Ashley Sutton led from lights to flag to take his third Renault UK Clio Cup victory of the season at Rockingham, however it was far from easy for the Team Pyro ace as he resisted pressure throughout from his championship leading team-mate Ash Hand.
Hand had started the race from pole position, however a better getaway from alongside him gave Sutton the lead into Deene hairpin for the first time, while behind a slide wide for Paul Rivett and Ant Whorton-Eales allowed Charlie Ladell to briefly snatch third.
Rivett got back ahead on the run to Yentwood though and a robust move from Whorton-Eales into the corner gave him fourth – with damage from that contact going on to derail Ladell’s challenge as the race progressed.
At the front, an early four car train for the lead soon split into a pair of battles, with Sutton fending off Hand for the top spot while Rivett came under pressure for third from Whorton-Eales – with the change for the final podium spot coming on lap eight when Rivett went wide into Deene Hairpin.
That allowed Whorton-Eales to start closing the three second gap to the top two ahead, with his efforts aided by Sutton having to defend into Deene hairpin on every lap from Hand, who was using the slipstream on the banking to his advantage and drew alongside on multiple occasions.
Four laps from the end it was a three car battle for the lead, with Hand in the unenviable position of trying to attack and defend at the same time. Whorton-Eales briefly grabbed the place into Chapman on lap fifteen, but Hand got back ahead heading onto the banking at the end of the tour.
That battling gave Sutton the break he needed to cruise home to victory with a 2.6 second advantage, with Hand holding on to second to the flag for his eleventh podium finish of the campaign ahead of Whorton-Eales.
Rivett ran in fourth until lap fourteen, when his Clio stuck in gear and forced him to retire into the pits. That gave Rory Collingbourne the position after he moved up from eighth to fifth on the opening lap, with fourth being his best result of the season so far.
With Ladell dropping down the pack with his damage, the battle for fifth came down to George Jackson and Rory Green, with the latter getting through on lap five to secure his best finish of the campaign by far – smashing his previous high of tenth at Brands Hatch.
Jackson ended the race in sixth, his first top six finish of the campaign, with debutant Josh Price capping off an impressive weekend so far in seventh ahead of the ailing Ladell. A last lap drama for Peter Felix meanwhile handed the Masters Cup win to Mark Howard in ninth overall.
Fellow Masters entrant Graham Field was ruled out at the start as he unfortunately collected the stalled Clio of newcomer Luke Kidsley on the line, with the latter being joined on the retirements list by his JamSport team-mate Tom Grundy who suffered damage in a first lap tussle with Felix.
Full race results can be found here.