Third year Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup racer Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) achieved his long awaited maiden victory during round five of the season at a warm and sunny Thruxton this morning, Sunday, 4th May, having led from almost lights-to-flag.
Beginning the encounter from second on the grid, the Team Pyro driver managed to get ahead of new team-mate Lee Pattison (Scholes) around the outside at the first corner, Allard, and controlled the action thereafter before cruising to a near three second winning margin.
Pattison, who was initially elbowed down to fourth place through the opening sequence of turns, battled his way back into second mid-race and also posted the fastest lap but ultimately lost out to SV Racing with KX driver Josh Cook (Bath) who produced a superb showing from seventh on the grid.
Cook’s second place, his third podium in as many races, enabled the Graduate Cup class leader to also open up a significant 20-point advantage at the top of the overall championship after erstwhile points leader Alex Morgan (Reading) was knocked into retirement at the end of lap six. Bushell also moves ahead of Morgan in the title race, climbing into second place four points clear.
“I was a little bit nervous before we got to the line, but I calmed myself and into the first corner I was ahead so I just tried to get my head down and get going”, explained Bushell, “It was really difficult to break the tow to begin with, I was unsure about the grip levels, but after the Safety Car I got just enough break through the chicane to get a gap and edge away. It’s absolutely fantastic to win.”
Bushell managed to open a lead of more than a second over the first couple of laps, importantly moving out of the reach of the ‘tow’ which is so vital at Thruxton for pursuing cars. By the start of lap six, though, Pattison had closed to within just 0.4 seconds of his team-mate.
Following the brief Safety Car period, to enable Morgan’s stricken Clio to be moved from the tyre barriers, Bushell managed to break away again at the re-start as Pattison came under attack for second from Cook. Through the flat-out section between Village and Church, Cook moved ahead of Pattison and maintained the runner-up spot to the finish.
“Towards the end I settled for second”, said Cook, “I could see Mike [Bushell] had a good gap when I managed to get past [Lee] Pattison. I could have kept pushing but, after starting seventh and bearing in mind we’ve got a race this afternoon, I was happy. Overall the KX car has been brilliant all weekend, I have to thank the team – they put in the hours and I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Pattison’s top three placing did come under some threat into the closing stages as the spectacular Ash Hand (Nuneaton) latched onto the Pyro driver’s tail and delivered a very strong conclusion to the race. Having hit the kerbs at the chicane heavily, Pattison also battled damaged suspension.
“I got mugged at the start, I got a really bad one which is unusual”, commented Pattison, “When I got back with Mike[Bushell] I tried going around outside of him at the chicane but, new team-mates, so I let him go. After the Safety Car went in, I hit the kerb really hard and broke my front suspension so then it was all damage limitation. I’ll be trying for the win in race two, I really like Thruxton.”
Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing) was a key player in the podium scrap early on, running as high as second during the opening exchanges but after being nudged back to fourth on lap two his lead over the chasing pack was eroded when the Safety Car was deployed.
At the re-start, Hand was able to attack and moved past for fourth into the complex before piling on the pressure to Pattison. At the chequered flag on lap 13, just 1.3 seconds separated Cook, Pattison, Hand and Colburn.
Devon Modell (Maidstone) completed the top six for Westbourne, a fraction ahead of 20Ten Racing’s Jordan Stilp (Potterspury), who produced much improved pace compared to qualifying, and Pyro’s Rob Smith (Telford) who rued a stall at the start which left him a long way down on the pack having shown the promise for a podium bid in qualifying.
Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) was classified in ninth, having sustained damage which limited his pace. Bitterly disappointing for the SV Racing youngster, he was in the fight for the podium during the opening laps.
Paul Rivett (Banstead), meanwhile, battled through from ninth on the grid into the ultra-competitive scrap behind the top three but retired his WDE Motorsport Clio at the start of the penultimate lap with a throttle sensor problem. His non-finish, coupled with Pattison’s Masters Cup win, means the latter has opened a 24-point lead in the class standings.
Round six of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup, which is to be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD, with streaming online at the www.itv.com/btcc website, starts at 16.25 this afternoon.
The Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup is additionally supported by ELF, Performance Friction, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup standings (after Rd5):
1st Josh Cook, 131pts; 2nd Mike Bushell, 111pts; 3rd Alex Morgan, 107pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd5):
1st Josh Cook, 146pts; 2nd Ant Whorton-Eales, 121pts; 3rd James Colburn, 120pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd5):
1st Lee Pattison, 148pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 124pts; =3rd Craig Milner & Mark Howard, 94pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd5):
1st SV Racing with KX, 278pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 202pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 168pts