Rockingham in Northamptonshire hosts the potentially pivotal penultimate two rounds of the 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup this weekend, 6th/7th September, where Josh Cook (Bath) and Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) will resume their increasingly close battle over the coveted title.
As good friends off the track but fierce rivals on it, the experienced ‘tin top’ racers have a great deal of mutual respect and heading into rounds 15 and 16 of the campaign they are separated by just 16 points at the top of the championship – only 12 points when the double ‘drop score’ rule is applied.
VitalRacing with Team Pyro’s Bushell will arrive at the Corby venue with the greater momentum of the two, having secured his second career victory at Knockhill in Scotland last time out before then backing it up with his sixth podium of the year in the subsequent encounter.
For SV Racing with KX driver Cook, who has led the championship since the third meeting of the year at Thruxton in early May, the trip north of the border to Fife just over a week ago wasn’t the most fruitful and he had to be satisfied with a brace of eighth place finishes.
That said, he remains on top in the battle for the 2014 crown – the first of the fourth generation Renault Clio era – and will be as determined as anyone to return to winning ways, and the podium at the very least, this weekend at Rockingham’s International Super Sportscar Circuit.
However, a key aspect of the eighth event will be the fact Cook will begin the opening race from 10 places further back on the grid than he qualifies as a result of a penalty applied following contact in the second Knockhill race.
Although Cook and Bushell are the two main protagonists for the prestigious crown, several other drivers remain firmly in contention with no fewer than 136 points still on offer across the final four races of the season.
Although a little way further back, Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing) is within 40 points of Cook on ‘drop scores’ – the net total whereby each driver has to deduct their lowest two results of the campaign – while 20Ten Racing’s Jordan Stilp (Potterspury) is just six shy of Colburn.
The championship top six is completed by two more SV Racing with KX drivers, Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) and early season points leader Alex Morgan (Reading). Whorton-Eales, who was in action in a previous generation Clio Cup car at Snetterton last weekend in a bid to stay ‘race sharp’, took his maiden Renault UK Clio Cup victory at Rockingham this time last year so should be one to watch.
The key feeder series to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship welcomes another new face this weekend too, with Fiesta ST Championship title contender Dan Holland (Dagenham) making his bow with JamSport in the car raced at Snetterton and Knockhill by Paul Knapp (Farningham).
In the Graduate Cup class battle, Cook holds a 17-point lead over Colburn on ‘drop scores’ although the Westbourne driver is a single point ahead on overall scores. Team Pyro’s Lee Pattison (Scholes), meanwhile, is well clear in the Masters Cup on full totals but when the drop score rule is taken into account he is only 11 points clear of WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Banstead).
Pre-event testing at Rockingham will take place on Friday, 5th September, with qualifying and round 15 of the season following on Saturday, 6th September, at 10.50 and 15.00 respectively. On Sunday, 7th September, round 16 is scheduled to start at 13.00 and will be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD with the addition of online streaming at the www.itv.com/btcc website.
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 Rd14 – inc. drop scores):
1st Josh Cook, 312pts; 2nd Mike Bushell, 300pts; 3rd James Colburn, 272pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd14 – inc. drop scores):
1st Josh Cook, 334pts; 2nd James Colburn, 317pts; 3rd Ant Whorton-Eales, 309pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd14 – inc. drop scores):
1st Lee Pattison, 364pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 353pts; 3rd Mark Howard, 268pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd14):
1st SV Racing with KX, 733pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 554pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 487pts