Top ten season review: Cracking the art of qualifying “the best thing” for Dickenson

The 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup delivered yet another season of supreme entertainment for the huge trackside crowds and those watching the action live on ITV4. Time, then, to reflect on the drivers who made it into the top ten and how they got there starting with ‘number ten’, David Dickenson…
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The Irishman will reflect on 2016 as the year in which he really got his act together when it came to finding that magic lap during qualifying.

Indeed he started 14 of the 18 races from inside the top ten – second, on the front row of the grid, at Croft and a fourth also at the North Yorkshire circuit being obvious highlights. Another fourth (Rockingham) and a third (Brands GP) underlined his improved qualifying form.

“At the start of season we were chasing our tales a bit,” explains Dickenson. “We had a bit of sit-down at Thruxton and things started to go better – if you recall it was where Mike (Bushell) started to go well. It clicked from there on and we knew we were always in with a shout of the top six in qualifying from there on.”

But it was at Croft and Rockingham where the biggest frustrations were felt. At Croft he went from P2 down to P8 in race one and, in race two, from P3 to… immediate retirement at the first corner. At Rockingham there then followed a bizarre incident in Friday’s official test session when his car was damaged in a collision with Ciceley Motorsport’s Max Coates.

Even more bizarrely, the pair would tangle again on the final lap of race one while fighting over fourth in monsoon-like conditions that placed an emphasis on car control and bravery. This time fortune smiled on Dickenson for, while Coates went spinning, he carried on for a season’s best finish of fourth.

“Believe me, after what had happened on Friday, Max was the last person I wanted to get involved with!” continues Dickenson. “I’d been annoyed with him about the incident in testing and there was some banter about me firing him off – I would never do that.

“In fact we had a very good battle – very clean and we never touched, except for a very small brush on that last lap. Max just came back across me out of the hairpin and he went off. It was a pure racing incident.

“That stands out as my best race of the year – in every corner you could have gone off because of the conditions but I was really taking the race to Rivett and Bushell and I came away with my best result yet.”

This was not Dickenson’s first attempt at the UK Clio Cup. He’d contested the championship several years previously but since done all his racing outside of the UK – in Clio Cup competition in Italy and across Europe.

That had been with the crack Pyro Motorsport team and he remained with the Leicestershire team for his return to the UK scene. Should he carry on in 2017 then there’s every reason to believe, with qualifying ‘cracked’, his race results could also improve.

“Up to this year I’d struggled with qualifying. This year something changed and the pace was there. It’s been the race pace where I’ve lacked a little. I think some luck was missing and maybe some race craft, although I couldn’t put my finger on it precisely.

“The only reprimand I got all year was going off on green flag lap! I got rid of the ‘red mist’ in races that had been there before but maybe went too far by not being aggressive enough at certain moments. There are a few races where I could say a podium got away from me…

“Overall I really enjoyed the season. To crack the calmness you need to put in that special lap in qualifying… that was the best thing.”