Paul Streather has closed to within three points of the 2015 Michelin Clio Cup Series lead after a memorable double victory during an enthralling weekend of racing at Brands Hatch.
Streather laid down a marker to his rivals with pole position for both races in qualifying, but it would be far from easy in the races, which saw a dry opener followed by a treacherous race two in the Kent rain.
The opening race featured a dramatic start, with a mid-pack tangle coming out of Druids for the first time resulting in a heavy impact with the barriers for Sam Randon – with the race red-flagged as the marshalls cleared away his extensively damaged Clio.
At the second time of asking, championship leader Luke Herbert stormed from fourth on the grid into the lead, with Streather initially slipping back to fourth behind Andy Jordan and Brett Lidsey – however Jordan’s challenge ended soon after with fuel pump problems.
Following a short safety car period to remove Andy Wilkin’s car after an excursion at Surtees, Herbert maintained the advantage until a developing engine misfire allowed Streather and Lidsey to move ahead to finish first and second.
Herbert just held off his Westbourne Motorsport team-mate James Dorlin to complete the podium, with Tom Barley close behind in fifth, matching his best result of the season so far, and Adam Hatfield in sixth ahead of championship newcomer Darren Johnson.
After a battling performance in the opener, race two afforded Streather the opportunity to enjoy a much more comfortable victory, with a faultless drive in the tricky conditions taking him to a lights-to-flag five second victory.
Streather calmly negotiated an early safety car period, caused by an off at Druids for the unfortunate Wilkins, before streaking clear as an incident behind derailed the challenges of two of his championship rivals.
A tangle at the exit of Druids involving Herbert, Lidsey and Randon eventually led to the retirement of all three, which allowed reigning Junior Saloon Car Champion Dorlin to rise from tenth on the grid to second for his best result of the season so far.
Dorlin had passed Jordan on lap eleven to get the spot, the Finesse Motorsport driver once again suffering from fuel pump issues. Despite those though, he was able to hold off debutant Johnson for the final podium spot.
Pete Bennett, a retiree in the opening race, bounced back with fifth ahead of Hatfield, while Barley’s race ended in the Druids gravel trap on lap seven.
In the Road Series, class leader Luke Pinder made it six wins in the first eight races with a dominant five second win in the opener. John Creasey took a seasons best second ahead of Nic Harrison, Jake Honour and Tyler Lidsey – the latter two having received time penalties for exceeding track limits.
The second race proved to be a much closer affair at the front, with a thrilling three-way battle for the class win between Pinder, Lidsey and Honour. After numerous lead changes, the decisive move came at Paddock Hill on the penultimate tour, with Honour squeezing ahead for his first win of the year.
Lidsey took second ahead of Pinder, while Harrison held off Creasey and Sarah Franklin for fourth after another close fought battle.
The Michelin Clio Cup Series grid is back in action next month at Oulton Park for the penultimate event of the season, with a single-day event on August 15 featuring Rounds 10 and 11 of the year.
Provisional 2015 Michelin Clio Cup Race Series Driver Standings (after Rd9): 1st Luke Herbert, 221pts; 2nd Paul Streather, 218pts; =3rd Brett Lidsey & Andy Jordan, 178pts; 5th Sam Randon, 159pts; 6th Adam Hatfield, 139pts
Provisional 2015 Michelin Clio Cup Road Series Driver Standings (after Rd9): 1st Luke Pinder, 229pts; 2nd Nic Harrison, 225pts; 3rd Tyler Lidsey, 213pts; 4th Jake Honour, 186pts; 5th Sarah Franklin, 174pts; 6th John Creasey, 135pts