Fastest ever Renault UK Clio Cup races on the cards at high-speed Thruxton

There’s less than a week to go before 2017’s Renault UK Clio Cup arrives at the fearsome Thruxton circuit (Sat 6/Sun 7 May) and, if the record-breaking pace of the opening rounds continues at the Hampshire venue, then fans watching the action trackside and on ITV4 could well witness the fastest races in the championship’s history…
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The first 100mph race?
Both the UK Clio Cup’s qualifying and race lap records were smashed at Brands and Donington in April thanks to the faster, more durable Michelin tyre the category has switched to for this year.

Thruxton is the fastest circuit on the calendar and, consequently, generates the highest average lap speeds of the season. Indeed its qualifying and race lap records (1m23.060s/102.11mph and 1m23.443s/101.64mph) are without equal. Similarly the 99.89mph average race speed set in 2015 by Ash Hand…

Now consider that in testing for Thruxton current points leader Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) set the pace with a best lap at 1m22.090s – a dizzying average speed of 103.32mph. The Pyro Motorsport driver has said that in qualifying he expects lap times to dip into the 1m21s bracket and, given decent weather and no safety car interventions, UK Clio Cup races averaging over 100mph to unfold.

Bushell arrives at Thruxton under significant pressure. Ciceley Motorsport’s Max Coates (Scorton) is close behind as are WDE Motorsport team-mates Paul Rivett (Epsom Downs) and Lee Pattison (Halifax) – the latter the holder of that qualifying record and regarded as a ‘Thruxton specialist’.

Playing catch-up
Pyro’s Hand (Nuneaton) is another who knows what it takes to win around Thruxton after his famous double two years ago over then team-mate Ashley Sutton (now starring in the British Touring Car Championship). Similarly PP Motorsport/Westbourne’s James Colburn (Worthing) who won both races there in 2012. Each started this season among the big favourites but goes to Thruxton playing catch-up in the title race…

In fact the winners so far in 2017 are Pattison and Bushell (at Brands Hatch) and then Coates and Rivett (at Donington). At Brands it was Bushell and SDR Motorsport’s Shayne Deegan (Cambridge) who re-wrote the qualifying and race lap records while at Donington it was the turn of WDE’s Dan Zelos (Dereham) and DRM’s Daniel Rowbottom (Kidderminster) to set new benchmarks.

New names to the fore
Zelos, Rowbottom and Deegan are among a long line of newer, emerging names aiming to join the UK Clio Cup’s hierarchy and will be looking to do great things around Thruxton. Deegan’s inclusion at Thruxton follows a Herculean effort by his small team to re-shell his car which was badly damaged at Donington…

Also looking for their maiden outright podium results will be Pyro’s Jack McCarthy (Bromley) and Westbourne’s James Dorlin (Barnsley) who have stunned in their first two UK Clio Cup events. McCarthy is fifth in the standings just ahead of Dorlin who is tied for sixth with Zelos. Starting to get up to speed at Donington were Pyro’s Nathan Harrison (Oxford) – rapid in pre-event testing around Thruxton – and Ciceley’s Sam Osborne (Worksop). Harrison is Dorlin’s closest challenger at the top of the Graduates Cup class for younger, first-year drivers…

Others to watch at Thruxton undoubtedly will include Westbourne’s Myles Collins (Harrogate), Ciceley’s Jade Edwards (Aylesbury) and Luke Reade (Dartford), Pyro's Kyle Hornby (Stockport) and local hopeful Ollie Pidgley (Salisbury), plus JamSport pair Lucas Orrock (Cambridge) and Aaron Thompson (Romford). JamSport’s Graham Field (Nottingham) joins Pattison and Rivett in the Masters Cup class for older drivers. Brett Lidsey (Northfleet), runner-up to Dorlin in 2016’s club-level Michelin Clio Cup Series, makes his UK Clio Cup debut with the MRM team.

Where and when to watch
The Renault UK Clio Cup’s drivers will first be on track at Thruxton at 2.20pm on the Saturday (6 May) for the crucial half-hour timed qualifying session which will determine their starting grid positions for the two races. Those races take place at 10.40am and then 3.15pm on the Sunday (7 May) – both 12 laps in duration. As ever the event – featuring the latest rounds of the BTCC – will be shown live on the Sunday on ITV4, from 11.15am-6.20pm.