27/11/2017

Reflections: 2017 Renault UK Clio Cup season was fastest of all time

Fourteen new lap records in 18 races… 2017’s Renault UK Clio Cup can justifiably go down as the fastest season in championship history.
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It would be easy to think that Mike Bushell wound up with the highest number of fastest race laps. Not so, as Max Coates equalled Bushell’s tally of four.

Bizarrely the remaining ten fastest laps – each carrying a bonus two points remember – went the way of ten different drivers: James Dorlin, Shayne Deegan, Jack McCarthy, Daniel Rowbottom, Dan Zelos, Sam Osborne, Paul Rivett, Lee Pattison, Bradley Burns and Zak Fulk.

Dorlin’s fastest lap was set on his UK Clio Cup debut. McCarthy’s, Burns’s and Fulk’s were achieved while each was still only 16 years old – the first two named also in only their second events with Fulk’s coming in his third…

Meanwhile Bushell’s qualifying form was without equal as 12 pole positions out of a possible 18 testify. Others to top qualifying were Max Coates (twice) and Zelos, Pattison, Dorlin and Lucas Orrock.

For the record Dorlin was not permitted to take up his pole in Snetterton’s second race because of a grid penalty he received in race one (this in fact allowing Coates to inherit the spot and in theory make it three poles for the season)!

Now to that record pace over the season which was perhaps the result of three key elements: increased competition as the grid grew once more in quality; teams further development of the cars (now in their fourth season) and, indisputably, the return of Michelin as the championship’s tyre supplier.

As it got back together with the UK Clio Cup for 2017, the French tyre firm brought with it a softer compound which not only produced more grip but was also able to maintain peak levels for longer in races. The results were spectacular…

Right from the off the records started to tumbled as Bushell lopped nigh on half a second off the previous best around the short Brands Hatch Indy circuit – set five years earlier by Josh Files. That is a staggering amount for such a short lap. The race record went, too, as Deegan broke Paul Rivett’s mark which had stood since 2010.

On to Donington Park, Zelos and Rowbottom achieved the first pole position and fastest race lap of their careers with new records.

Thruxton was something else. Firstly, Pattison’s 2014 qualifying record fell to Bushell whose 1m22.207s lap time – at 103.17mph – was not only eight tenths of a second quicker but also now stands as the fastest lap ever recorded in terms of average speed in a UK Clio Cup car.

The relentless pace didn’t stop there as, after 13 years of waiting, Ed Pead’s race lap record (1m23.443s) finally tumbled as Zelos rocketed round in a quite incredible 1m22.777s in race two at the high speed Hants circuits. Incidentally race one at Thruxton was won (by Bushell) at 101.06mph making it the fastest race in terms of average speed in UK Clio Cup history.

The qualifying and race lap records also fell around Snetterton’s lengthy 300 circuit configuration (to Rivett and Bushell). Ditto at Rockingham where Pattison and Coates achieved new benchmarks. Coates’s new race record there was also noteworthy for it bettered the previous best – set back in 2008 by Ben Winrow.

At Silverstone, Burns set a new race record during his charge onto the back of the leading group. Finally on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, both qualifying and race records were smashed, each by around seven tenths of a second by Bushell and Coates respectively.