Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup points leader Alex Morgan (Reading) significantly increased his advantage at the top of the championship standings at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit this afternoon, Sunday, 30th March, after taking an incredibly hard-earned second race win of the weekend.
In an enthralling encounter, in which the lead trio were nose-to-tail for almost the entire 20 laps, the Welsh racer was somehow able to keep Paul Rivett (Banstead) and Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) at bay to cap a near-perfect start to the season and open a 15-point lead in the title battle.
At the chequered flag, less than a second separated the top four runners with Morgan’s SV Racing car a mere 0.1 seconds ahead of Rivett’s WDE Motorsport machine. Team Pyro racer Bushell, who also claimed two bonus points for the fastest lap, was only 0.3 seconds further back just ahead of Graduate Cup class winner Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield).
“To start like we have this season with two poles and two wins is unbelievable”, said Morgan, “I’m so happy for the team, myself and KX Akademy and just really looking forward to the year ahead now, these guys [Rivett and Bushell] are going to be there the whole season. There are a lot of talented drivers in this championship – it’s not going to be easy.
“I absolutely love the new Clio, it’s more of a race car than the previous one and definitely suits someone like me with a single-seater background – there’s a much better braking system, with a lot more feel, so a driver like me really benefits from that. It’s a great car.”
Bushell was the main threat to Morgan early in the race after the front row qualifiers each made an even getaway, as did third and fourth placed starters Rivett and Rob Smith (Telford). Lap after lap the quartet couldn’t be separated and the group built a gap of three seconds from the chasing pack.
As the race reached mid-distance, with the top three still nose-to-tail and Smith continuing to remain in touching distance, Rivett began to apply increasing pressure to Bushell which gave Morgan a modicum of breathing space – albeit fractions of a second.
After a couple of attempts to try and get ahead of Bushell into Druids, multiple champion Rivett finally managed to unseat the Brands Hatch local with a tremendous pass around the outside into the hairpin on lap 18 – having set the move up following a good run out of Paddock Hill Bend.
Rivett, keen to try and secure a win on WDE’s first weekend in the championship, had to settle for second in the end – as well as Masters Cup success – but made Morgan work hard for the victory over the final couple of laps. Bushell held onto third while race one podium finisher Smith eventually finished in fifth position, after being passed by Whorton-Eales at Clearways with two laps to go.
“I’m over the moon with that result, I couldn’t dream of a better start to the season with everything being so last minute with our deal”, said Rivett, “I can’t believe how quick we are, it shows we’ve got the pace and potential to win. We could have had fastest lap today I think if we hadn’t been so bunched up. Even though it’s been a last minute deal to go racing this year, it hasn’t held us back.”
Third placed Bushell commented: “That was probably the most enjoyable race, and the hardest race, I’ve ever done. I’d got two of the best drivers at the front with me, I was sandwiched between them, and I think I had the pace to win. Alex [Morgan] was driving well, I was trying to signal to him to get going as I had Paul [Rivett] all over the back of me, but he pulled a wily old fox move at Druids.
“The racing with the new car is closer and it suits my driving style. With the paddleshift on the gears, it makes going into the corners tighter and it’s easier to be in control of the car more. It doesn’t get away from you too much, you can really push hard.”
Josh Cook (Bath) had been in fifth place early on, but a pass by team-mate Whorton-Eales on lap five at Paddock Hill Bend opened the door for Westbourne Motorsport team-mates James Colburn (Worthing) and Devon Modell (Maidstone) to follow him through. In the space of just two corners, Cook was shuffled back to eighth where he remained to the finish.
Lee Pattison (Scholes) recovered from a lap one spin, as he exited Surtees, to finish in ninth position for JHR Developments. Jordan Stilp (Potterspury), meanwhile, rounded out the top 10 for 20Ten Racing at the expense of Ash Hand (Nuneaton) who was given a five second penalty after being adjudged to have exceeded track limits during the course of the race.
Donington Park National Circuit in Leicestershire will host rounds three and four of the 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup three weeks from now on Easter weekend, 19th/20th April.
The Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup is additionally supported by ELF, Performance Friction, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.
2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup standings (after Rd2):
1st Alex Morgan, 64pts; 2nd Mike Bushell, 49pts; 3rd Rob Smith, 48pts
2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd2):
1st Rob Smith, 60pts; =2nd Ant Whorton-Eales/Josh Cook/James Colburn, 50pts
2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd2):
=1st Paul Rivett/Lee Pattison, 60pts; 3rd Mark Howard, 50pts
2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd2):
1st SV Racing, 111pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 95pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 66pts