The Checkered Flag are delighted to welcome current Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup championship leader Alex Morgan as one of our bloggers for 2014. Here’s his first instalment:
“As the 2013 Clio Cup season drew to a close at Brands Hatch in October, I couldn’t have imagined what the winter held in store for me both on and off the track. Away from racing I had just qualified as a Private Client solicitor at Pitmans LLP after completing a two year training contract with the same firm, and was making a break in my legal career. With racing still in the forefront of my mind however, I applied for a place on the prestigious KX Akademy as I worked towards securing a drive in 2014.
As the new year approached, the great news came from Jason Plato himself, ‘Alex, we’d like to invite you onto the KX Akademy’! I was relieved to get the call to say the least and work started on testing the new fourth generation Clio with my new team, SV Racing. With budget in mind I managed to complete only four days of testing before round one approached, but nevertheless, I felt confident I had the right people around me to succeed in what was to be my second year in Clios.
After finishing second in the 2013 championship and being a KX Akademy Clio driver (one in four in the series!!), I could feel the expectation to succeed mounting, but confidence was high and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. To add to the pressure, the Checkered Flag kindly rated me No.1 BTCC support driver to watch for the 2014 season and so Brands Hatch couldn’t come quick enough!
When I got out on track on Friday however, all was forgotten and I pushed hard to show my intentions early and I ended up P1 in free practice 1 by 0.333s. I was thrilled with the result but knew we had more work to do which was shown in free practice 2, as my team mate Josh Cook pipped me to p1 by a mere 0.04s. Still second place was good and we knew as a team the pace was there and that any one of us Akademy drivers could take pole!
Saturday morning came and the short 30 minute qualifying session went exactly to plan. Having got the most out of the first set of new tyres I knew I needed to just find a tenth or so on the second set to secure pole position for the season opener. As the session drew to a close I got the good news from team boss Danny Buxton that I was starting pole for both races! I was delighted to get my 2014 season and KX Akademy career off to the perfect start.
The races were always going to be a different story however, but I knew the hard work was already done in qualifying. The only hurdle in my way for a good result was the start. Having never done a practice start I made the most of the green flag lap to learn what I could, and when the lights went out, I seemed to have got the best getaway of the drivers around me somehow!
After a short period of pressure early on from team Pyro’s Rob Smith as I tried to preserve the front tyres, I managed to then break away from him and the ensuing pack. The race couldn’t have run smoother and by the time the flag dropped I was 4.6s ahead of second place as I took one of the most memorable wins in my career, and the first driver to win in the new turbo powered Clio on UK soil!
The stage was set for a great race 2, and whilst my intention was to repeat the race 1 performance, I soon realised that was not to be! After holding a nice three car margin for the first 1/3 of the race, pressure started to mount from Mike Bushell and Paul Rivett as they made the most of the large tow the new car generates. The battle was very close and we all held our positions until two laps from the end when Paul managed to get past Mike at Druids.
The tussle gave me a little breathing space but the veteran soon latched on to the back of me and set about unsettling my rhythm. I knew I only had to control the race for one more lap to secure my second race win of 2014 and as we entered the last lap, the three-way fight turned into a five car affair as my teammate Ant Whorton Eales and team Pyro’s Rob Smith joined the battle. I managed to keep my cool however and brought the car home for another great win!
The weekend all in all was fantastic and I learnt a huge amount. It was a great step forward for my career as I managed to achieve my first pole positions in Clio Cup and my first double podium finish in the series, and better still they were both p1! Leaving Brands Hatch I could only be positive about what SV Racing as a team achieved on their debut weekend under their new guise, and thankful to be leading the championship as we head to Donington Park for rounds three and four.
It was a massive boost to have performed so well on my KX Akademy debut and I hope to build on the momentum going forward in my bid to bring the Clio championship to the Akademy. There is no doubt the new car and the driver line-ups are going to make for some unbelievably exciting racing and I am pumped to be a part of the series for 2014!
Since Brands Hatch I have been out in the car for official testing at Thruxton which also went extremely well. In the week build up to Donington Park I feel as prepared I can be and can’t wait to get back out in the Clio at a circuit where I have always been fast in the past.
Unfortunately I will be turning 27 years old on Wednesday and will have to wait to celebrate until the racing is done! The aim will be to get another two podiums, so stay tuned for regular updates on my new blog with the Checkered Flag!”