tangle involving Cook and Rivett on lap two, from which the JHR driver was able to continue, the Safety Car was deployed and racing remained under caution until the beginning of lap six. At the re-start, Hodgetts made a perfect getaway and managed to pull a healthy gap over the chasing pack through the first few corners.
Out of Pif-Paf, Whorton-Eales sealed a move on Gelzinis for second place and the Lithuanian was then nudged further back down the order to an eventual finish just outside the top 10. Whorton-Eales, though, closed up to team-mate Hodgetts and the pair ran within little more than half a second of each other for the remainder of the 16 lap duration.
“We had a fantastic first lap, it was a bit of a blur really”, said a delighted Whorton-Eales, “I’d like to say a massive thanks to the team, the car has been fantastic so far this weekend. We’ve had an unlucky season really, we’re not in the position in the championship we hoped we’d be in so we’re just aiming for a strong end to the year now.”
Files, as soon as he had made his way into third midway through the first lap after the re-start, ran a sensible race knowing Rivett’s car was stranded on the sidelines. Ending the encounter 2.6 seconds adrift of the KX Racing duo, the championship leader was comfortably clear of the rest.
“We wanted to come here and try and extend the lead we had which, so far, we’ve done”, reflected Files, “There’s always tomorrow yet, the weather forecast doesn’t look the best so anything can happen! We’ve had a good day, no two ways about it, and to get fastest lap as well was great.”
Fourth place for Modell marked the best finish of the car racing rookie’s debut season and he certainly had to work hard for it, securing the result after a highly entertaining multi-car scrap with Morgan, Masters Cup class pace-setter Lee Pattison (Liversedge) and Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing).
With positions changing lap after lap, Modell made the decisive pass on Morgan three laps from the finish at Deene. Colburn just managed to see off Pattison to complete the top six with the Masters class winner less than a second ahead of a very competitive Josh Wakefield (Colchester). Cook and Pyro’s Ash Hand (Nuneaton) rounded-out the top 10.
Championship returnee Peter Felix (Derby), moving up from the club-level Clio Cup Series, put together a strong race to climb through from 24th on the grid into 14th position in his 20Ten Racing car. Felix, who last raced in the Renault UK Clio Cup in 2008, had issues with incorrect tyre pressures in qualifying but overcame that in the race with a stellar performance.
Round 14 of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup season is scheduled to begin at 14.40 tomorrow, Sunday, 15th September, and will be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD with 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.
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd13 inc. drop score):
1st Josh Files, 314pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 286pts; 3rd Alex Morgan, 266pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd13):
1st Team Pyro, 597pts; 2nd Scuderia Vittoria, 505pts; 3rd JHR Developments, 431pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd13 inc. drop score):
1st Josh Files, 351pts; 2nd James Colburn, 298pts; 3rd Josh Cook, 286pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd13 inc. drop score):
1st Simon Belcher, 307pts; 2nd Lee Pattison, 288pts; 3rd Graham Field, 283pts