Pole position qualifier Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) produced a faultless lights-to-flag drive at Rockingham this afternoon, Saturday, 6th September, during round 15 of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup to leapfrog Josh Cook (Bath) at the top of the championship standings.
Although challenged off the start by rapid SV Racing with KX driver Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield), Bushell saw off his rival at Deene Hairpin before gradually edging away to an eventual winning margin of over four seconds.
The VitalRacing with Team Pyro driver also posted the fastest lap to secure two crucial bonus points, helping him to move six points clear at the top of the standings and eight points ahead when the category’s double ‘drop score’ is applied.
“I’m a little bit surprised to be honest”, said the three-time race winner, “I thought in qualifying Josh [Cook] would have the better of me, but it’s all come together today. It was close going down to the first corner, luckily Ant [Whorton-Eales] out-braked himself a little bit at the hairpin and then I had to focus on trying to pull away from Jordan [Stilp].
“I never backed off, I just kept going as hard as I could, as fast as I could for as long as I could. If you’d asked me three races ago if I’d be in this position [leading the championship] I’d have said you were having a laugh!”
Erstwhile championship leader Cook faced a difficult challenge from 12th position on the grid, the result of a 10 place grid penalty from the previous event, but his hopes took a major knock – quite literally – on lap one when contact involving Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing) at Brook, while dicing over seventh, resulted in Cook running off the circuit.
Recovering in last place, the SV Racing with KX driver battled damaged steering throughout the rest of the 14 lap contest but did fight his way back through into 11th position at the flag, which now becomes one of his two lowest results.
Jordan Stilp (Potterspury), who began the race fifth on the grid, made a great start to climb into the top three and when Whorton-Eales ran wide at Deene while trying to wrest the lead from Bushell the 20Ten Racing driver gladly moved into second.
Sticking with the race leader over the first few laps, Stilp began to be dropped from lap six and he and Bushell both circulated untroubled. The runner-up spot for the 20Ten racer was enough to take the Graduate win and move him into third in the outright championship ahead of Colburn.
“To be honest, we knew we didn’t really have the pace as we missed a lot of testing yesterday with a damper problem”, said Stilp, “This is a good result, good for the team too. This is the first time I’ve had a stress-free race really this season, it was quite a good race and now we need to work on the car a little bit and hopefully try and get a win tomorrow.”
Ash Hand (Nuneaton), like Stilp, made an excellent start from the third row of the grid and was in third place out of Deene on the opening lap. Relatively unchallenged throughout, the SV Racing with KX driver ran comfortably for the duration although WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Banstead) did close him down during the latter stages with the pair split by 1.3 seconds at the flag.
Hand commented: “That was a good race for me really, I didn’t expect to do that well. We’ve had a few problems getting the pace today, yesterday we were really fast – second and third quickest all the time – but for qualifying we really struggled with the car, getting the set-up and balance. In the race, I was hoping to get a good start which we did. It was just about consistency, no mistakes.”
Rivett, who took his eighth Masters Cup class win of the season, used all of his guile and experience to neatly thread his way through the first few corners in fifth position, having started eighth, and managed to get ahead of Alex Morgan (Reading) on lap seven at Deene for fourth place.
Despite intense pressure, Morgan managed to cling onto fifth ahead of Colburn with Whorton-Eales eventually taking seventh place having lost out in a tight four car scrap over fourth position on lap six at Chapman Curve.
Championship rookie Dan Holland (Dagenham) delivered a superb performance on his Renault UK Clio Cup bow with a best lap a mere 0.3 seconds shy of Hand’s podium pace. Eventually finishing in eighth position, having started 14th on the grid after an excursion in qualifying, the JamSport driver managed to seal the place on the final lap at Deene by passing Pyro’s Lee Pattison (Scholes).
Post-race, Colburn was served with a five second time penalty for his part in the lap one tangle with Cook which drops the Westbourne driver to 10th in the amended classification. Pending the outcome of further associated judicial matters, the round 15 result remains provisional.
The second race of the weekend, round 16, will start at 13.00 tomorrow, Sunday, 7th September, and will be broadcast live on ITV4, ITV4 HD and streamed online at the www.itv.com/btcc website. Cook, who will be determined to hit back after today’s difficulties, will begin the race from pole position.
The Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup is additionally supported by ELF, Performance Friction, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup standings (after Rd15 – inc. drop scores):
1st Mike Bushell, 334pts; 2nd Josh Cook, 326pts; 3rd Jordan Stilp, 294pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd15 – inc. drop scores):
1st Josh Cook, 356pts; 2nd James Colburn, 337pts; 3rd Jordan Stilp, 335pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd15 – inc. drop scores):
1st Lee Pattison, 392pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 385pts; 3rd Mark Howard, 290pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd15):
1st SV Racing with KX, 778pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 600pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 507pts