Luke Herbert kicked off the 2015 Michelin Clio Cup Series in near-perfect style with a pair of victories on the opening weekend of the season at Rockingham.
In the championship’s first ever triple-header meeting, the Westbourne Motorsport racer added a second place in the final race of the weekend to open up an early 22 point lead in the standings over the other race-winner Paul Streather.
Herbert’s Westbourne stablemate Sam Randon started the season opening round from a maiden series pole position and led into the Deene hairpin for the first time, however his advantage was short lived when a slide on fluid as he exited Pif Paf sent him onto the Rockingham oval.
This gave the lead to Herbert, who had stormed through from fifth on the grid to second thanks to a first corner incident ahead of him which sent Streather off track. Brett Lidsey assumed second ahead of Andy Jordan, with them running closely in that order until lap eight when Jordan got in front.
As Herbert led home Jordan and Lidsey for the first podium of the season, a close fight for fourth between Ben Davis and Tom Barley eventually went the way of the former. Adam Hatfield rounded out the top six, with Randon and Streather completing the Race class finishers after their earlier issues.
Lidsey started the second race of the weekend from pole, however his joy was short-lived as Randon and Herbert jumped him off the line. Randon briefly led, but Herbert squeezed past later on the opening lap.
Streather quickly moved up from fifth to third past Lidsey and by lap six the privateer made it a three way fight for the lead. A lap later Streather was past Randon for second at Tarzan and he began piling the pressure on the leader until an unfortunate last lap spin under braking at Deene.
That ensured it was a Westbourne one-two at the front with Herbert just over a second clear of Randon. Lidsey took his second podium in third, with Streather eventually coming home with the fastest lap of the race in fifth behind Jordan.
Barley rounded out the top six ahead of Davis and Pete Bennett, the latter bouncing back after a torrid opening day when an engine failure in qualifying left him unable to compete in the opening race of the season.
Herbert started the final race of the weekend from pole position and looked on course to make it three from three after establishing a quick three second lead. A mistake on lap three allowed Jordan in front though, and they traded the lead for the next few laps until Jordan was forced to pit with an unfortunate puncture.
Herbert’s main challenge soon came from Streather, who had superbly worked his way through from sixth at the end of the opening lap. The lead battle went down to the final lap, with Streather snatching the lead at Deene for his maiden Clio Series win.
Herbert took second ahead of Randon, with #RacingforHeroes Academy member Davis notching up his second fourth place finish of the weekend. Barley and Bennett completed the top six ahead of Lidsey and Hatfield, with Jordan left to settle for ninth after his trip through the pits.
“It’s a great start to the season, two wins and another podium is fantastic and really good to have a Westbourne one-two with Sam [Randon] in the second race,” said Herbert. “We’re really pleased to be leading the championship, that’s what we aimed to do, and hopefully we can carry this on at Thruxton.”
“The weekend didn’t get off to the best of starts, qualifying was tough and in the first race I got turned around at the first corner,” added Streather. “I worked so hard to get through to first in race three, it’s brilliant to win. The sense of achievement is amazing, I couldn’t do this without my friends and family.”
Luke Pinder dominated proceedings in the Clio Cup Road Series at Rockingham, locking out all three pole positions, three fastest laps and three lights-to-flag victories.
Behind, Jake Honour fought off severe pressure from Nic Harrison in the opener for second place – a position he would replicate in the next two races as well for a trio of Jade Developments one-two finishes.
Harrison also took third in race two in his CGH Imports Clio after a good battle mid-race with John Creasey, while Matt Fincham took a podium finish in race three on his series debut. Creasey meanwhile took a pair of top five finishes after an early retirement in the opener, with Harrison fourth in the final race.
“It’s been the perfect weekend I suppose, it’s what we came to do,” said Pinder. “We said it would be absolutely amazing if we could do it, three wins, three poles, three fastest laps, and we achieved it – amazing weekend.”
The 2015 Michelin Clio Cup Series is next in action at Thruxton on 13/14 June, with former BTCC racer Matt Allison and reigning JSCC champion James Dorlin set to join the grid as the championship visits the high-speed Hampshire circuit for the first time.
Full qualifying and race results from the Rockingham weekend can be found here.