The Renault UK Clio Cup is building up to a dramatic season finale as the championship leaders are now tied on points going into the penultimate round of the season.
Mike Bushell and Ant Whorton-Eales have been sharing wins throughout the season and the Hollywood movie style weather at Rockingham wasn’t going to change that.
The sky was getting dark as the Clios made their way to the grid for the first race of the weekend. Bushell had secured pole earlier in the day, with Paul Rivett starting alongside him. A difficult qualifying meant Whorton-Eales would start from tenth but, with the crazy weather conditions, anything was possible.
In almost pitch darkness as the race began and, before the field had even made it halfway around the track, Whorton-Eales had moved all the way up to second on the wet track whilst Bushell had lost out and slipped down to third.
The Pyro driver had made contact with Max Coates early in the lap.
“I had a bang with Max on the opening lap which affected the set-up of the car quite badly,” Bushell said. “I couldn’t do much else to be honest.”
The safety car brought the field across the line as a number of cars pitted and Luke Kidsley retired from the race.
On lap four, the race restarted, and it didn’t take long for Whorton-Eales to push his way past Rivett and up into the lead of the race. Bushell followed his championship rival through, but Rivett fought back and retook second place. The order of the top three remained unchanged for the rest of the race.
“I can’t recall driving in conditions like that,” Whorton-Eales said. “My start was very good and that got me into P2 to begin with. Then Rivett went low into Turn 1 at the restart and I knew the faster line would be higher up the banking so took full advantage. The car felt great in the wet and drawing clear wasn’t a problem.”
Behind them, the battle was on for P4. David Dickenson had slipped down to the position at the start of the race and was now having to defend against Max Coates to keep it.
Coates managed to get up into fourth at the midpoint of the race, but fell back on the final lap and would eventually cross the line in eighth.
Conditions were a little more conventional for the second race of the weekend.
Once again, it would be Bushell on pole and, on a slightly drier track, the Team Pyro driver had an easier time staying at the front of the pack.
This time, Whorton-Eales would be a little closer to the front, but he was still only starting in sixth whilst Rivett would start alongside Bushell.
An early safety car paused the race before the end of the first lap again, but Whorton-Eales had already managed to make his way up to fourth.
Once the safety car headed into the pits, the JamSport driver set off to catch up with Josh Price, who was running in third. He managed to get past started to catch up with Rivett, but wouldn’t be quite as easy to get past. Slight contact with the WDE Motorsport driver cost him ground and he fell back behind Price. Coates was right on Whorton-Eales tail, but wasn’t pushing to get past the JamSport driver. Instead, he slipped past Price with Whorton-Eales when he managed to get back up into third.
Then it was game on for Coates. He swapped and changed places with Whorton-Eales three times in the space of six corners, but it was Coates who was in the lead when they came across the finish line for the final time.
The fourth place for Whorton-Eales puts him twenty two points behind Bushell in the championship, but the two-dropped-score rule puts both drivers on 328 points as it stands.
1 – Ant Whorton-Eales – JamSport Racing
2 – Paul Rivett – WDE Motorsport
3 – Mike Bushell – Team Pyro
4 – David Dickenson – Team Pyro
5 – Chris Smiley – JamSport Racing
6 – Josh Price – Team Pyro
7 – Charles Ladell – WDE Motorsport
8 – Max Coates – Ciceley Motorsport
9 – Shayne Deegan – Team Cooksport
10 – Dan Zelos – Ciceley Motorsport
11 – Anton Spires – PP Motorsport
12 – Ollie Pidgley – Ciceley Motorsport
13 – George Jackson – Team Cooksport
14 – Paul Streather – Finesse Motorsport
15 – Rory Collingbourne – Team Cooksport
16 – Lee Pattison – Team Cooksport
17 – Senna Proctor – Team BMR with Pyro – DNF
18 – Luke Kidsley – JamSport Racing – DNF
1 – Mike Bushell – Team Pyro
2 – Paul Rivett – WDE Motorsport – DNF
3 – Max Coates – Ciceley Motorsport
4 – Ant Whorton-Eales – JamSport Racing
5 – Josh Price – Team Pyro
6 – Senna Proctor – Team BMR with Pyro
7 – Charles Ladell – WDE Motorsport
8 – David Dickenson – Team Pyro
9 – Rory Collingbourne – Team Cooksport
10 – Shayne Deegan – Team Cooksport
11 – Ollie Pidgley – Ciceley Motorsport
12 – Luke Kidsley – JamSport Racing
13 – Lee Pattison – Team Cooksport
14 – Dan Zelos – Ciceley Motorsport
15 – Paul Streather – Finesse Motorsport
16 – Chris Smiley – JamSport Racing – DNF
17 – Anton Spires – PP Motorsport – DNF
18 – George Jackson – Team Cooksport – DNF
Feature image credit: Renault UK Clio Cup Press Office