Round 13 pole position qualifier Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) converted his grid-topping starting slot into a well-deserved second win of the Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup season at Knockhill in Fife this afternoon, Saturday, 23rd August, to climb back into the championship top two.
Having extended his unbroken run of pole positions to four this morning, the VitalRacing with Team Pyro driver eradicated memories of the previous race meeting at Snetterton – where he wasn’t able to capitalise on his qualifying dominance – by delivering a great start and a controlled victory.
Although under significant pressure, both before and after an early Safety Car period, Bushell managed to keep his pursuers at bay and during the final third of the race he was able to back off a little, avoiding any unnecessary risks.
He eventually took the flag just 0.7 seconds clear of SV Racing with KX driver Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) with 20Ten Racing’s Jordan Stilp (Potterspury) third. Bushell’s chief title rivals, series leader Josh Cook (Bath) and James Colburn (Worthing), finished eighth and seventh respectively.
“My start was probably one of the best out there so I’m well pleased”, said an ecstatic Bushell, “We actually put the old clutch back in the car which we’d binned, there was obviously nothing wrong with it! To have four poles in a row, that’s a show of our pace, and to win and get that off my back is absolutely fantastic.
“Luckily for me, [Josh] Cook and [James] Colburn finished quite a way down so that’s taken a big chunk out of them, I’m back to second in the championship and this has dented the gap to Cook as well so we’ve just got to keep this going. Hopefully we can do the same tomorrow, that’s the plan.”
While front-row starters Bushell and Whorton-Eales each got away smartly from the line, it was Stilp who made the best launch of all and sensationally rocketed from fourth into second place ahead of Whorton-Eales.
In a position to try and challenge Bushell on the run out of Clark’s and through Hislop’s, Stilp went to the outside for the hairpin but Whorton-Eales seized his chance and dived up the inside of the 20Ten car to move back into second. Thereafter, the top three didn’t change but the racing remained incredibly close.
Ash Hand (Nuneaton) got the better of fellow KX Akademy driver, and team-mate, Alex Morgan (Reading) in the battle for fourth position and his unrelenting pressure on Stilp enabled Whorton-Eales and Bushell to edge clear around mid-distance. Hand’s pace and podium potential was confirmed with the fastest lap of the race on the eighth tour.
Whorton-Eales reflected: “At the start of the race we had [Jordan] Stilp behind, he had a fantastic start and made it in front of me but I managed to pass him back just before Turn One at the start of the second lap. He was very fast, me and Mike [Bushell] were trying to break away but Stilp was there and Ash Hand too.
“I’ve never raced at Knockhill before, never been here to even watch, so to turn up on Friday and be fastest in free practice one was a bit of a shock. We’re definitely quick and I’m happy with second, hopefully tomorrow we can improve.”
Third placed Stilp added: “I’m ever so happy. It doesn’t matter where you start on the grid in Clios, you’re never too sure where you’re going to finish. We got a blinding start, got into second, and then [Mike] Bushell didn’t get a very good release coming out of the chicane. So, coming down to the hairpin I thought I’d go around the outside but then Ant [Whorton-Eales] went up the inside of me.”
Fifth place finisher Morgan headed home a very tight five-car train with WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Banstead) sixth, and also taking the spoils in the Masters Cup class, Westbourne’s Colburn seventh, championship leader Cook a frustrated eighth and Pyro’s Lee Pattison (Scholes) ninth. The top 10 was completed by the second WDE car of Charlie Ladell (Felixstowe).
On his return to the Renault UK Clio Cup, Finlay Crocker (Bathgate) posted a top 12 finish behind Westbourne’s Devon Modell (Maidstone). The Scottish racer managed to recover after getting caught-up in a multi-car tangle on the opening lap at Scotsman – the others involved, Paul Knapp (Farningham) and Mark Howard (Westborough), both retired.
The second race of the weekend, round 14, is scheduled to begin at 12.30 tomorrow, Sunday, 24th August, and will be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD and online at the itv.com/btcc website. Bushell lines-up on pole position once again with Stilp second on the grid, Hand and Whorton-Eales on the second row and Cook and Rivett on row three.
The Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup is additionally supported by ELF, Performance Friction, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup standings (after Rd13):
1st Josh Cook, 315pts; 2nd Mike Bushell, 285pts; 3rd James Colburn, 283pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ standings (after Rd13):
1st Josh Cook, 337pts; 2nd James Colburn, 333pts; 3rd Ant Whorton-Eales, 320pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ standings (after Rd13):
1st Lee Pattison, 388pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 325pts; 3rd Mark Howard, 250pts
Provisional 2014 Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup Team standings (after Rd13):
1st SV Racing with KX, 681pts; 2nd Team Pyro, 509pts; 3rd Westbourne Motorsport, 453pts