A big deal for the North East
The fixture is one of the biggest sporting events of the year for the North East and with the venue – close to Darlington – within easy reach of cities such as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Leeds and Carlisle it traditionally pulls in tens of thousands of motor sporting fans.
Live coverage on ITV4 adds to the sense of occasion and with the season’s opening eight races having been won by five different drivers there is real tension at the top of the UK Clio Cup standings arriving at Croft.
Comfortable lead but far from complacent
Team Pyro’s Mike Bushell, the Champion in 2014, leads the way but, even though he is the equivalent of more than a win to the good over his rivals, he will be wary of the challenges that Croft poses...
Unlike many circuits on the calendar, Croft has an ‘old school’ feel to it with little in the way of run-off areas and a high-speed configuration that is infamous for catching out even the best.
Indeed neither Bushell nor second-placed Lee Pattison have won there before, although the latter’s WDE Motorsport team-mate Paul Rivett, third in the standings, has – three times to be exact.
Home favourites: Coates & Dorlin
One of those Rivett victories came last year, the other going the way of local hero Max Coates in his Ciceley Motorsport car. Currently fourth in the table, the 23-year-old from nearby Scorton can expect near-hysterical levels of support at his home circuit…
Coates is one of the five race winners so far along with Bushell, Pattison, James Dorlin and James Colburn. Dorlin, another Croft 'local' from Barnsley, is one of several exciting newcomers to come into the championship in 2017 and his Westbourne Motorsport machine is sure to be towards the front. So, too, that of team-mate Colburn who, running under the PP Motorsport banner, won last time out at Oulton Park.
The Cheshire circuit also saw Pyro’s Nathan Harrison and DRM’s Daniel Rowbottom achieve breakthrough podium results in the UK Clio Cup. Each will be brimming with confidence going into Croft’s meeting.
On the verge of something big
After a pole position at Donington Park and two personal best race results of fourth, WDE’s Dan Zelos is edging closer a maiden top-three finish. Similarly Pyro’s 16-year-old sensation Jack McCarthy… Both, along with their team-mates, are also playing crucial roles in a closely fought teams’ title battle which at present is just headed by Pyro.
Adding to an entry list rich in talent are: Pyro’s Kyle Hornby; Ciceley trio Luke Reade, Jade Edwards and Sam Osborne; SDR’s Shayne Deegan; JamSport’s Aaron Thompson and WDE’s Nicolas Hamilton.
Lucas Orrock’s progress after moving to the Pyro team will be worth following... Meanwhile Sam Randon makes his UK Clio Cup debut with Westbourne. JamSport’s Graham Field adds to the grid.
Just as at Brands Hatch, Donington and Thruxton, it will be interesting to see if the championship’s switch to Michelin tyres results in new qualifying and race lap records at Croft. The race record is still held by BTCC ace Dave Newsham, set during his UK Clio Cup title-winning year of 2010.
Where and when to watch
The Renault UK Clio Cup’s drivers will first be on track at Croft on the Friday (9 June) for two timed test sessions, allowing them to fine-tune their cars to the circuit’s characteristics. At 11:20 on Saturday comes the crucial half-hour timed qualifying session which will determine their starting grid positions for the two races, the first of which (round nine of the season) takes place that afternoon at 15:20. Round ten follows on Sunday, at 15:25. Both races are 12 laps in duration. As ever the event – featuring the latest rounds of the BTCC – will be broadcast live on the Sunday on ITV4, from 11:15-18:00.