Mike Robinson continued his impressive run of form in the Michelin Clio Cup Series with a sixth win of the season in a thrilling opening race of the weekend at Snetterton, a race televised live on Motors TV.
Robinson lined up on pole position for the ten lap encounter after taking top spot in qualifying by nearly half a second from Brett Smith, however the action kicked off before the race began as an unfortunate incident on the warm-up lap saw Andy Jordan hit the rear of Brett Lidsey, leading to retirements for both.
After a quick clean-up job the marshalls, the race began with Smith getting the best launch to nose ahead of Robinson around the outside at Riches, however a slide wide at Montreal allowed the pole-sitter back ahead.
A five car group quickly broke away at the front to set up a thrilling battle for the lead, with them running nose-to-tail throughout the opening few laps. The first move in the pack came from Paul Streather, who produced a great move around the outside of Renault UK Clio Cup front-runner Ant Whorton-Eales at Montreal.
Whorton-Eales fought back a lap later though, storming around the outside of both Streather and Luke Herbert at the hairpin to snatch third in great fashion, the SV Racing ace going on to set the then fastest lap of the race as he closed down Smith and Robinson.
Smith made a challenge for the lead around the outside of Montreal on lap six, the most popular overtaking spot on the circuit, but ran wide to allow Whorton-Eales through. It got worse two corners later too, with Herbert diving around the outside into Agostini to demote Smith to fourth.
By the end of the lap Whorton-Eales was right onto Robinson’s rear bumper and looked to repeat his earlier move into Montreal on lap seven, however the 20 year old locked up and ran wide, dropping to fourth in the process ahead of Streather and David Dickenson.
Herbert used that mistake to his advantage and assumed the position of Robinson’s chief challenger, with a defensive Smith behind allowing the front two to break away. Herbert wasn’t able to get close enough to make a move though, with Robinson going on to take victory by over half a second.
“That was hectic to say the least,” said Robinson. “I thought at one point, especially at the beginning, there was a lot of squabbling going on behind so I might be able to get away but Brett [Smith] was very quick down the start-finish straight and kept coming back at me every time. Fair play to everyone, I don’t think there was any contact in that race but it was one of the most hard-fought.”
Smith was left with a four-car train behind him in the battle for the final podium position meanwhile, wwith Whorton-Eales leading the challenge. He made a challenge down the inside of Montreal on the penultimate lap, but Smith shut the door.
Whorton-Eales then received a nudge wide from Dickenson at Agostini to briefly lose fourth, however he fought back through Hamilton to regain the spot. Despite closing on Smith over the final lap and making a final corner challenge, Smith held on to a fourth podium finish in five races since joining the series.
Whorton-Eales took a hard-earned fourth, with Dickenson and Streather completing a top six split by just five seconds at the flag. Ben Davis took an impressive seventh on his debut outing ahead of Ollie Pidgley, Sam Randon and fellow debutant Alex Reed, with Pete Bennett, Tom Butler, Andy Wilkins and Mark Vella completing the class finishers.