09/12/2016

Top ten season review: No.7 Paul Streather – a man on the move

After victory in the season’s opening round, not many would have predicted Paul Streather to finish 2016’s Renault UK Clio Cup in seventh – particularly given his strong race pace and an undoubted ability when it came to overtaking his rivals.
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But that was just the point. Streather was forced to overtake much more than he would have liked during the season thanks to struggles in qualifying.

Second and fifth on the grid for Brands Hatch’s opening two rounds was followed by fifth and fourth in qualifying at Donington Park. But then it went like this: 12-8 (Thruxton); 15-14 (Oulton Park); 14-9 (Croft); 14-9 (Snetterton); 9-13 (Rockingham); 19-19 (Silverstone); 8-14 (Brands Hatch GP).

Admittedly his pair of 19ths at Silverstone were down to the fact he was in a car alien to him after his original was wrecked in a heavy crash during Friday testing. Prior to that, though, at least one commentator had dubbed him ‘something of an enigma’!

“Certainly a lack of testing pre-season caught us out – all we’d done was the Media Day ten days before the season started,” says Streather. “OK, we did well at Brands Indy but it’s a circuit I love and have always gelled with and we at least kept that momentum going at Donington.

“After that our lack of experience when it came to getting the tyre turned on in qualifying told. It was frustrating because we had amazing race pace all season – I can’t emphasis just how good it was!

“But in qualifying we really needed to be in that top six. If we had been I know we’d have challenged for podiums and wins every time.”

Another factor that hindered Streather was that unlike his main rivals he had no permanent team-mate with whom to compare data. When it came to sheer race pace, however, not many were a match for Streather in his Finesse Motorsport-prepared car.

Sure his win at Brands Indy (bizarrely his only podium result all season) was a highlight but so, too, were his drives at Croft (14th to sixth and ninth to fifth), Silverstone (19th to ninth and 19th to eighth) and Brands GP (14th to sixth).

His drives at Croft and Silverstone were all the more impressive as both circuits are notoriously difficult at which to make progress. Praise should also go to his Finesse mechanics at Silverstone where they had to hastily prepare a car for him – hired from fellow team 20Ten Racing – after his Friday prang.

“The win around Brands Indy was my best race but Croft was very good too. I’d been very poorly at Oulton Park two weeks earlier and almost pulled out of the event – at Croft I still wasn’t feeling great but came away having made the best of a bad situation after qualifying.

“Silverstone qualifying was interesting. That was the first time I’d driven the 20Ten car and the seating position was all wrong – I could barely see where I was placing the car into corners. Oddly enough, when we got that right, I really gelled with that car and we’ve since bought it. I’d also never driven that circuit before so with the results we got it turned out to be a good weekend in the end.

“I do like overtaking people but I like to get the first corner out of the way first – then go and sort it out.”

So how does the Hinckley racer rate his first full season in the UK Clio Cup?

“It was a steep learning curve and a very different experience suddenly being in front of big crowds all the time. Finishing higher up would have been nice but I can’t be negative or too unhappy with seventh in a championship this size. If I’m back in 2017 then I’d know what to expect a bit more and definitely be prepared to push harder…”