Ashley Sutton came out on top in the rescheduled opening round of the 2015 Renault UK Clio Cup season after a thrilling duel with Ant Whorton-Eales at Donington Park.
For Sutton, it was a case of payback after Whorton-Eales denied him victory at the final corner on his Clio Cup debut at Brands Hatch two weeks ago.
The opening encounter in Kent had to run this weekend after being postponed due to an incident at Brands, with the initial grid from qualifying there putting Sutton on pole from Ash Hand, Whorton-Eales and Ben Seyfried.
Sutton held the lead into Redgate for the first time, with Hand getting shuffled back to fourth behind the fast-starting Whorton-Eales and Jordan Stilp, while Seyfried slipped back to sixth behind Paul Rivett.
From that moment on the battle for the lead was on as the top two renewed rivalries from Brands, with Whorton-Eales briefly grabbing the advantage on the opening lap before Sutton fought his way back on lap two.
With the long straights at Donington helping produce great slipstream racing, the leaders ran nose-to-tail throughout the race with Whorton-Eales almost squeezing ahead at Redgate on a couple of occasions.
His pressure eventually paid off at the first corner on lap ten, with Stilp seizing the opportunity to follow through as they swept down the Craner Curves. Later in the lap Sutton was back into second though and back on Whorton-Eales’ bootlid.
Their battle was decided three laps from the end, with it being Sutton’s turn to force a move into Redgate. He went on to fend off Whorton-Eales for the remainder of the race to take victory by 0.131s.
It was a four way fight for the lead in the closing stages, with Stilp being joined by Brett Smith. The Team Pyro racer had closed down a four second gap to the top three as the race progressed and finished up just 0.125s shy of the podium.
Behind them, early podium contenders Hand and Rivett saw their races fall apart after early contact at the final chicane, with Hand retiring to the pits after a trip through the gravel, while Rivett finished a lowly fourteenth with damage to his car.
Their demises allowed Jack Mitchell and Charlie Ladell to complete the top six from eighth and twelfth on the grid respectively, while Seyfried battled to the Masters Cup class victory in seventh overall.
The three drivers who were involved in the incident at Brands, Dan Holland, Thomas Grundy and Mark Howard, were allowed to start the race from the pitlane.
It was the first of those, Holland, who made the best progress with a superb drive to eighth at the finish, with Grundy leading home Howard in twelfth and thirteenth respectively.
A pair of Rory’s, Collingbourne and Green, rounded out the top ten ahead of Freddie Hunt, while behind Howard was his fellow Masters Cup runner Graham Field and Rivett.
George Jackson completed the finishers a lap down meanwhile after an eventful race which featured a drive through penalty for a jump start that had put him into sixth, and a trip to the pits to remove an advertising banner from the front of his car.
Full race results can be found here.