With four different race-winners, four different pole-sitters and seventeen different top ten finishers in the opening four races of the season, it’s virtually impossible to predict who will come out on top as the Renault UK Clio Cup heads to Thruxton for the third meeting of the 2016 season this weekend.
In such a wide-open season so far, maybe it’s not a surprise that the most experienced driver on the grid has emerged as the early points leader, with consistency the key so far for three-time champion Paul Rivett with four podium finishes in the opening four races.
Those results mean the WDE Motorsport ace has reached the milestone of 100 podium finishes in his Clio Cup career, but he’s not finished yet and is targeting more success this weekend at a circuit he’s not had the greatest of records around, with only two race wins there back in 2002 and 2008.
For one of his main rivals at the head of the field Lee Pattison however, Thruxton is a circuit he’s become renowned as a bit of a master around in a Clio, with two pole positions and three podium finishes in his last four races there.
Pattison led the standings after the opening three races courtesy of a victory and two second place finishes, but a contact-induced lowly result in the Donington closer has lost him ground, which he’s ready to bounce back from this time out.
One driver who heads into the meeting fired up for success is Ant Whorton-Eales, who set the pace last time out at Donington with a double race win on the road, but saw his second victory removed with an exclusion due to a technical infringement.
Having already lost two pole positions at Brands Hatch under similar circumstances that left him fighting through from the back of the grid, Whorton-Eales is on the backfoot in the title race already and will be keen to fight back this weekend at a circuit he finished on the podium at last year.
The four race-winners so far have come from four different teams, with the first victor of the campaign being the surprise package of the season so far, Paul Streather, who is firmly mixing it at the front with Finesse Motorsport against his far more experienced Clio rivals.
2014 champion Mike Bushell returns to the scene of his maiden Clio victory during his title-winning campaign looking to improve on his best result of third so far this season, and the Team Pyro ace should be buoyed by setting the pace in the official TOCA test at the circuit last month.
A driver who should be full of confidence heading to Thruxton meanwhile is Charlie Ladell, having secured his maiden Clio Cup podium finish at Donington. With one under his belt, the WDE contender is determined for more as he aims to move up from sixth in the points standings.
Of the new faces joining the grid this season, Max Coates currently leads the way with a 100% record in the Graduates Cup. After securing a maiden pole position at Donington, the Yorkshireman has the outright podium in his sights as he races at Thruxton for the first time since 2012.
Coates’ Ciceley Motorsport team-mate Dan Zelos is one to watch having previously won at the circuit in Ginetta Juniors, and both Zelos and his former Ginetta sparring rival Senna Proctor will be looking to bounce back from a Donington weekend that featured dramatic rolls for both of them.
Daniel Rowbottom is a potential podium contender having shown his pace with pole position on the opening weekend at Brands Hatch, and he’ll be joined at Finesse by Jake Giddings, who will be looking to make an impact during a one-off return to the series with his family team.
That will be a tough ask in a really competitive entry however, with Team Cooksport duo George Jackson and Rory Collingbourne and Team Pyro pairing Josh Price and David Dickenson amongst those to have secured top ten finishes so far this campaign.
Joining them has been WDE’s Paul Plant, JamSport’s Luke Kidsley, Ciceley’s Ollie Pidgley and PP Motorsport’s Anton Spires, while knocking firmly on the door are WDE’s Rory Green and 20Ten Racing stablemates Sam Watkins and Tom Butler.
The Masters Cup meanwhile has seen four different winners in the four races so far, with Graham Field topping the class standings heading to Hampshire, where he is set to extend his advantage as the only class runner confirmed for the weekend.
With the official pre-event testing having already taken place last month, the first action for the Clio Cup field this weekend is the crucial qualifying session on Saturday at 14:20, where getting a good tow is worth at least three tenths of a second around the back of the circuit.
Both races will take place on Sunday in front of what is sure to a bumper trackside crowd, with Round Five opening the action at 10:45, before Round Six follows at 15:15, televised live on ITV4 and itv.com.
Full championship standings ahead of the meeting can be found here.