Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) produced a sensational wet-weather qualifying performance at Oulton Park International Circuit this morning, Saturday, 7th June, to secure pole position for rounds seven and eight of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup season.
Ultimately mastering the very tricky conditions better than anyone, the SV Racing with KX driver came to the fore during the crucial final couple of minutes to replace team-mate, and championship leader, Josh Cook (Bath) at the top of the times.
Posting a best lap of 2m04.788 seconds (77.66mph) around the rain-lashed 2.69-mile track to bag his first pole position of the year, a full six tenths of a second clear, Whorton-Eales made sure of his best ever Renault UK Clio Cup qualifying effort with a second best lap of 2m04.888 seconds to also take the round eight pole. In doing so, of course, he also claimed the Graduate Cup poles for each race.
“There was definitely more grip towards the end than at the start, “said the 20-year-old, “When the rain starts to lighten off here the track goes really greasy, when it’s raining more the wet tyres work properly and you get more grip – unless there’s standing water.
“[Mike] Bushell went off and had a moment at the fast left before the hairpin and we’re only, what, halfway through the season – I can’t afford to smash the car up in qualifying so I took it cautious early on. Like most things, when you’re cautious the times just aren’t there so towards the end I thought we had to fire some laps in and the car stayed on the track as we had a fantastic set-up.”
Team Pyro’s Lee Pattison (Scholes), who headed the dry test on Friday, proved he’s every bit as much of a front-runner in the wet by securing a front-row start for this afternoon’s seventh round with a lap of 2m05.387 seconds (77.29mph) on his last lap – also taking the Masters Cup pole.
James Colburn (Worthing) was third fastest for Westbourne Motorsport, having set the pace during the early running, and was bumped off the front row by just 0.072 seconds. Points leader Cook, who was another in the fight for pole right up until Whorton-Eales’ barnstorming laps at the conclusion, had to settle for fourth on the round seven grid in the end – just 0.089 seconds shy of Colburn.
Alex Morgan (Reading) made it three SV Racing cars in the top five times, 0.3 seconds ahead of WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Banstead), with 20Ten Racing’s Jordan Stilp (Potterspury) seventh fastest and Westbourne’s Devon Modell (Maidstone) eighth.
Pyro’s Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) ended up with the ninth best time following an unfortunate excursion at Island Bend with just 10 minutes of the session having elapsed, an incident which brought out the red flags.
Ash Hand (Nuneaton) also went off the circuit at the same point, but he was able to return to the pits under his own steam and eventually qualified in 10th place. He will start round seven from the back, though, due to a five place grid penalty carried over from the previous event at Thruxton.
For round eight on Sunday, 8th June, Colburn will line-up on the front row alongside Whorton-Eales with Pattison and Cook third and fourth on the grid, Morgan and Rivett sharing row three and Stilp and Bushell on the fourth row.
Round seven will get underway this afternoon at 16.35 with round eight set to follow at 13.30 tomorrow – the second of the weekend’s races will be screened live on ITV4, ITV4 HD and streamed live at www.itv.com/btcc
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 Rd6):
1st Josh Cook, 156pts; 2nd Mike Bushell, 135pts; 3rd Alex Morgan, 127pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd6):
1st Josh Cook, 174pts; 2nd James Colburn, 152pts; 3rd Ant Whorton-Eales, 143pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd6):
1st Lee Pattison, 176pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 156pts; =3rd Mark Howard & Craig Milner, 94pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd6):
1st SV Racing with KX, 323pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 235pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 214pts