Scuderia Vittoria ended their debut season in the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK with a mixed bag of results at Brands Hatch. While newcomer Ant Whorton-Eales once again starred, there was bitter disappointment for Luke Wright.
Dorset-based Wright qualified fourth for race one and produced a strong start in race one, but was elbowed wide at the first corner and taken into the barriers hard, causing extensive damage to his Clio. The damage was enough to rule Wright out of the weekend's second race, a devastating result for Wright, who was set to start the race from the front row after qualifying second.
With Wright's races ruined, Scuderia's hopes were left with teenager Whorton-Eales, making his second appearance in the championship. The rookie didn't disappoint, racing to a great fifth position in the opening race, setting the fastest lap in the process. He followed this up with seventh place in race two to cap off a strong two-meeting run in the series.
Whorton-Eales said: “I just went in too hot, and after that I had to fight back. But it's been a good weekend, especially getting fastest lap in the first race – and in only my second race meeting on slick tyres! I need to nail qualifying though – I didn't really get a lap together on the new tyres.”
The weekend saw the team step up from two cars to four cars for the first time this campaign, with Australian Mazda MX5 champion Ash Miller and Mini Challenge graduate Chris Smith making their Clio Cup debuts. On his front wheel drive debut, Miller did a great job of qualifying twelfth, with Smith two places behind.
The opening race saw the duo both produce strong runs, with Smith taking eleventh and Miller twelfth. In race two, Miller took thirteenth, while Smith exited the race early on due to an error.
Smith commented: “I only drove the car for the first time on Wednesday. I've really enjoyed the step up from Minis, and you've really got to work on tiny differences in performance and set-up. The team is really professional. I was happy with my first race, but a bit annoyed to make the mistake in the second.”
Miller added: “I've had a ball. When I got sideways in the first race during contact it was tough to remember to put the power on, because I'm used to rear-wheel drive! By the end I didn't want the chequered flag to come out. In the second race I hung onto Nicolas Hamilton. He defended very well, and then by the end of the race there was nothing left in my tyres to keep the others behind me. I finally had a brush with the wall on the last lap that shattered my rear windscreen – but I can't wait to come back!”
Team director Danny Buxton added: “We've expanded to four cars, and it's a credit to the guys that we have working here that it didn't feel as though we'd doubled the number of cars we've got. The guys we have are fantastic, and it enables me to bring the drivers on and develop them.
“For Luke it was a case of what might have been – he got knocked off and that cost him his front-row position, so that one got away from us. But he's been the only new boy challenging this year, and he will be the man to beat in 2012. Ant is a star in the making – I am seriously impressed. He just needs to concentrate his efforts in qualifying and then he will be capable of running at the front and winning.
“Chris was thrown in at the deep end, and to be lapping within a second of the leaders on one of the longest circuits we go to does him a lot of credit. He showed some real promise for what will hopefully be more Clio racing next year.Ash had never seen the circuit or, like Chris, driven the car, but he lapped at a good pace and you've got to say he did a fantastic job. He's impressed me and he's another one we hope to see back in the future.”