James Colburn bounced back from a disappointing start to his 2012 AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK campaign with his first victory of the season during Round Five at Thruxton.
The Westbourne Motorsport driver, who challenged for the championship title in 2011, was only able to pick up one top five finish in a frustrating opening two weekends of the season, however he finally kick-started his title challenge with a superb win in tricky conditions around the Hampshire circuit.
It was Team Pyro's Adam Bonham who started the race from pole position, but his lead lasted a matter of yards after a fantastic getaway for Colburn saw him dive through to take the lead from third on the grid, with Bonham slipping into third behind fellow front-row starter and team-mate Josh Files.
A dramatic opening couple of laps saw a spin for Kim Andersson at Noble, the Swede unable to continue, while further around the lap, contact at the final chicane sent Nicolas Hamilton into a spin and down the order, a frustrating incident having started a career-best seventh. On lap two, more contact at the chicane between Vic Covey and Simon Belcher sent the latter round, with him also dropping to the back.
Enjoying no such dramas was Colburn, however the former Saxmax champion was soon under immense pressure from Files behind. Bonham ran a comfortable third, while behind Ignis Gelzinis was fourth early on after a superb qualifying session. The Lithuanian began to hold up those behind though, with championship leader Jack Goff the first to find his way past on lap four.
Gelzinis was soon under pressure from Scuderia Vittoria duo James Dixon and Luke Wright, who in turn were hotly pursued by reigning champion Paul Rivett, who was looking to work his way through the field after a disappointing qualifying session.
Rivett soon got up to seventh ahead of Wright, before they all passed Gelzinis after the Juta Racing driver suffered a problem heading into the chicane on lap nine. Gelzinis was able to get going again in twelfth, though also suffering as a result was Wright. He had to go off track to avoid the slowing Gelzinis, dropping him into the battle between Rookie Cup runners Josh Cook and Mike Bushell behind.
Ahead, the battle for the lead was intensifying, with Files challenging for the lead lap after lap into the final chicane, but Colburn produced some superb defensive driving to maintain the advantage. Files' best chance came on lap nine when Colburn locked his tyres heading into the chicane, with the duo touching as they exited the corner, but Colburn just fended him off to keep the place.
Negotiating the final few laps well, Colburn went on to cross the line for the win, with Files taking his second podium of the season. Bonham took third, despite late pressure from team-mate Goff, while working his way up to a strong fifth was Goff's championship rival Rivett.
Dixon took sixth ahead of team-mate Wright, while a late move saw Bushell take eighth and with it the Rookie Cup honours ahead of Cook and Ant Whorton-Eales, who produced a great drive from sixteenth on the grid to tenth. Taking eleventh was Adam Gould ahead of a recovering Gelzinis, Covey and Hamilton. Ronnie Klos looked set to take the Masters Cup honours after running just outside the top twelve early on, however a retirement just after midway meant the recovering Belcher took the class honours in seventeenth overall.
Colburn said: “It was awesome. I got a great launch off the line in between the two in front of me and we managed to keep it from there fortunately. Josh was putting me under massive pressure and I built a gap first of all which allowed me to get some more heat into the tyres as we went out with cold slicks on the rear and brand new ones on the front. It was a bit hairy out there for the first few laps, but we managed to cope with it. Josh then caught me back up and was right on my rear bumper for the whole of the race, I would pull away a little but then he would catch me up. It was a great race and a great victory for the team.”
Full results can be found here: http://tsl-timing.com/toca/2012/121703cli.pdf