Paul Rivett (Banstead) soaked up immense race-long pressure from Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) during the seventh round of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup at Oulton Park this afternoon, Saturday, 8th June, to seal his third victory of the year with a faultless lights-to-flag drive.
Making his pole position grid slot count, the Names.co.uk/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering racer produced a fantastic start to lead but – with the exception of a brief Safety Car period – never had a moment to rest.
Hodgetts’ KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria car was an ever present threat, never more than half a second behind the three-time champion, and to confirm his pace Hodgetts took the two bonus points for fastest lap, thanks to a time of 1m36.705 seconds (82.86mph) on lap 12.
Josh Cook (Bristol), who didn’t enjoy the best of starts from the front row, slipped to third on lap one but was thereafter able to run very similar lap times to both Rivett and Hodgetts. For the bulk of the 15-lap encounter, the JHR Developments driver was in the wheeltracks of the two leaders but just wasn’t quite able to mount a challenge. Even so, third gave him his first Graduate Cup win of 2013.
With Team Pyro’s Josh Files (Norwich) finishing in seventh position, having started the first race of the weekend in eighth place, Rivett was able to increase his lead in the championship to 19 points, having been only three points clear prior to round seven.
“Of all the people to have behind you in the Clio field, Stef [Hodgetts] is probably the hardest and he didn’t make that easy by any means at all”, commented Rivett, “I had to defend from him into the last corner of the last lap, otherwise I knew he’d really be trying to stick it up the inside.
“It’s a great win, lights-to-flag, and I got a cracking start. Hopefully we can do more of the same tomorrow and control it from the front. It’s going to be tough to do it again but if I can get another start like that, it’s half the battle.”
While Rivett led clearly through Old Hall at the start, Cook’s sluggish getaway dropped him into the clutches of both Hodgetts – up from fifth on the grid after a superb start – and his team-mate Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) who ran side-by-side through the first right-hander.
Hodgetts emerged in second place while Cook clung on around the outside at Cascades to edge ahead of Whorton-Eales for third. From that point forward, nothing changed among the podium places with the top three incredibly evenly matched.
“It was relatively boring after the first lap to be honest”, said Hodgetts, “Paul [Rivett] is a quality driver, he’s not going to make a mistake and you can’t pass that easily around here. Second is OK but I’m going to have a right go tomorrow for the win.”
Reflecting on his second podium of the year, and first Graduate Cup success, Cook said: “I made a very poor start, probably the worst one I’ve ever done. I managed to hold it around the outside of Ant [Whorton-Eales] at Cascades, which was a bit sketchy, but I managed to get the place. I didn’t quite have the pace to stick with the top two, so we’ll make a couple of changes for tomorrow.”
Whorton-Eales’ involvement came to an abrupt end on lap two at the chicane when he tagged the tyre stack, leading to a three lap Safety Car period. When the racing resumed, the lead trio were able to edge back away from the rest of the pack which was headed by Pyro’s Alex Morgan (Reading).
Although Morgan slipped two seconds shy of the podium places by the end, he was able to pull over three seconds clear of JHR’s Masters Cup class winner Lee Pattison (Liversedge) who was heavily pressured by Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing) during the closing stages.
Files, who was passed for seventh brilliantly by Jake Giddings (Wisbech) on lap eight at Old Hall, managed to return the favour to the Finesse Motorsport driver on the final tour with Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells), on his first weekend driving with KX Racing colours, taking ninth.
The battle over the final place in the top 10 was hugely entertaining throughout, half a dozen drivers all within a chance of taking the position. In the end, Clio Cup rookie Ash Hand (Nuneaton) sealed the spot for Pyro by just 0.2 seconds ahead of Jordan Stilp (Potterspury), Devon Modell (Maidstone), James Nutbrown and Simon Belcher (Swindon).
Rob Smith (Telford) was also in the thick of the titanic battle at the tail end of the top 10 but sustained a right-front puncture after hitting debris left behind from Whorton-Eales’ incident at the chicane, dropping him to 15th place.
Round eight is scheduled to take place at approximately 15.15 tomorrow, Sunday, 9th June, and will be screened live on Freeview, digital satellite and cable channel ITV4, in High Definition on ITV4 HD and with live streaming at www.itv.com/btcc
Rivett will begin the second Oulton Park race from pole position with Morgan alongside him on the front row. Cook and Hodgetts will share row two, Pattison and Whorton-Eales will start on the third row and Giddings and Files will line-up on row four.
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 Rd7):
1st Paul Rivett, 182pts; 2nd Josh Files, 163pts; 3rd Alex Morgan, 157pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd7):
1st Team Pyro, 320pts; 2nd Westbourne Motorsport, 248pts; 3rd Scuderia Vittoria, 221pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd7):
1st Josh Files, 195pts; 2nd James Colburn, 178pts; 3rd Jake Giddings, 147pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd7):
1st Simon Belcher, 176pts; 2nd Graham Field, 166pts; 3rd Finlay Crocker, 139pts