12/05/2017

Oulton Park next stop for record-breaking Renault UK Clio Cup season

There is just over a week to go (Sat 20/Sun 21 May) before the Renault UK Clio Cup’s record-breaking 2017 season – being played out alongside the British Touring Car Championship – arrives at Cheshire’s stunning Oulton Park circuit for its latest rounds.
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Why record-breaking and what about Oulton?
Already the UK Clio Cup’s qualifying and race lap records at Brands Hatch, Donington Park and Thruxton – three very different types of circuit – have all been annihilated in 2017. At Thruxton there was also the fastest UK Clio Cup race in history in terms of average speed.

Much of this has been down to a grippier, more durable Michelin tyre that the championship has switched to for this season and Oulton’s records surely are also under threat. Currently they are held by triple Champion Paul Rivett at 1m32.779s and 1m33.008s respectively, both set on the same weekend in 2008…

Bushell setting the pace
Five different winners in the opening six races prove just how competitive this year’s UK Clio Cup grid is but that’s not stopped Mike Bushell from building a comfortable early lead.

Team Pyro’s Bushell, the Champion in 2014, is the only driver to date to win twice in 2017 with single victories having gone to WDE Motorsport pair Lee Pattison and Rivett, Ciceley Motorsport’s Max Coates and Westbourne Motorsport’s James Dorlin.

Furthermore Bushell was on pole position for both races at Oulton 12 months ago in which he took a win and a second place. The signs are it will take something extraordinary for anyone to make serious inroads into his 35-point lead at Oulton.

Heading the chase…
Rivett is Bushell’s closest challenger but already that 35-point gap, thanks to the latter’s greater consistency, is equivalent to more than a race win. Oulton’s two races offer a maximum of 68…

Pattison, so nearly with three wins, is next up, closely followed by 18-year-old sensation Dorlin who, last weekend at Thruxton, dramatically out-foxed Bushell to win for the first time in the UK Clio Cup by just 0.064s.

Thruxton was good, too, for PP Motorsport/Westbourne’s James Colburn and DRM’s Daniel Rowbottom. Pyro pair Jack McCarthy and Nathan Harrison plus WDE’s Dan Zelos also starred, particularly in qualifying – the latter again on the front row after his pole position at Donington.

But Thruxton was horrid for Coates who, second in the standings after Donington (14 points adrift of Bushell), slumped to fifth and 62 behind. The fightback has to start at Oulton…

Pyro’s Ash Hand will surely soon start reminding everyone of the form that nearly took him to 2015’s title over BTCC stars Ashley Sutton and Ant Whorton-Eales. One should also watch for SDR’s Shayne Deegan – fast and spectacular in the opening events but who missed Thruxton.

Learning fast, Hamilton’s brother joins the grid
Likewise JamSport’s Lucas Orrock and Aaron Thompson, Pyro’s Kyle Hornby – from nearby Stockport – Westbourne’s Myles Collins and Ciceley trio Jade Edwards, Luke Reade and Sam Osborne, who showed great form at Donington. All are hunting bigger, better results as part of the learning process…

JamSport’s Graham Field joins Rivett and Pattison in the Masters Cup class for older drivers. Meanwhile Dorlin heads the Graduates Cup (for younger drivers) ahead of Harrison and McCarthy. WDE is just ahead of Pyro in a tight teams’ title battle…

Notably WDE has a new signing at Oulton in Nicolas Hamilton, younger brother of three-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton.

Where and when to watch
The Renault UK Clio Cup’s drivers will first be on track at Oulton on the Friday (19 May) for two timed test sessions, allowing them to fine-tune their cars to the circuit’s characteristics. At 10:55 on Saturday comes the crucial half-hour timed qualifying session which will determine their starting grid positions for the two races, the first of which (round seven of the season) takes place that afternoon at 15:15. Round eight follows on Sunday at 13:25. Both races are 12 laps in duration. As ever the event – featuring the latest rounds of the BTCC – will be broadcast live on the Sunday on ITV4, from 11:15-18:00