Josh Cook remains the leader of the 2014 Renault UK Clio Cup heading into the penultimate meeting of the season at Rockingham this weekend, but does so with his points lead slashed after a tough outing at Knockhill two weeks ago.
On the championship’s first trip north of the border since 2010, the SV Racing ace found himself battling to just a pair of eighth places finishes, results compounded by a great outing for championship contender Mike Bushell.
Life isn’t going to be any easier for the KX Akademy racer this weekend though, with a thirteen place grid penalty for the race two contact coming into force for the Rockingham opener that will leave him fighting from towards the back of field.
Cook is still confident of securing a strong points haul from that race though, and will be pushing to add to his five wins and four other podium finishes so far this season to ensure he stays atop the standings going into the Brands Hatch season finale in October.
Bushell will be confident of closing the gap even further or even snatching the points lead this weekend after a star outing at Knockhill. The Team Pyro racer turned a pair of pole positions into a win and a third place finish to bring himself sixteen points shy of Cook in the standings.
That deficit narrows to twelve with dropped scores included, and with a current run of four consecutive pole positions under his belt confirming his impressive pace, the 25 year old will be hoping for a top weekend to set up a grandstand Brands finish.
James Colburn had headed to Knockhill second in the standings, but like Cook, it proved to be a frustrating trip north of the border for the Westbourne Motorsport driver with a pair of seventh place finishes. Those moved him 27 points off the top, meaning he’ll be targeting wins in Corby to help overturn the deficit.
Alongside Bushell, the other star driver at Knockhill was Jordan Stilp. The double Croft race-winner took a third race win of the season and a third place finish to keep him on the outskirts of the championship picture, and the 20Ten Racing ace will need another big points haul this weekend to keep in touch.
In a similar position in the title race is Ant Whorton-Eales, who is currently on a run of one podium finish in each of the last four weekends with second in the Knockhill opener. The SV Racing man took his maiden Clio win at Rockingham last year, and will want to replicate that result this time around.
Two drivers to watch as they target big results before the end of the campaign meanwhile are Alex Morgan and Paul Rivett. Morgan has only taken one top three finish since his opening weekend double victory and wants more, while Rivett is desperate to ensure it’s not the first season since 2003 that he’s competed in the Clios and not won a race.
Rivett’s Masters Cup rival Lee Pattison heads into the meeting knowing a class win and a second place will secure him the class title, and the Pyro racer will be confident of success having not finished outside the class top two all campaign so far. A first outright podium finish since Oulton Park is on the radar too.
Ash Hand will be aiming to continue a strong recent run of form meanwhile, having added fourth and second place finishes, plus two fastest laps, at Knockhill to a double podium at Croft. The SV racer took his first Clio podium at Rockingham last year, and a maiden Clio win is in his sights now.
The championship had a season high grid of sixteen at Knockhill with the additions of Scotsmen Jamie Clarke and Finlay Crocker for their home meeting, but neither will be returning this weekend. There will be one new face though, with Dan Holland sitting in for Paul Knapp in the JamSport Clio.
With the title battle heating up, and any one of ten drivers capable of taking race wins, the unique banked Rockingham circuit is set to provide two unpredictable, action-packed and potentially pivotal races that you will not want to miss.
Qualifying for the weekend’s action takes place at 10.50 on Saturday, with Round 15 at 15.00 that afternoon. Round 16, televised live on ITV4, is scheduled for 13.00 on Sunday.