Ash Hand has taken his fifth win in the last eight Renault UK Clio Cup races with victory in the second race of the weekend at Croft, sharing the podium with title rivals Ashley Sutton and Ant Whorton-Eales.
Hand started the race from pole position and led the field through Clervaux for the first time, though found himself challenged by Pyro stable-mate into Tower. The move was unsuccessful though, and allowed Paul Rivett draw side-by-side through the Esses before taking second into Sunny.
Before Sutton could attempt a move back, the safety car was introduced for Rivett’s WDE Motorsport team-mate Rory Green, whose race had unfortunately already come to an end in the Clervaux gravel trap.
As Hand led the field at the restart on lap three, championship leader Whorton-Eales was in the thick of the action behind as he battled through the field from seventeenth on the grid after an accident in qualifying.
A tap from him on the back of Brett Smith while challenging for seventh place though led to Smith spinning Rory Collingbourne around, with Smith eventually having to pit into retirement and Collingbourne left to battle back from sixteenth.
Whorton-Eales continued on his way though and passed his SV Racing team-mate Jack Mitchell for fifth at Clervaux on lap five, before dispatching Team Cooksport’s Charlie Ladell towards the end of lap six.
That put him onto the tail of Rivett, who had been passed for second by Sutton at the hairpin a lap earlier, and Whorton-Eales slotted past the three-time Clio Champion at Sunny In on lap nine after they ran spectacularly ran side-by-side through the Esses.
This was all happening in the mirrors of Hand and Sutton however, and while the top two closed up to within half a second apart in the final few laps, Hand kept his team-mate at arms length en-route to a Team Pyro one-two finish.
“It was quite a strategic race,” Hand told TCF. “I felt like I was in control, but there was pressure. I backed off in the middle of the race to preserve my tyres for later on, which was tough as he was breathing down my neck.
“It meant we had the grip late in the race when we needed it, as when he closed in we were able to put in a couple of quick times to extend the gap. The Team Pyro car was great again and I’m really happy with the win.”
Whorton-Eales finished up third to cap off a rollercoaster weekend still in the championship lead, albeit now by only seven points from Hand, while Rivett secured fourth ahead of the hard battling pair of Ladell and Mitchell.
Dan Holland picked up his fourth top ten finish of the season so far in seventh ahead of Masters Cup victor Peter Felix, with JamSport’s Tom Grundy and Cooksport’s George Jackson rounding out the top ten.
Paul Donkin passed Mark Howard late on for eleventh, while Collingbourne recovered to thirteenth ahead of Graham Field. Joining Smith and Green in retirement meanwhile was Jordan Stilp, capping off a torrid weekend for the man who won both Croft races twelve months ago.
Post-race, Whorton-Eales was handed a two point penalty and a two-place grid drop for Knockhill for his part in the incident with Smith and Collingbourne.
Full race results can be found here.
The championship standings after the weekend are here.