Hodgetts bags double pole in unpredictable Rockingham qualifying

Multiple Renault UK Clio Cup race winner Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) claimed pole position for both of this weekend’s encounters at Rockingham during an all-action, and very unpredictable, qualifying session at the Northamptonshire track this morning, Saturday, 14th September.

With the track surface wet to begin and drying at a fairly slow rate, the choice of whether to remain on treaded Dunlop tyres or switch to slicks proved crucial. For those who did change to dry-weather rubber, the point in the session at which they did so also had a major bearing on the outcome.

Resulting in an unusual looking grid for rounds 13 and 14, the mixed conditions enabled several drivers to produce season-best efforts. Hodgetts changed to slicks with roughly 10 minutes left and went on to end the session 0.7 seconds clear of the field with a quickest time of 1m38.248 seconds (71.08mph) – his second best lap of 1m39.383 seconds comfortably made it a double pole for the KX Racing driver.

“Wets were a waste of time really”, said Hodgetts, “I wanted to get the slicks on so the second time I pitted, I took control and said I wanted the slicks on to give it a go. It was definitely dry enough, I wouldn’t have been on pole otherwise, but it was very slippery and sliding everywhere. It was the most fun I’ve had in a Clio, sideways everywhere – it was absolutely ace!”

Finesse Motorsport’s Jake Giddings (Wisbech), also electing to run with slicks later in the session, delivered a season-best second fastest time to secure a richly deserved spot on the front row of the grid for this afternoon’s 14-lap race as well as the Graduate Cup class pole.

Four tenths of a second adrift of Giddings was the equally impressive Ignas Gelzinis, the Lithuanian Juta Racing driver posting an excellent career-best performance, while Scuderia Vittoria rookie Devon Modell (Maidstone) also starred with the fourth quickest lap.

Points leader Josh Files (Norwich) was the best of the drivers choosing to remain on wets with the fifth fastest time – a full 1.7 seconds shy of Hodgetts’ pole lap – but the Pyro driver, and his main title rival Paul Rivett (Banstead), were satisfied with their respective decisions to avoid any risks.

Names.co.uk/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering driver Rivett, who goes into this afternoon’s race just six points shy of Files when the category’s single ‘drop-score’ rule is applied, ended the session in eighth place.

After a remarkable run on wets, Scuderia Vittoria’s Ronnie Klos (Market Harborough) posted the sixth quickest lap to take a dominant Masters Cup class pole position at his local track. Seventh fastest was Pyro’s Ash Hand (Nuneaton), continuing his excellent recent form.

On second fastest times, determining the grid for round 14, Hodgetts was almost a second faster than the consistently impressive Gelzinis with Giddings third and Lithuania’s Tautvydas Barstys an incredible career-best fourth for Juta. Klos, Files, Hand and Rivett complete rows three and four.

The first race of the Rockingham weekend will take place at 16.20 this afternoon with round 14 following at approximately 14.40 on Sunday, 15th September. Tomorrow’s encounter will be broadcast live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD and also streamed online at www.itv.com/btcc

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 Rd12 inc. drop score):
1st Josh Files, 287pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 281pts; 3rd Alex Morgan, 246pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd12):
1st Team Pyro, 552pts; 2nd Scuderia Vittoria, 445pts; 3rd JHR Developments, 403pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd12 inc. drop score):
1st Josh Files, 323pts; 2nd James Colburn, 276pts; 3rd Josh Cook, 268pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd12 inc. drop score):
1st Simon Belcher, 307pts; 2nd Graham Field, 263pts; 3rd Lee Pattison, 256pts