Paul Rivett looked set to start his AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK title defence in perfect fashion with an opening round victory at Brands Hatch, that was until a disappointing late retirement gifted the win to Jack Goff.
Despite an early off in qualifying, it was Goff's Team Pyro team-mate Josh Files who took the first pole position of the season, but he soon lost his lead to Stancombe Vehicle Engineering's Rivett, who held the lead throughout until a broken wheel forced him out with just over two laps to go.
A good start for Files saw him lead into Paddock Hill for the first time and the second year driver held the lead for the first two corners until a mistake at Graham Hill Bend saw him slide wide. This allowed fellow front row starter Rivett through for the lead, with Files recovering to fourth behind Goff and James Colburn.
Clearly frustrated at his mistake, Files was instantly back on the offensive and the Pyro man found his way past Colburn for third on lap two. Files quickly closed down the two in front to make it a three way fight for the lead, leaving Westbourne Motorsport's Colburn in a lonely fourth.
Behind, Luke Wright led a seven car train in fifth. Adam Bonham was Wright's closest challenger and the Pyro man made a move on lap eight, however he just ended up running wide, allowing Aaron Williamson to nip past into sixth.
Clio Winter Series champion Williamson made further ground a few laps later, storming past Wright at Paddock Hill to take fifth, with Wright just able to shut the door before Bonham followed through. The pack all gained a spot soon after when Colburn was forced to pit from fourth with a mechanical problem, the Clio race-winner only able to re-join the race a lap down after repairs.
Back at the front, Files was putting Goff under serious pressure in second, which allowed Rivett to pull a small gap at the front. Rivett looked in control of the race and heading for victory when he slowed coming out of Druids on lap eighteen, allowing Goff and Files past, before pulling off the road on the back straight and retiring with a trackrod failure.
Goff held off Files for the remainder of the race to take the win, his fourth in the Clio Cup, while benefitting from Colburn and Rivett's demise to complete the podium was Finesse Motorsport's Williamson, who also took the rookie class honours in the process. Bonham took fourth, matching his best ever Clio Cup result, with James Dixon working his way up sixth, making up for a disappointing qualifying session for the Scuderia Vittoria man. Jake Giddings was set for sixth in his Finesse car, however a mechanical problem forced him out on the final lap.
Swede Kim Andersson took seventh ahead of Ant Whorton-Eales and Mike Bushell, with Josh Cook rounding out the top ten for 20Ten Racing ahead of William Davison. Taking a hugely impressive twelfth on his debut was rallying convert Adam Gould, the rookie fighting back through the field after a spin on the opening lap. Also making up ground after an opening lap skirmish was Nicolas Hamilton, the Total Control Racing star taking thirteenth, whilst Mark Tilbury took the Masters Cup honours in fourteenth.