Ant Whorton-Eales produced another masterclass performance at Rockingham to secure a sensational victory in the opening Renault UK Clio Cup race of the weekend.
The race featured some of the most chaotic weather in recent championship history, with monsoon like rain being coupled with fading light that led to the race ending in near darkness.
Undeterred was Whorton-Eales though who almost repeated his memorable rise from twelfth to first in the opening two corners at the Corby circuit from three years ago.
In his JamSport Racing Clio, it took Whorton-Eales just four corners to climb from tenth on the grid to second as he combined a fast start with some opportunistic moves.
Ahead, poleman Mike Bushell and Paul Rivett had run side-by-side into the Deene hairpin for the first time, with the latter emerging in front in his WDE Motorsport machine.
Heading into Chapman, contact in the rear from Max Coates sent Bushell wide, with their loss of momentum allowing Whorton-Eales to dive past both to assume second.
Bushell retained third ahead of David Dickenson, Coates and Senna Proctor, with the race neutralised shortly afterwards following a slide into the gravel trap for Luke Kidsley.
On the restart, Rivett’s advantage was short-lived as a wider line for Whorton-Eales through the corner produced more grip and saw him sweep into the race lead.
Bushell pounced immediately as well, getting down the inside at Pif Paf to demote Rivett to third, but the triple champion hit back on the next lap at the Deene hairpin.
Their battling had allowed Whorton-Eales to streak clear, going on to take victory by 8.7s for his seventh win of the campaign – with Rivett and Bushell completing the podium behind.
The battle for fourth was fiercely contested throughout, with Ciceley’s Coates and Pyro’s Dickenson swapping the position between themselves in the first half of the race.
Coates would decisively take the position at the midway point, with Dickenson’s challenge taking a hit soon after following contact with Proctor as they ran side-by-side through the chicane.
As Proctor retired on the spot, Dickenson slipped to sixth behind Josh Price briefly, but soon dispatched his team-mate and focused his attentions back on Coates ahead.
Their battle came to a head in the dying stages, as contact on the rear at the exit of the hairpin spun Coates around, with Dickenson going on to take fourth from Chris Smiley, Price and Charlie Ladell.
Coates recovered to eighth at the finish ahead of the impressive Shayne Deegan, who rose from eighteenth on the grid to the top ten in his first wet race with Team Cooksport.
Dan Zelos completed the top ten ahead of Anton Spires, though both could have finished higher after positive drives were hit with rotations at Gracelands and Deene respectively.
After first lap visits to the pitlane, Ollie Pidgley, Paul Streather and Lee Pattison were consigned to 12th, 14th and 16th place finishes respectively, split by George Jackson and Rory Collingbourne.
The second race of the weekend, which is set to be televised live on ITV4, comes tomorrow at 13:00.