Ant-Whorton Eales clinched the Renault UK Clio Cup title, but not quite in the style he would have been hoping for. His title rival Mike Bushell had a heart breaking weekend, retiring from both races whilst fighting at the front of the field.
It was first blood to Bushell as he took pole position in qualifying, but he was down to fifth before the first corner of race one. Whorton-Eales, who started second, wasn’t about to say no to that as he jumped up into first.
The start was all for nothing though, as a multiple car collision brought out the red flag. Charlie Ladell had crashed into the barrier, which spat him back out into the track, where he collided with Luke Kidsley. Further back in the pack, newcomer Grint and Ollie Pidgley had made contact and were also out of the race.
The cars returned to the grid in their starting order, with a few gaps here and there for retired cars. Rory Collingbourn also had problems, heading itno the pits, whilst Sennan Proctor couldn’t get away on the formation lap and had to be pushed to the pits.
At the start, Whorton-Eales once again slipped easily into the lead before Paul Rivett took second place away from Bushell.
Rivett managed to get up alongside Whorton-Eales, and just about managed to make the move stick as he took the lead of the race.
Bushell’s team mate Josh Price wasn’t about to make it easy on the championship contender, pushing against him, but Bushell managed to stay ahead, still trying to hang on to the lead battle.
It looked like the older driver seemed to have things under control, but a small mistake sent Bushell side ways and, though he managed to keep going, Price pushed his way through. The two changed places a couple of times before Bushell finally managed to get third place back just as the safety car was deployed to recover Paul Strether’s stricken car.
The race was neutralised and Whorton-Eales fell into single file behind Rivett and ahead of Bushell. Until Bushell suddenly disappeared from the JamSport driver’s mirrors.
Bushell had been weaving in an attempt to warm his tyres, but span and fell into the gravel, where he became stuck. As if to add insult to injury, a marshal trying to help recover the vehicle set off the fire extinguisher in the Team Pyro driver’s car, making a mess for the team to clear up later.
It was the perfect opportunity for Whorton-Eales. If he won the race, or took second and the fastest lap, he would be crowned champion.
On the restart, the championship contender was still trying to find a way past Rivett in the race lead, but there was no way through. Behind him, Price was beginning to become a little too close for comfort too.
Whorton-Eales tried a move down the inside of Rivett, but Rivett shut the door and the pair made contact. It was the perfect opportunity for Price, who slipped through and into the lead of the race. Lee Pattison also surged forward to take third from Whorton-Eales. That wasn’t going to be enough to take the championship in race one.
Pattison was flying, but a small mistake sent him sideways for a moment, allowing Whorton-Eales to come alongside him. The JamSport driver was forced to take the outside line though, and Pattison kept the place. Whorton-Eales was trying everything to get past, but Pattison seemed to be able to make his car three times wider than the normal Clio and there was no way through.
Max Coates also fancied some of the action, easily getting past Whorton-Eales as the championship contender was frantically trying to move forward, but he managed to take the place back.
A mistake from Price up at the lead of the race was enough to allow Rivett through in the closing stages of the race, denying Price the race win.
Whorton-Eales would eventually cross the line fourth, meaning it would all be to play for in the final round of the championship.
Bushell still had a chance at the title, and pole position for the final race of the season was the best place for him to be.
But, once again, it would be Whorton-Eales leading going into the first corner, his trademark super start taking him ahead of Bushell. Rivett was once again pushing to get past, but this time he would have to stay behind the championship contender.
George Jackson was having a less than fantastic race. The JamSport driver was in the gravel, which brought out the safety car so the marshals could clear the track.
This time, Bushell was able to stay on the track, even keeping up with Whorton-Eales on the restart.
It all ended in tears though. Rivett tried a move around the outside of Bushell, aiming for the lead of the race. He made contact with Whorton-Eales, sending the raceleader sideways and Rivett off. Whorton-Eales returned to the track, only to sideswipe Bushell as he rejoined the race, knocking the Team Pyro driver into the wall.
Mike Bushell was out, for a second race in a row, whilst Whorton-Eales had slipped back to sixth.
That was the end of the championship battle. The JamSport driver would take the crown.
There was still a race to be had though, with Price now leading it. Ladell wasn’t too far behind him and, with neither driver having taken a win all season, both fancied their chances on the top step of the podium.
Max Coates also wanted to take another win, managing to get past Ladell despite the WDE driver defending well. Senna Proctor, James Colburn and Luke Kidsley were also looking to move forwards, everybody putting pressure on somebody.
In the closing stages of the race, Kidsley slipped, going sideways and mounting the wall. It brought out the red flag, and the end of the race.
Price would take his first win, ahead of Coates and Ladell. Whorton-Eales would take the championship win with a seventh place finish.
Image Credit: Renault UK Clio Cup Press Office.