Sutton Wins Close Fought Clio Silverstone Opener

by Simon Paice

Ashley Sutton stormed past fellow Renault UK Clio Cup title hopefuls Paul Rivett and Ant Whorton-Eales to take victory in the opening race of the weekend at Silverstone.

Whorton-Eales started the twenty lap encounter from pole position and led the field through the opening lap while carnage reigned behind, starting with Luke Kidsley being spun into the pitwall heading into Copse.

Further around the bend, contact between Charlie Ladell, Rory Collingbourne and Michele Puccetti ended with Ladell and Collingbourne being sent into the barriers on the inside and outside of the bend respectively, with debutant Puccetti able to continue albeit at the back of the field.

After a safety car period to clear up the stricken Clios, the action resumed with Rivett immediately snatching the lead from Whorton-Eales heading into Copse – but his advantage would last less than two corners.

Sutton dived down the inside of Whorton-Eales into Brooklands as Rivett slid wide himself, meaning Sutton got two for the price of one and took the race lead, with Rivett maintaining second ahead of Whorton-Eales and championship leader Ash Hand.

It would be far from easy there for Sutton though, with intermittent over-heating problems meaning he was unable to shrug off his adversaries, but equally Rivett couldn’t really create an opportunity to challenge for the lead.

Sutton went on to take his fourth win of the season, with just over three tenths of a second splitting himself and fellow podium finishers Rivett and Whorton-Eales at the chequered flag.

“The problems came from the word go,” Sutton explained to TCF. “It started over-heating, I was waiting for it to go into limp mode, and then suddenly it cooled down.

“We managed to rob the lead off them both which was great, but every couple of laps the problem would hit. When it was working properly, the pace in the car was fantastic and luck was certainly on our side!”

Hand took a subdued fourth as he also battled over-heating problems, while a thrilling three-way battle for fifth eventually went the way of Tom Witts after on-the-road finisher Josh Price got a five second penalty for exceeding track limits that demoted him to seventh behind Ben Davis.

George Jackson rose from fifteenth on the grid to take eighth, while a tremendous debut race from Tom Butler saw him climb from eighteenth to ninth ahead of Masters Cup winner Puccetti who bounced back well from his early troubles.

Mark Howard took eleventh ahead of Rory Collingbourne, Rory Green and Tom Grundy, the latter hit with a track limits time penalty, while Alex Sedgwick was left down in sixteenth behind Graham Field after fuel pressure problems hit him early on.

Kidsley and Ladell retired with the damage from their opening lap incidents, with Sam Watkins also failing to make the finish after getting caught up in the first corner chaos. Dan Holland was another retiree meanwhile following contact with Grundy late on at Brooklands.

*Update: Post-race Tom Butler was handed a four second time penalty by the stewards, demoting him from ninth to eleventh behind Michele Puccetti and Mark Howard.

Full race results can be found here.

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