In a characteristically hard-fought, action-packed 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup season, it was a championship stalwart and a tin-top rising star who grabbed the headlines with an intriguing title battle full of twists and turns.
In the seventh and final year of the third-generation Clio’s spell in the series, the Clio Cup produced the biggest grids on the BTCC support package – with three-time Clio champion Paul Rivett and Josh Files emerging at the front for a fiercely-fought duel.
Rivett got the early advantage in the title battle, picking up a double victory on the second weekend of the year at Donington Park. Another win and a third place at Oulton Park kept him ahead, but after a consistent start, a first ever Clio victory at Croft for Files in his 41st race in the category snuck him ahead in the points.
After the title protagonists shared the wins at Snetterton, the penultimate meeting of the year at Rockingham proved to be the crucial game-changer for the title battle. While Files took a pair of podiums, Rivett suffered an unfortunate opening race DNF.
This meant Files held a 38 point lead heading into the season finale, however that proved inconsequential after a dramatic twist on the eve of the event saw Rivett forced to miss out due to injury, ensuring Files won the title with a fourth place finish in the opening race.
While Rivett ended the year with more wins than Files, four to two, four more podium finishes were the key for Files, who added the Graduate Cup honours and later the Eurocup Clio Championship title to mark a truly sensational season.
Rivett’s finale absence meant he eventually slipped back to third in the final standings behind rookie Alex Morgan. The 26 year old had an incredible first season in Clio’s after four years away from the sport, bursting onto the scene with a stunning victory on the opening weekend at Brands Hatch.
Running with front-runners Team Pyro, Morgan proved the result wasn’t a flash in the pan by consistently running at the front over the season, taking eleven top five finishes in the sixteen races, visiting the podium four further times.
While Morgan was embarking on his first season in the tin-top series, James Colburn was tackling his fifth consecutive season. Like Morgan, the 21 year old got it off to a perfect start with the other race win at Brands, and went on to end it on a high with victory on the series’ return to Kent for the finale.
The Westbourne Motorsport ace took two other podium finishes in between, with his characteristic consistency, thirteen top seven finishes in sixteen races, leaving him just four points off Rivett in the final standings, his third top four championship finish in the series.
Fellow experienced Clio contender Stefan Hodgetts had a topsy-turvy year, the highlight of which being an incredible run in the middle of the season. From race two at Thruxton to the opener at Rockingham, the KX Akademy member carded four wins and three second places in eight races.
A slow start to the campaign and four retirements over the year meant it didn’t correlate into a championship challenge though, with the 31 year old left to settle for sixth in the championship, one place higher than he finished in 2012.
Hodgetts was joined at the front of the field by his Scuderia Vittoria/KX Akademy stable mate Ant Whorton-Eales. The 19 year old bounced back from a huge weekend-ending qualifying shunt at Thruxton and another DNF at Oulton to enjoy a strong campaign.
The second year driver carded a quartet of podium finishes in the final seven races, including a maiden win at Rockingham that came courtesy of the overtaking move of the year, a stunning move from twelfth to first at the opening corner.
Beating both the Scuderia Vittoria guys to a top five championship finish though was Josh Cook. While ultimately frustrated not to be challenging for wins more often, the JHR Developments racer followed a second place in the season opener with three more podium finishes, before ending the year in style with a dominant win in the final race at Brands.
Another driver who’d have hoped for a bit more from the year was Mike Bushell. Two podiums in the first three races hinted at a great year, but it wasn’t until after a couple of team changes and a BTCC debut that he returned to the podium with second behind Cook in the finale.
Ash Hand impressed in his debut car-racing campaign with Pyro, taking a maiden podium at Rockingham, while Jake Giddings was unlucky not to get on the rostrum this year, finishing fourth twice. Both drivers secured a top ten championship finish, just ahead of Bushell.
Alongside the battle at the front of the field, there was also fierce action through the season in the Masters Cup, the title battle for which went down to the final race of the season.
Reigning class champion Simon Belcher took the class lead from early double class winner Finlay Crocker with a pair of wins at Thruxton in May, and went on to hold the advantage for the remainder of the year.
The Handy Motorsport/Team Pyro racer came under serious pressure from Lee Pattison though, who joined the series a weekend late at Donington Park.
After carding an outright win at Thruxton, his focus quickly turned to closing down the gap to the class leaders, with ten wins in thirteen races putting him right on Belcher’s tail heading into the final race of the year.
Pattison was set to take the title in that race until contact from a rival sent him into the gravel, ensuring Belcher successfully defended his title with a total of eleven class podiums.
Crocker wouldn’t take any more class wins over the course of the year, eventually slipping to fourth in the standings behind Graham Field, who nearly snatched second from Pattison after being the only class driver to finish every race of the year. Guest drivers Peter Felix and 2007 Clio champion Martin Byford were the other two drivers to take a class win apiece during the season.
Alongside the main title, Graduate and Masters honours with Files and Belcher, Team Pyro completed a clean sweep of the honours available with a comprehensive victory in the WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy. Files’ success meanwhile made it five drivers’ title in six years for the Leicestershire-based outfit.
2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Final Standings:
1. Josh Files – 384pts
2. Alex Morgan – 330pts
3. Paul Rivett – 304pts
4. James Colburn – 300pts
5. Josh Cook – 288pts
6. Stefan Hodgetts – 276pts
7. Ant Whorton-Eales – 248pts
8. Lee Pattison – 223pts
9. Ash Hand – 213pts
10. Jake Giddings – 205pts
11. Mike Bushell – 193pts
12. Devon Modell – 135pts
13. Jordan Stilp – 125pts
14. Rob Smith – 107pts
15. Ignas Gelzinis – 106pts
16. James Nutbrown – 96pts
17. Josh Wakefield – 83pts
18. Simon Belcher – 71pts
19. Aaron Williamson – 70pts
20. Finlay Crocker – 54pts
21. Jacques Mizzi – 50pts
22. Tautvydas Barstys – 38pts
23. Ronnie Klos – 31pts
24. Graham Field – 30pts
25. Peter Felix – 19pts
26. Luke Herbert – 13pts
27. Martin Byford – 8pts
2013 Graduate Cup Top Six:
1. Josh Files – 430pts
2. James Colburn – 372pts
3. Josh Cook – 354pts
4. Ant Whorton-Eales – 315pts
5. Ash Hand – 291pts
6. Jake Giddings – 290pts
2013 Masters Cup Top Six:
1. Simon Belcher – 376pts
2. Lee Pattison – 345pts
3. Graham Field – 345pts
4. Finlay Crocker – 301pts
5. Ronnie Klos – 200pts
6. Peter Felix – 60pts
2013 WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Top Six:
1. Team Pyro – 742pts
2. Scuderia Vittoria – 627pts
3. JHR Developments – 508pts
4. Westbourne Motorsport – 490pts
5. Stancombe Vehicle Engineering – 308pts
6. Finesse Motorsport – 205pts