A debut AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK podium finish for Tom Grice was the best result in a mixed weekend for Total Control Racing at Thruxton. Team-mate Nicolas Hamilton recovered well from a big crash in Friday practice to take two finishes, while James Dixon took two top six finishes to remain second in the championship.
18-year-old Grice, taking part in his maiden season in the Clio's, showed great pace in qualifying to take a front row place for Round five, finishing just 0.016s off pole. He slipped to third early on in the race, before surviving a multi-car incident at Noble on lap eight, with Grice himself getting tapped at the rear. After a safety car period, Grice held on to take third, also picking up the races fastest lap.
For two-time race winner this season Dixon, a frustrating qualifying saw him only eighth, though he was only 0.2 seconds from pole. He took seventh early on, before benefitting from the aforementioned incident at Noble to move through to a strong fourth place finish.
The team's final driver Hamilton suffered a tough start to his weekend, with a huge accident at Goodwood in Friday practice seeing him roll the car, resulting in huge damage to his Clio. The TCR mechanics provided him with a replacement car for qualifying and despite another small minor knock; he used it to set the fifteenth fastest time, which he converted to a best result of the season with tenth.
TCR Team Principal Lee Brookes said: “It's fantastic to see Tom on the podium, we knew he had the pace and it could be the start of a good run for him. We're really pleased to see James come through so well from eighth on the grid, they're valuable points for him. The team did an incredible job to get Nic back out on track today and he handled it all brilliantly. Finishing 10th was a great effort.”
The weekend's second race, televised live on ITV4, saw Dixon start highest, sixth on the grid. He moved onto the top five on lap one before a safety car period. After the restart, lap six saw him run wide at the chicane on lap six, dropping him back to sixth where he finished.
For Grice, a driveshaft failure in qualifying left him starting down the field. A strong run saw the rookie work his way through the field to take a strong seventh at the finish. Hamilton produced another positive performance, moving into the top twelve early on before a spin at Church dropped him back, eventually finishing thirteenth.
Brookes added: “All three drivers did a great job in Clios, the problem we had this weekend was in qualifying on the second set of tyres. Tom didn't get a lap on them due to a driveshaft problem and James wasn't as high up as he should have been. He's thought about the championship though and I'm confident they'll both be right up there at Oulton Park – they're really quick drivers.
“What can you say about Nic? After a massive accident on Friday, at one of the fastest corners in the country, he bounced back to qualify well and then do an absolutely superb job in the races. You just can't fault him at all – he never gives up and he's getting better and better.”