Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire, the fastest track on the Renault UK Clio Cup calendar, will welcome the 24-strong grid of aspiring touring car racers this coming weekend, 4th/5th May, with three-time champion Paul Rivett (Banstead) leading the way after a famous double win last time out.
Carrying a 13-point advantage into rounds five and six of the 2013 season, the category veteran was a late addition to the championship just a couple of days prior to the start of the season at Brands Hatch, but the lack of testing has proven no barrier to the multiple title winner.
Running under the rebranded team entry of Names.co.uk/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering from this weekend forward, Rivett will be aiming to add to his healthy points cushion but he won’t find that task easy with some ultra-quick young chargers snapping at his heels.
Heading the pursuit is saloon car racing newcomer Alex Morgan (Reading) who has enjoyed a superb start to his ‘tin-top’ career with Team Pyro. Starring during the season-opener at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, winning only his second ever race in front-wheel drive, the ex-Formula Renault runner added another podium at Donington Park just over a week ago and is yet to finish outside the top four.
Seven points further behind Morgan is team-mate Josh Files (Norwich) who, after a disappointing start to the campaign in rounds one and two, came to the fore at Donington to provide Rivett with the sternest possible challenge.
The consistent front-runner was just 0.013 seconds away from victory in round four, following a sensational door handle-to-door handle battle with Rivett, and will be keen to try and chalk up his elusive first win at Thruxton before heading off to begin his dovetailed Eurocup Clio campaign the following weekend at Imola in Italy.
Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing), who led the championship after the first two rounds, will arrive in Hampshire fourth in the driver standings after a difficult weekend at Donington. Having won both Thruxton races last year though, and setting the pace during the rain-affected official test day earlier this month, the erstwhile points leader will be a true threat.
Leading the next group of drivers is fifth placed Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) who, despite not yet having visited the podium in 2013, has put together a consistent run of strong finishes for the KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria squad.
Just three points behind Whorton-Eales is double podium finisher Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells), a non-finish last time out costing the Westbourne driver a possible place in the top four of the title race. Seventh placed Jake Giddings (Wisbech), meanwhile, took a season’s best fourth position in the second of the Donington races and is now only two points adrift of Bushell.
In the Graduate Cup class Files and Colburn are level-pegging on 106 points while, in the Masters Cup battle, Graham Field (Southwell, Nottinghamshire) leads the way by virtue of his consistent scoring. The married father of five, though, has Finlay Crocker (Bathgate, West Lothian), reigning class champion Simon Belcher (Swindon) and Lee Pattison (Liversedge) closing in fast.
Finally, in the WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy, Team Pyro has opened a healthy advantage over Westbourne with Scuderia Vittoria third, only six points ahead of the single-car Stancombe entry of outright championship leader Rivett.
Qualifying for the fifth and sixth rounds of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup will take place at 11.20 on Saturday, 4th May, with the first race of the weekend following at 16.35. On Sunday, 5th May, round six, which will be screened live on ITV4, ITV4 HD and streamed online at the www.itv.com/btcc website, is scheduled to get underway at approximately 12.40.
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 Rd4):
1st Paul Rivett, 114pts; 2nd Alex Morgan, 101pts; 3rd Josh Files, 94pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd4):
1st Team Pyro, 190pts; 2nd Westbourne Motorsport, 158pts; 3rd Scuderia Vittoria, 118pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd4):
=1st Josh Files & James Colburn, 106pts; 3rd Ant Whorton-Eales, 90pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd4):
1st Graham Field, 100pts; 2nd Finlay Crocker, 89pts; 3rd Simon Belcher, 84pts