Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) and Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) delivered an impressive one-two finish for the KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria team during round 10 of the Renault UK Clio Cup season at Croft this afternoon, Sunday, 23rd June, while third place enabled Team Pyro’s Josh Files (Norwich) to move into the championship lead.
In a tense and very closely contested affair, any one of half a dozen drivers had a realistic chance of battling for the win but none were able to break down Hodgetts’ stern defence as he took his third victory of the year.
Whorton-Eales’ runner-up spot – just 0.3 seconds shy of his team-mate at the flag – marked his best ever finish in Clios, his first visit to the podium of the year and also his maiden Graduate Cup success of 2013. He was, therefore, named the ‘BuyOils.co.uk Driver of the Event’.
Files, meanwhile, heads into the six-week summer break with a three-point championship advantage after erstwhile series leader Paul Rivett (Banstead) suffered a lap one puncture, a result of contact at the first corner, and ended the race a lap down in 16th place following a pit-stop.
“It was very hard work to win that one”, said Hodgetts, “Anybody that gets off their sofa to come and watch motor racing, they deserve a good show. Whenever we come to Croft there are brilliant fans here, it’s a privilege to race in a championship like this on a package like this. It was extremely hard out there, we didn’t have the speed really and I had to use all of my experience.”
Files, who claimed his maiden Renault UK Clio Cup victory during round nine on Saturday, started today’s live, televised race from pole position but as the lights went out Hodgetts made a better launch from second place and squeezed Files out on the run to Clervaux.
Further behind, JHR Developments’ Josh Cook (Bristol) was pitched into a spin midway through the first turn and in the same melee Rivett’s Names.co.uk/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering car sustained a right-front puncture which resulted in a pit-visit and, ultimately, a slip to second in the standings.
Following the early drama, Hodgetts held the lead from Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing) with Files in third place, Whorton-Eales in fourth and the third KX Racing driver Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) in fifth.
As the lead quartet ran in a tight group, Bushell latched on and set the fastest lap of the race on only the second tour – bagging two bonus points – with a time of 1m35.340 seconds (80.24mph) with Lee Pattison (Liversedge) also making his presence felt in sixth, leading the Masters Cup comfortably.
By lap six, the top three had managed to edge away from the rest with Whorton-Eales put under more pressure by team-mate Bushell and JHR’s Pattison. At Tower Bend though, Files managed to get alongside Colburn and with some fantastic, respectful racing, the pair ran side-by-side through the daunting Jim Clark Esses with Files emerging in second.
Immediately catching Hodgetts, Files looked up the inside at the hairpin but had to back out on the exit as the leader robustly defended on the run into the start/finish straight. The delay enabled the top six to bunch up once again but still, Hodgetts remained at the front.
As the lead group lapped Simon Belcher (Swindon) on the run into Tower on lap nine – the reigning Masters Cup Champion ruing a switch to wet-weather tyres after the formation lap when expected heavy rain never arrived – Colburn tried a late-braking move on Files which cost the Pyro driver momentum and led to a slip to fourth.
Afforded some breathing space, Hodgetts’ lead went up to 0.6 seconds but Colburn quickly closed in and made a bold attempt to run around the outside of the leader at Tower on lap 11. Unfortunately for him, the move didn’t work and Whorton-Eales took full advantage to slice past for second.
With absolutely nothing between the top four into the final lap, Hodgetts managed to stay ahead of Whorton-Eales – despite a tap from his team-mate out of the hairpin – while Files was able to just pip Colburn for third on the run to the line by a mere 0.019 seconds.
“It was a very tough race”, said Whorton-Eales, “We started from sixth and just picked them off one by one, we changed positions all the time – it’s great to be on the podium. I just want to say a big thank you to my sponsors, we wouldn’t be here without them. We’ve had some bad luck this year but hopefully we can be on the podium a few more times now during the rest of the season.”
Bushell finished in fifth, within a second of the winner, but was later handed a time penalty for earlier gaining places by straight-lining the chicane and was demoted to eighth place. Masters Cup winner Pattison, therefore, inherited fifth post-race with Pyro’s Ash Hand (Nuneaton) capping a real breakthrough weekend in sixth ahead of team-mate Alex Morgan (Reading).
Spain domiciled Briton James Nutbrown was ninth for Pyro with Finesse Motorsport’s Jake Giddings (Wisbech) rounding out the top 10, bouncing back well from a non-finish on Saturday which was caused by a broken driveshaft.
Reflecting on his dramatic race, new points leader Files said: “It was a hard charge from Stef [Hodgetts] at the start, we had a little kerfuffle into the first corner but managed to get through. I could see [James] Colburn attacking Stef quite hard so I thought I’d sit back and relax a bit, then the chance arose to pass him at the Jim Clark Esses – we gave each other room and that’s what counts.
“I tried a move on Stef when we were lapping [Simon] Belcher but, unfortunately, Colburn locked-up and went into the side of me so I went back to fourth. We were all trying to fight for the same space so I’m just ecstatic I managed to get third on the line at the finish. I couldn’t believe what happened with Paul [Rivett],to be leading the championship at this stage is a great feeling.”
There is now a six week break in the Renault UK Clio Cup calendar with rounds 11 and 12 taking place over the weekend 3rd/4th August at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk.
Renault UK Clio Cup is sponsored by www.buyoils.co.uk with support from ELF, NGK Spark Plugs, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd10):
1st Josh Files, 235pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 232pts; 3rd Alex Morgan, 215pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd10):
1st Team Pyro, 452pts; 2nd Scuderia Vittoria, 371pts; 3rd JHR Developments, 335pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd10):
1st Josh Files, 273pts; 2nd James Colburn, 248pts; 3rd Josh Cook, 215pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd10):
1st Simon Belcher, 251pts; 2nd Graham Field, 236pts; 3rd Finlay Crocker, 195pts