Following an opening weekend of the season which saw experienced names showing their class and new talent making their mark, the Renault UK Clio Cup heads to Donington Park this weekend (16/17 April) for what is sure to be another pair of unpredictable, close-fought races.
While a number of new names enjoyed star performances at Brands Hatch last time out, it’s some familiar Clio names that have risen to the top of the standings so far, with the top four featuring former champions and vice-champions Lee Pattison, Paul Rivett and Mike Bushell.
It’s Pattison who holds the early championship lead, the 2010 runner-up belying his late entry and limited pre-season running to record a first Clio victory in nearly three years, which he backed up with a second place on a hugely positive second ever outing with the Team Cooksport squad.
Rivett meanwhile kicked off his pursuit of a record fourth Clio Cup crown with a double podium of his own, securing second and third in the two encounters, while 2014 champion Bushell enjoyed a positive return to the series with third and fourth place finishes.
All three experienced hands will likely be battling towards the front of the field again this weekend, but taking the fight to them will be Paul Streather, who currently splits them in second in the standings after sensationally taking his maiden Clio victory in only his third ever race in the series.
Other relative newcomers to impress at Brands Hatch included Daniel Rowbottom, who started the opening race from pole position but saw his luck run out in the race, and Dan Zelos, who in a similar situation qualified well with a top three start, but didn’t pick up the race results his pace deserved.
Zelos’ Ciceley Motorsport team-mate Max Coates made an immediate impression on his debut with a pair of Graduate Cup victories, with more silverware the target this time out, while Charlie Ladell and Josh Price will be hoping to build on strong starts to the campaign.
One driver to watch will be Ant Whorton-Eales, who after being excluded from a double pole in qualifying at Brands, produced two sensational drives from the back of the grid to eighth and sixth place finishes – with wins now the target at a circuit he took victory at twelve months ago.
In one of the most competitive Clio grids in recent years, the top 21 cars were separated by less than a second in qualifying at Brands, meaning any one of the close-fought midfield pack could spring a surprise this weekend, like David Dickenson, George Jackson, Ollie Pidgley and Luke Kidsley.
Joining the grid this weekend are Clio Cup debutant Darren Johnson (Team Pyro) and series returnee Craig Milner (20Ten Racing), who will both compete in the Masters Cup against Donington local Graham Field (JamSport Racing).
The Donington Park weekend kicks off with qualifying at 12:10 on Saturday, the only action of the day, with both races on Sunday at 10:40 and 15:45 respectively.