Josh Files was the man in form as he claimed double pole for the final weekend of the AirAsia Renault UK Clio Cup season at a damp Brands Hatch. Championship contenders Jack Goff and Paul Rivett both struggled in the conditions as they line up ninth and twelfth respectively.
Having looked strong throughout Friday’s two practice sessions, both interrupted by red flag incidents, Files (Norwich) claimed pole for both of the weekend’s races, replicating the season opener at the Kent circuit back in April. TheTeam Pyro driver decided to run on a mixed tyre setup of slicks on the front and wets on the rear, the preferred tyre choice for many of the 24-car field.
Files will lead the pack from Scuderia Vittoria’s Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) in second and new to Westbourne Motorsport, Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) in third.
“Double pole at Brands again,” said the Team Pyro driver. “It’s my track this one, I love it! Conditions were tricky as there were a lot of incidents in such a small session. The car was all over the place as it was loose as it was theonly way to get it round on the tyre combination we had, which was wets on the back and slicks on the front. I went out there and grabbed it by the horns and hustled it through the bend and it worked out!”
“I’m hoping to come away with two race wins as that’s what I came into this weekend wanting so hopefully I can take it.”
Lining up behind Files is KX Academy driver Stefan Hodgetts. The Scuderia Vittoria man, who joined the season midway through the season at Oulton Park, moved into second place during the closing minutes of the season’s final qualifying session.
‘It was good!” said the recent Britcar 24hr driver. “We started on slicks all round, which was really quite tricky and a huge risk to be honest. With ten minutes to go we the wets on the back and kept the slicks on the front and managed to do a time that puts us second. We now sit on the front row for both races so it should be good.”
Rounding off the top three was Mike Bushell, who has recently joined forces with Westbourne Motorsport to become MBR with Westbourne Motorsport. Nicknamed ‘Basil’, he currently sits fifth in the Rookie Championship with one-victory and two second places to his name.
‘It was brilliant to be honest,” said a delighted Bushell. “Since switching to these guys (Westbourne Motorsport) the car feels so much better and I’m up the end of the grid where I want to be. Hopefully this form can continue on into the race.”
“Conditions were tricky. We had wets on the back and when the track started to try there was a lot of heat running through them so the back end was always wanting to step out, it was really squirrely stuff.”
As for the two title contenders Goff (High Wycombe) and Rivett (Banstead), who both struggled with the slippery conditions will start within the mid-pack in ninth and twelfth for Race 1. Each will be hoping to pip the other to the chequered flag as they both have one hand firmly on the title. Rewind six months ago when the season opener was held here at Brands Hatch on the Indy circuit, they each took a victory, but it was Team Pyro’s Goff who held the upper hand as Rivett failed to finish in the first race.
Goff will line up in a strong fourth position for the second and final race, whilst Rivett will move up one place to start eleventh.
‘It was very interesting,” said the championship leader. “The conditions out there were tough as we were on half and half tyre set up, which so was everyone as it was the obvious choice. It was lethal, the car was always trying to put you in the wall, but we managed to hang on but it was a case of who wanted to risk it the most. Josh did a good job of hanging onto it round the back section and stuck it on pole.”
“As far as the championship goes, Rivett is in a worse situation than us so it’s looking good for the races!”
“Not the best of qualifying sessions, but it’s not all that bad.” Said the three-time champion. “I’m eleventh and twelfth while Jack is eighth and forth. I love this circuit and enjoy coming here. I made a little mistake as I went into Hawthorns a bit too quick and where we had wets on the back and slicks on the front on a drying track, it gets to the point where the car starts to oversteer and I pushed a little too hard. It was one of those things.”
“It’s going to make for a very interesting race today and I’m really looking forward to getting out there and having some fun!”
Heading the ELF Masters Trophy was yet again Simon Belcher (Swindon), who has a comfortable hold at the top of the table and is looking increasingly likely to take home the title. The Handy Motorsport with Pyro driver will line up seventeenth for today’s first race and then fifteenth for tomorrow’s season finale.
Former Clio Cup competitor David Dickenson (Keatingstown) will line up in fourth and eight respectively, having made an impressive championship return at Silverstone.
“Not too bad, conditions were changeable and very tricky!” said the Irishman. “We sit fourth so I’m very happy about that. I want to try and race here every year as I want to get back into proper track racing. I’m hoping to get on the podium for today’s race, but we will see how it goes.”
Another newcomer this weekend and local man is Andy Wilmot (Dartford) making his debut from the VW Cup starts in twentieth and nineteenth positions at the historic circuit.
In drying conditions expected for this afternoon’s race, there will certainly be some quick drivers hard charging from the midfield. James Colburn (Worthing) starts fourth with double Silverstone winner and Rookie Cup championship leader Josh Cook (Bath) alongside in fifth. Fellow Rookie challengers Jake Giddings (Wisbech) and Ant Whorton-Eales start seventh and eighth and outside championship contender James Dixon (Maidstone) will line-up in tenth.
The first of the two final races of the season gets underway later this afternoon at 5.15pm where it may become clearer as to who is going to take home the 2012title.
Clio Cup action will feature in the live ITV broadcast, which will air on ITV4 and ITV4HD from Sunday morning throughout the day and will also be available online via www.itv.com
Qualifying – Round 15 – Classification
1. Josh FILES Team Pyro 1:46.951
2. Stefan HODGETTS Scuderia Vittoria 1:46.977
3. Mike BUSHELL MBR/Westbourne Motorsport 1:47.329
4. David DICKENSON Team Pyro 1:47.465
5. James COLBURN Westbourne Motorsport 1:47.495
6. Josh COOK 20Ten Racing 1:47.605
7. Jake GIDDINGS Finesse Motorsport Ltd 1:47.609
8. Ant WHORTON-EALES Westbourne Motorsport 1:47.715
9. Jack GOFF Team Pyro 1:47.853
10. James DIXON Total Control Racing 1:47.946
11. Adam BONHAM Team Pyro 1:48.205
12. Paul RIVETT PER HIRE/SVE 1:48.212
13. William DAVISON Westbourne Motorsport 1:48.893
14. Vic COVEY Scuderia Vittoria 1:48.911
15. Nic HAMILTON Total Control Racing 1:50.496
16. Ignas GELZINIS Juta Racing 1:50.600
17. Simon BELCHER Handy Motorsport with Pyro 1:50.962
18. Finlay CROCKER Scuderia Vittoria 1:51.058
19. Ronnie KLOS Scuderia Vittoria 1:51.344
20. Andy WILMOT 20Ten Racing/Team Hard 1:53.134
21. Tautvydas BARSTYS Juta Racing 1:54.002
22. Mark TILBURY Silver Fox Racing 1:55.715
23. Graham FIELD 20Ten Racing 1:56.736
24. Rob SMITH Total Control Racing