Josh Cook emerged victorious from a frantic final round of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup at Brands Hatch to take his first victory in the series for a year, in the process entering his name in the history books as the final winner with the third-generation Clio in the championship.
With the championship decided in the weekend’s opening race, it was just pride on the line in the last race of the season, with the final race adrenalin leading to a number of safety car interludes during the encounter.
James Colburn started the race from pole position, and a strong start for the Round 15 winner saw him lead into Paddock Hill bend for the first time. Newly-crowned champion Josh Files maintained second, while a slow-starting Stefan Hodgetts lost ground from third.
The action remained relatively sedate until Graham Hill bend, when a concertina effect of bumper-rubbing resulted in Colburn and Files getting spat out wide. Cook benefitted to storm through into the lead, from fifth on the grid, with Mike Bushell up to second ahead of Files, Colburn falling to eighth.
Files slipped to fourth behind a resurgent Hodgetts later in the lap however, with the Team Pyro man soon embroiled in a fierce battle for his place. Files, Jake Giddings and Ant Whorton-Eales ran three abreast into Druids on lap two, with Giddings the man to lose a place through the hairpin.
Whorton-Eales went on to snatch fourth from Files at Surtees a lap later, just before the safety car entered the fray for the first time following a trip into the barriers for Finlay Crocker on the run up to Druids.
A good restart for Cook on lap five saw him comfortably maintain his advantage from Bushell, while Hodgetts came under quick pressure from Scuderia Vittoria team-mate Whorton-Eales.
Files continued to be in the thick of the action, losing ground to Giddings and Pyro team-mates Alex Morgan and Ash Hand over the next couple of laps, before gaining two spots back as Giddings and Hand lost time at Surtees on lap seven.
Their fighting was soon called to a halt again as the safety car entered the action for a second time. The cause was a collision between a recovering Hand, Luke Herbert and Lee Pattison that left the latter two in the Druids gravel trap. The retirement hurt Pattison in particular as it ended his chances of winning the Masters Cup title, the JHR driver having battled from the rear of the field into the class lead.
As the green flag was unfurled to resume the action, there was drama exiting Clearways. An unfortunate slide for Hodgetts led to unavoidable contact in the rear for Morgan, the punt sending Hodgetts into the end of the pit wall.
This meant the racing was stopped before it had even begun again, and by the time the stricken Clio was recovered the race time limit had elapsed. Cook was therefore confirmed the winner, the JHR Developments first win since a double success at Silverstone last year.
“It’s a fantastic result,” a delighted Cook told TCF. “We really needed a win this year. Coming back from two wins last year, we haven’t done too well for various reasons and struggled with car set-up. The car was fantastic today though, we had the pace to pull a gap were it not for the safety car, but it’s win, we’ll take it!”
Bushell took second, his highest finish of the season and first podium since Donington Park back in April, while third for Whorton-Eales closed his season out with three rostrum finishes in the final four races.
Morgan was able to continue to fourth despite the late contact, the Pyro racer ensuring he completed his rookie season a great third in the championship. Topping the final points though was Files, and his title swansong ended in a fifth place finish ahead of Giddings.
Colburn recovered to seventh at the finish, while Josh Wakefield took eighth on the road, however after contact on track, a 0.2 second penalty moved him below Ignas Gelzinis in the final classifications.
Hand eventually rounded out the top ten ahead of Aaron Williamson and Devon Modell, while taking the Masters Cup win in thirteenth was series returnee, 2007 champion Martin Byford. The overall Masters title went to Simon Belcher, third in class and sixteenth overall enough for him to defend his crown after Pattison’s incident.
“We made this hard work over the last couple of rounds,” said Belcher. “Yesterday I got absolutely beaten-up, I went away a little bit despondent but came back to the track today just planning to stay with the others in the Masters and keep it sensible. We were all together and then about halfway through, I saw [Lee] Pattison in the gravel and knew we’d done it – it’s fantastic to retain the title.”
Full race results can be found here: http://tsl-timing.com/toca/2013/134103cli.pdf