Mike Bushell carded his first Renault UK Clio Cup win since Thruxton in May with a dominant lights-to-flag victory in the opening race of the weekend at Knockhill.
Twelve months on from making his BTCC debut at the Scottish venue, the Team Pyro racer completed a perfect day around the undulating Fife circuit after taking both pole positions in qualifying earlier in the day.
Unlike last time out at Snetterton, when poor starts from pole left Bushell faltering in the pack, a great getaway for the 25 year old saw him lead the field down Duffus Dip for the first time.
Bushell was kept under significant pressure both and after an early safety car period, but he fended off the attentions of Ant Whorton-Eales and Jordan Stilp to take his second win of the season by 0.7 seconds.
It proved to be a victory that tasted even sweeter after a tough race for points leader Josh Cook and fellow title contender James Colburn saw Bushell return to second in the points and close the gap at the head of the standings in the process.
“My start was probably one of the best out there so I’m well pleased,” said Bushell. “To have four poles in a row, that’s a show of our pace, and to win and get that off my back is absolutely fantastic.
“Luckily for me, [Josh] Cook and [James] Colburn finished quite a way down so that’s taken a big chunk out of them, I’m back to second in the championship and this has dented the gap to Cook as well so we’ve just got to keep this going. Hopefully we can do the same tomorrow, that’s the plan.”
While Bushell led away, a superb launch for Stilp saw him storm through from fourth into second place before the first corner. The 20Ten Racing ace attempted a move for the lead at the hairpin on lap one, but his wide approach allowed Whorton-Eales to dive down the inside and snatch the spot.
From then on, despite Stilp’s best efforts, the positions didn’t change again and Whorton-Eales matched his best finish of the season so far in second, with Stilp left defending his podium place from Whorton-Eales’ SV Racing team-mate Ash Hand.
Hand couldn’t find a way past though despite setting the fastest lap of the race, giving Stilp his third podium finish of the campaign. Behind, Alex Morgan led a close five-car train home in fifth, with Masters Cup winner Paul Rivett, Colburn, Cook and Lee Pattison in close pursuit.
For Cook it proved to be a frustrating race, the points leader having headed into it with damage limitation on his mind after a tough qualifying. The KX Akademy star slipped back to tenth on the opening lap, before fighting back to his eventual eighth place finishing position by lap six.
Charlie Ladell completed the top ten at the finish, while behind there was early drama as a multi-car tangle on the opening lap eliminated Paul Knapp and Mark Howard. The other driver involved, series returnee Finlay Crocker recovered to twelfth at the finish behind Devon Modell, with debutant Jamie Clarke and Craig Milner completing the finishers.