Whorton-Eales came close to clinching the crown in the first of two races held around Brands’s legendary full-length Grand Prix circuit when arch rival Mike Bushell span into retirement on a treacherously damp track.
A second-place finish for Whorton-Eales would have been enough but it was not to be as a move to take the lead from three-time champ Paul Rivett backfired and he tumbled to fourth.
It meant it all came down to the event’s second race – the final round of the season – and, in time-honoured UK Clio Cup tradition, it did not disappoint in terms of unpredictability and excitement.
Bushell went into the race essentially needing to win it to stand any chance while Whorton-Eales knew a third place would do the trick for him. Ultimately it would be decided in the blink of an eye and it could so easily have gone either way…
Whorton-Eales led initially but a clash with the attacking Rivett forced both their cars off the track in a wild moment. It look momentarily as if Bushell would seize the opportunity to grab the lead but instead his car was side-swiped by that of – you guessed – the recovering Whorton-Eales.
Bushell was sent crashing into the barriers while Whorton-Eales was fortunate to continue without significant damage. With Bushell out he ‘toured’ around to finish in seventh to take the title in his fifth season in the championship.
Meanwhile the race ended with a new name on the top step of the podium – 17-year-old Josh Price who took full advantage of the Rivett-Whorton-Eales-Bushell incident to claim a brilliant victory and join Max Coates and Paul Streather as a first-time winner in 2016. His triumph also made it seven different winners out of the season’s 18 races.
Whorton-Eales thus took the title ahead of Bushell and Coates who pipped Rivett for third in the final standings.
“I feel sorry for Mike – we’ve raced hard but fair all year and it’s not the way either of us would have wanted it to end,” commented Whorton-Eales who, like so many UK Clio Cup greats before him, is already being linked to a drive in the British Touring Car Championship in 2017.
“On saying that, I’ve had some bad luck along the way so I’m going to be greedy and savour this moment. It’s also fantastic for my team, JamSport, who are still relatively new to the championship – to win it in only their second full season and end the dominance of Mike’s team Team Pyro is a brilliant achievement.”
CLICK HERE to see short video highlights of the Brands Hatch title-decider.
STOP PRESS: The UK Clio Cup has also announced that Michelin – synonymous with the Renault name – will return as the championship’s tyre supplier in 2017. CLICK HERE for the full story.