The 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup heads into its final meeting at Brands Hatch GP this weekend with the destination of the championship title still up in the air, with Josh Files and Paul Rivett set to battle it out for the coveted tin-top crown.
Files is the clear favourite to secure his first Clio title in Kent, the 22 year old holding a 38 point advantage over Clio stalwart Rivett with dropped scores included.
The Team Pyro ace holds the healthy advantage courtesy of an ultra-consistent run, with a superb ten podiums in the last twelve races, including his first two Clio Cup race wins.
While Rivett has been hot on his heels all campaign, with four wins keeping him in touch, an unfortunate retirement in the first race at Rockingham last time out may have been the nail in the coffin of the three-time champion’s hopes of securing the crown.
If Files finishes ahead of Rivett in the opening race at Brands, that alone will be enough to secure him the coveted title, in the process successfully defending the title for Team Pyro who won it last season with Jack Goff.
For Rivett to overturn the deficit, and prevent himself becoming the Clio vice-champion for the fourth time in his career, the 35 year old will need to win both races and see Files finish tenth or lower in both.
“If you’d told me at the start of the year I’d have two wins and 10 podiums, as well as lots of fastest laps and Graduate wins, after 14 rounds I’d have said I doubt it, but I’ll try,” said Files. “We’ve shown true pace and consistency this year, it’s been a really mature season. I won’t be letting off any slack at Brands, I don’t want to win the title by finishing eighth or something – I still want to win races and I’ll be going out to try and do that.”
“It’s a tall order,“ added Rivett. “Josh [Files] has got to have a bad weekend, not just a bad race, for us to stand a chance really but anything at all could happen and one thing’s for sure, I won’t give up and I’ll fight to the end. I want to end the season on a high, and I’ve always been very strong at Brands GP, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.”
While the focus will naturally be on the championship battle, there is also a host of drivers looking to steal the limelight away from title protagonists, led by Scuderia Vittoria pairing Stefan Hodgetts and Ant Whorton-Eales.
The KX Akademy duo shared the wins at Rockingham, Hodgetts taking his fourth of the campaign, Whorton-Eales his first in the Clios. That win made it seven podium finishes in nine races for Hodgetts, a run he’ll be aiming to continue at Brands.
Alex Morgan meanwhile currently sits third in the championship standings, his maiden Clio campaign having started in sensational finish with a race win at Brands Hatch in March. The 26 year old hasn’t carded a podium finish since Oulton Park in June though, a drought he’ll hope to end over the finale weekend.
Files and Morgan aren’t the only Pyro drivers running at the front at the moment though, with Ash Hand picking up his maiden Clio podium finish at Rockingham. The 19 year old will be targeting more of the same at Brands, as will new Pyro recruit Mike Bushell, who joins the team with a first podium since Donington Park in April in his sights.
James Colburn kicked off the season in style with victory at Brands in March and will be hoping to return to the top step of the podium this weekend, as will JHR Developments pairing Lee Pattison and Josh Cook, the latter running with a special British Heart Foundation livery for the weekend.
It’s not just the main championship up for grabs this weekend, with the Graduate Cup, Masters Cup and WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy all still to be decided.
Alongside the main title, Files is also clear favourite to wrap up the Graduate honours, sitting 57 points clear of his closest rival Colburn, having taken twelve class podiums in fourteen races including seven wins.
In the Masters, Simon Belcher currently leads the way as he looks to defend the class he won last year. The Pyro racer has competition from Pattison though, the JHR racer having taken nine Masters Cup wins in the 12 races he’s competed in.
With a 16 point lead, the consistent Belcher is still favourite to win the class, but any slip up and Pattison will be there to snatch it away.
Pyro could make it a clean sweep of the honours this season, as alongside Files and Belcher, the Leicestershire-based outfit are almost guaranteed to pick up the team’s title, holding a 101 point lead over Scuderia Vittoria.
With four titles still to be decided, including the coveted main championship, the final rounds of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup at Brands this weekend are sure to be two races not to miss.