Alex Morgan (Reading) got his 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup title campaign off to a perfect start during qualifying at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit this morning, Saturday, 29th March, after sealing pole position for the opening two rounds of the season – his first poles in the championship.
In a hugely competitive half hour session, under bright Kent skies, the KX Akademy driver steered his turbo-powered SV Racing Clio to a fastest lap of 52.546 seconds (82.75 mph) with 10 minutes left and his previous best of 52.587 seconds remained good enough for the race two pole.
“The weekend started really well on Friday with quick times and I knew I just had to do the same again today in qualifying”, said the 2013 Vice-Champion, “The first set of tyres went perfectly, I got good space, and although it was troublesome on the second set I’m really happy to have double pole. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in during the races now – we’ve done the hard work.”
While Morgan was rapid throughout, he was under major pressure with a mere 0.059 seconds ultimately covering the top three drivers. Team Pyro’s Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) will line-up second on the grid for both of the weekend’s races, the first of the new fourth generation era in the Clio Cup, and is well placed to challenge for his maiden series victory at his home track.
Multiple champion Paul Rivett (Banstead), doubling-up his duties as racing driver with the role of team manager at WDE Motorsport for the first time, was ecstatic with third position on the grid for both races – particularly being so close in terms of time to pole position. His performance also netted the Masters Cup class pole for each encounter.
“I’m absolutely over the moon with that”, said the Renault UK Clio Cup stalwart, “We had a gearbox issue at the end of the session we didn’t need, I think if it wasn’t for that I’m pretty sure we could have gone P1 as it’s so tight. I am so, so pleased with third though.
“For me, engineering for the first time properly and having less than two hours running in the car, I’m delighted. We have a car capable of being on the front of the grid and, hopefully, we’ll have good race pace as well. With it being a new car, I really didn’t think we’d be where we are already.”
Rob Smith (Telford) was also in excellent form, securing a career-best fourth on the grid for rounds one and two and also bagging his maiden Graduate Cup class pole positions in the process. His best lap of 52.761 seconds (82.42 mph) was just 0.2 seconds shy of the outright pole and a mere 0.025 seconds faster than the quickest time from KX Akademy driver Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield).
Josh Cook (Bath), who was quickest during pre-event practice on Friday, placed sixth for SV Racing ahead of team-mate Ash Hand (Nuneaton). Lee Pattison (Scholes), second of the Masters Cup class contenders, was eighth fastest for JHR Developments ahead of Westbourne Motorsport pairing James Colburn and Devon Modell (Maidstone) – just 0.4 seconds separating the overall top 10.
Behind the lead quartet of Morgan, Bushell, Rivett and Smith on the grid for race two, which will take place on Sunday, will be Cook in fifth ahead of Whorton-Eales, Pattison and Colburn with Modell and Hand completing the top 10.
Round one will get underway at 16.25 this afternoon, Saturday, 29th March, with the second race of the season following tomorrow, Sunday, 30th March, at 15.30 with live coverage on ITV4 and ITV4 HD, plus live streaming online at www.itv.com/btcc
The Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup is additionally supported by ELF, Performance Friction, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.