Top ten season review: No.5 Lee Pattison – form is temporary; class is permanent

Fifth position in the final standings is not where the man who led the 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup’s standings after its opening rounds should perhaps have finished but there was never any denying Lee Pattison’s class – particularly when faced with personal tragedy.
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Pattison came away from rounds one and two around the Brands Hatch Indy circuit the weekend’s biggest scorer thanks to second and then first place finishes.

It was a stunning effort from both Pattison and his Cooksport team. OK, he’s a seasoned pro in the UK Clio Cup but his deal with the Bristol squad had  come together only days before the pre-season Media Day launch, leaving little time to prepare.

Furthermore Brands Indy was a circuit that Pattison openly admitted to not being a fan of – not least after a shunt there the previous year in which he’d broken an arm. He was still in some discomfort when the UK Clio Cup grid lined up there in April yet still he came away with two podium results. Like we said; a stunning effort…

After round three (race one at Donington Park a fortnight later) he still topped the table thanks to another second place having briefly led again.

But in race two at the Leicestershire circuit Pattison came home a distant 18th after a tangle with WDE’s Charlie Ladell while disputing a podium position. Even at Thruxton – a circuit where many predicted he would dominate given his past record there – things did not go his way…

In qualifying he went off track avoiding spinning team-mate George Jackson at the notorious Church Corner. The knock-on effect was significant for it meant he would have to contest BOTH races around Thruxton with just one pair of front tyres. In race one a seemingly certain second-place finish became fifth when his car, suffering fuel surge, spluttered in the closing stages. In race two, on tyres now well past their best, he rose from tenth on the grid to finish fourth.

“The results were not what I’d been after but still I felt everything was on track,” recalls Pattison. “Not many people have had to do two races at Thruxton – the toughest track on tyres – with just one pair of fronts yet we still got decent-ish results. But then came Oulton Park and it all changed…

“In the first free practice session on the Friday I was trading fastest times with (Mike) Bushell and the car felt as good as ever. But then in FP2 we put new tyres on and went slower. I just lost all feeling with the car’s front end and we never got it back. Believe me we tried all sorts – it was a bit of a mystery.”

Still Pattison’s class told. At Snetterton there was a fine drive from 12th on the grid to finish fifth. In a deluge at Rockingham he was the fastest driver on track with the exception of winner Ant Whorton-Eales – a shame, then, that an opening lap puncture meant he finished a lap down. At least the season would end with another podium, around the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.

He adds: “Brands GP race one was slick tyres on a damp track surface and that suited me because it meant zero grip at the rear of the car which suddenly made the front end work – 14th to third; I was pleased with that. It was then fully dry for race two and so we struggled again.

“2016 was also an emotional rollercoaster for me. I lost my father (David) in July – he’d come to every race event since we started out as a dad and lad with a trailer in karting. Losing him definitely affected me.”