Total Control Racing enjoyed a mainly positive start to the 2011 AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK season. James Dixon led the way for the team at his home circuit Brands Hatch, with Tom Grice also showing front running pace. Nicolas Hamilton improved throughout, while Mark Proctor endured a tough weekend.
Race one saw Dixon line up second on the grid, just 0.021 seconds off pole. He made a great start though and instantly took the lead. Withstanding pressure throughout the race, he held on to the result to take the win, his third in a row having won the final two rounds in 2010.
Also making headlines in race one was Hamilton, making his competitive race debut. Cheered on by his brother Lewis and father Anthony, he qualified just 1.2s off pole and enjoyed a strong first race, ending up lapping just one second shy of Dixon's best.
Round one didn't go to plan for Grice or Proctor. The latter, returning to racing for the first time since 2009, had a great start but contact damaged his steering a couple of corners in, forcing him to retire. Teenager Grice, making his Clio debut, managed to make it up to fifth at one point, before contact caused damage to the front of his car and he dropped back to an eventual finish of tenth.
TCR Team Principal Lee Brookes said: “It's fantastic to win the first race of the year, we're all absolutely delighted. James did a fantastic job, he was a bit unfortunate to miss out on pole but his start was spot-on and he drove a really good, calm race.”
“We're really disappointed for Mark and Tom as they both deserved a lot more from the race. Mark didn't get the lap he wanted in qualifying but he made a fantastic start in the race and was very unlucky to get contact. It was the same for Tom, his pace was great but the contact he had ruined it for him. Everyone was very pleased with the progress Nicolas made, he did a very solid job and is getting closer and closer to the others every time he's in the car.”
Race two saw Dixon line up second on the grid once again, but contact at the first corner saw him spin and end up at the back of the field. After another spin later on a McLaren, Dixon ended the race a disappointing 13th.
Also involved in incidents on the opening lap were Nicolas Hamilton and Mark Proctor, with contact between the two resulting in both ending up in the McLaren gravel trap. While Hamilton was able to get out and finish the race, Proctor's race was over on the opening lap once again.
Leading the way for TCR then was Grice, who enjoyed a great race. Starting ninth, he enjoyed a good battle with rivals Chris Swanwick and James Colburn, eventually passing both and finishing sixth overall, third in the Graduate Cup class.
Brookes added: “Tom had a very good race to finish sixth from ninth on the grid, he was less than a 10th of a second outside the fastest lap so that was great – he did a top job and we were really impressed. James couldn't do anything about the incident he got caught up in, he was pushed round and that ruined his chance of another podium. It was very disappointing but just one of those things.
“Mark's had a bit of a nightmare weekend really in the end, he made a good start in the first race on Saturday and then he and Nicolas got caught up together in Sunday's race when there was some contact. We know Mark will bounce back at Donington, he's a strong racer, and we're all delighted with the progress Nicolas has made so far. His pace is improving all the time.”