It’s fair to say Thomas Grundy’s Renault UK Clio Cup career started with a bang! But following a nasty accident in Brands Hatch’s opening round of the year, the 17-year-old is fast finding his feet and has gone into the mid-season break off the back of two breakthrough top ten results…
  • Grundy-2.jpg
  • Grundy-02.jpg
  • 1671475.0003.jpg

Dubai to Britain is a long way to travel for a race that lasts just three corners but that’s what happened to Grundy in Brands Hatch’s opening round when, exiting Graham Hill Bend, he collected the spun car of JamSport Racing team-mate Dan Holland.

Damage to both was substantial although Grundy’s was repaired in time for Donington Park’s three races – three to make up for the Brands race that was called off (while Grundy and Holland could both be safely extricated from their cars).

Donington provided some compensation with 12th and 14th place results in races one and three, although there was a retirement in race two when “I found out how fast even a Clio Cup car won’t go through the Old Hairpin”.

It had been a rocky start for the youngster meaning if he was to quickly get his season back on track then it would have to start at no less daunting a place than Thruxton – the fastest and most feared circuit on the calendar.

“The shunt at Brands – I could see things kicking off further ahead and just chose to jink left to avoid running into the back of George Jackson’s car. It was the wrong side… Suddenly there was Dan’s car. It was a mighty hit and I still get a bit stiff from it sometimes,” recalled Grundy when examining his first half of the season.

“Donington was full of little dramas: a penalty in race one for a scrape with another driver; my off at the Old Hairpin in race two; another big spin onto the grass after a moment with Rory Green on the run up to McLeans in race three. But at least I ended up with a smile on my face – Freddie Hunt and Mark Howard were not far ahead of me going into the chicane on the last lap and they tangled and I immediately made up two places just a few hundred yards before the finish line.”

With no prior experience of Thruxton, however, Grundy’s prospects at the Hampshire circuit perhaps looked bleak. Instead the youngster impressed with his application and two more solid points finishes were the result.

Grundy added: “I had a new shell for Thruxton which did help but I’d not been able to do the pre-season test there and the only other test available which I’d planned to do I couldn’t because this time I was still recovering from the Brands Hatch crash. I went into qualifying totally cold. Twenty minutes to build up to a couple of flying laps around there isn’t the perfect preparation!

“In the races I really started to get into a groove around there despite a very hairy moment around the back on the grass. The highlight was sending it up the inside of Howard on the brakes into the chicane on the last lap for another place.”

Oulton Park brought two more hard-fought points results (14th and 12th). Grundy said: “I like it around there – it’s very rewarding when you get a good lap in there and even more rewarding when you pass people on a track like that. I got by Graham Field on two wheels which was a good feeling.”

And then came Croft. For the first time in 2015 Grundy out-qualified highly rated team-mate Holland with the eighth fastest time outright – notably he was within a second of three-time champion Paul Rivett’s pole position lap. He then held that position throughout race one and went on to add a ninth in race two. Suddenly it was not one but two top ten results.

“I’d say it was a mental block that was stopping me,” admitted Grundy. “After the Brands shunt I went out in my old Fiesta race car to prove I could still do the same performance. I could and that restored my confidence. Then it’s been a case of finding a bit more performance and so I did another test – with the Clio Cup car – before we got to Croft, at Donington.

“I simply dared myself to push that bit harder with the car at Croft and it paid off. That first race was tough because Collingbourne was close behind and even though the gap yo-yoed between us I knew I couldn’t make a mistake or he would be past.

“I’m confident looking ahead to the rest of the season. I’d say the racing in the Clio Cup is closer than I’ve known before – certainly you feel more like a warrior going into battle! But hopefully the bad luck has gone, for now at least. Things are clicking and working like they should.

“You have to remember it’s the team’s first full season too so they don’t have any data to refer to from 2014. Everyone is learning as they go along. Knockhill and Brands Hatch GP are two more circuits I’ve never been on but I’m feeling good about things. We said all along that 2015 would be a learning year – a recce if you like ahead of going for some big results in 2016.”