Jack McCarthy, who had started from pole position, led the opening two laps before Rowbottom came by with a decisive move at the Deane hairpin.
On lap seven Rivett also made it past McCarthy to grab second position and he quickly set off after leader Rowbottom. At the end the WDE driver had cut a 1.5-second deficit to just 0.598s but Rowbottom, nursing worn tyres, was able to stay ahead for his and his DRM team’s second win in three races.
Pyro’s McCarthy took third but was under pressure all the way from Westbourne’s James Colburn in fourth. Colburn’s team-mate James Dorlin crossed the line fifth ahead of Pyro’s Bradley Burns in sixth – both drivers having lost positions in a highly charged couple of opening laps.
Indeed Dorlin had led briefly led on the opening lap but by lap two was back in seventh after an incident at the Brook chicane which spelt retirement for WDE’s Dan Zelos.
On his way back up to fifth one driver Dorlin overtook was Coates – slowing with damage to the rear of his Pyro car which forced him to stop in the pit lane.
It was Coates’s first ‘DNF’ in the Clio Cup since he first entered the championship in 2016 and it has had a major effect in the title race with just 14 points now covering the top three.
Going into tomorrow’s second race at Rockingham, Coates still leads the standings but his advantage to second-placed Rivett is now down to just five points. Dorlin remains a strong third while Rowbottom’s win – added to by bonus points for leading today's race and setting the fastest lap – has brought his gap in fourth to Coates down from 70 to 42 points. A maximum of 28 is available from tomorrow’s race…
Rowbottom said: “We lost some valuable track time in free practice yesterday but we got our sums right for today and the car felt very good. I knew I had to make the move on McCarthy because Paul was hovering. Luckily he then got delayed enough for me to build a big enough gap which saved me in the end.”
Rivett added: “I lost a bit of ground on the opening lap but that’s always a challenge I relish! I was able to pick my through to P2 but Rowbottom did a good job having started alongside me on row three of the grid. It’s a good result for my championship – Max retiring shows again how quickly fortunes can change.”
Elsewhere the race’s top ten was completed by MRM’s Jack Young, Matrix’s Michael Epps, MRM’s Brett Lidsey and, having fended off WDE’s Sam Osborne, Matrix’s Aaron Thompson with his best result of the season so far.
Similarly there was an exciting dual for P12, this going to Pyro’s Zak Fulk after he'd traded the position four times with MRM’s Jade Edwards. She took P13 thanks to a determined recovery drive after running straight on down an escape road on the opening lap.
Positions P14-P17 were also fiercely disputed with Specialized’s Nick Reeve just getting the nod from Westbourne’s Ben Colburn, Matrix’s Andy Wilmot and BLG’s Luke Warr.