Returning 2014 Champion Bushell was more than half a second clear of the rest on fastest overall times which set the grid order for the first of tomorrow’s races.
But then on second-best times (which determine race two’s grid order) he stretched that to an astonishing 0.989s – the biggest gap ever seen between first and second positions in a UK Clio Cup qualifying session. To put his effort into perspective, less than a second covered the next 17 drivers…
Team Cooksport’s Lee Pattison (Scholes), another of the title protagonists, qualified second fastest for the first race as did WDE Motorsport’s championship leader Paul Rivett (Epsom Downs) for race two.
However for race one’s grid Rivett was only eighth. For race two Pattison was down in tenth after major dramas during his second qualifying run which saw him leave the track at 110mph while avoiding spinning Cooksport team-mate George Jackson (Bedford).
Bushell, yet to win a race in 2016, commented: “That’s more like it – we knew we had to get back to qualifying on the front row of the grid and to do it in style like that is very rewarding. It’s quite spooky how history seems to be repeating itself – my first pole of 2014 was at Thruxton with Pattison alongside me and of course I ended up winning the title. It’s best I don’t think about that too much and instead concentrate on staying in front tomorrow.”
Pattison said: “That was quite a hairy moment with my team-mate but at least we are here in one piece still – we can fight from the front row but race two is going to be a bit harder.”
And added Rivett: “I’m very happy with second for race two but when it came down to fastest laps I couldn’t find anyone to get into their slipstream and get a tow which really counts for a lot around here.”
Finesse Motorsport’s Paul Streather (Hinckley), currently second in the standings, qualified 12th and then eighth fastest for the two grids while JamSport’s Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield), also in the title hunt, took a pair of fifths.
Other drivers however rose to the occasion, chiefly: Pyro’s Josh Price (Redbourn) was an excellent best-ever third fastest on both grids; Ciceley’s Dan Zelos (Dereham) was sixth and then fourth; Vanquish Motorsport with WDE’s Paul Plant (Copthorne) achieved a personal best of fourth for race one; Pyro’s David Dickenson (Wicklow) was sixth for race two; and PP Motorsport’s Anton Spires (Buckingham) took a pair of sevenths.
Sunday’s two Renault UK Clio Cup races – rounds five and six of this year’s championship – take place at 10.45am and 3.15pm with the action being shown live on ITV4.