Brands Hatch’s Renault UK Clio Cup qualifying session threw up a fascinating grid order ahead of the season’s championship-deciding final two rounds with Ant Whorton-Eales and Ashley Sutton emerging at the top of the times and Ash Hand, the man they are trying to catch for the title, in only sixth.
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Maximum Motorsport’s Whorton-Eales set the outright fastest time with a lap around Brands’s legendary Grand Prix circuit in one minute 39.056 seconds to secure pole position for race one, to be held later this afternoon.

He also topped the list of second-best times which decide the starting grid order for race two with a time of 1m39.142s for another pole. Sutton, in his BMR Restart-backed Team Pyro car, qualified second-fastest for both grids.

Behind them the race one grid order read Paul Rivett (WDE Motorsport), Paul Streather (Finesse Motorsport), Tom Grundy (JamSport Racing) and Hand (Team Pyro). For race two, on Sunday, the order will be Whorton-Eales, Sutton, Grundy, Streather, Luke Kidsley (JamSport) and Hand.

CLICK HERE for full qualifying times for both races.

It all means that Whorton-Eales and Sutton have a vital advantage over Hand starting both races. And it is crucial that they both finish ahead of them in this afternoon’s race if they want to keep their title hopes alive going into Sunday’s final round.

Whorton-Eales said: “I’m quite happy with those times but I really feel I should have been down into the 1m38s – I made a couple of small errors on my best laps and there was a bit of traffic. We got pipped yesterday in the two test sessions but it’s much more important to show what you’ve got when it matters, like in qualifying.”

And added Sutton, who has been unwell leading up to the weekend: “That was a good session for me. Two front row starts, the car feels very good and I’m feeling a lot better in myself. I’m where I need to be with Ash back in sixth.”

Hand commented: “That was a tough qualifying session – we’ve found that a turbo pipe on my car had come loose so I was a bit down on power and it shows in the times. To still put it P6 despite that is not too shabby and I’m OK starting from there. The other two have got it all to do and they know I’m not going to be far behind them.”

Meanwhile Streather’s performance, on his UK Clio Cup debut, was nothing short of stunning. And there was also clear delight among the JamSport team’s faces after its most competitive qualifying session to date in the championship.

However, there is work to do for the Northampton team as Grundy, after setting his best laps, then suffered a heavy crash at Paddock Hill Bend. Similarly Rivett also pranged his car at Sheene Curve earlier in the session – consequently he was unable to set a second competitive lap time so will start Sunday’s race from way back in 19th on the grid.

Elsewhere, Jon Maybin and Sam Watkins achieved the highest grid positions across the two races for the Cooksport and 20Ten squads respectively – Maybin will line up in seventh for the start of race one and Watkins 13th for Sunday’s encounter. Watkins’s new team-mate Ben Palmer was unable to set a competitive lap time as repairs were still being made on his car after a heavy crash during testing on Friday afternoon.