Paul Rivett holds a slender six point lead at the top of the Renault UK Clio Cup standings as the championship heads to Oulton Park this weekend for Rounds Seven and Eight of an unpredictable and action-packed 2016 season so far.
Rivett has sat atop the championship since the visit to Donington Park in April, but saw his advantage slashed last time out at Thruxton as Mike Bushell and Ant Whorton-Eales set the pace in Hampshire.
The three-time champion stays top though courtesy of four podium finishes so far, more than anyone else on the grid, and he’ll be confident of adding more to his tally this weekend, having taken his only race win of 2015 around the undulating Cheshire circuit.
Bushell got his title challenge back on track at Thruxton, but was left frustrated there wasn’t a win to his name after receiving a penalty, meaning he is fired up for success at Oulton – a circuit he’s only previously recorded only one top six finish at in half a dozen Clio races.
Whorton-Eales meanwhile has much better form at Oulton with three podium finishes in his last two visits, and he heads back to Cheshire as the in-form driver in the championship after winning three of the last four races to climb into the championship top four.
Just ahead of him in the points is early championship leader Lee Pattison, who gained some ground back in the title battle with a pair of top five finishes at Thruxton, which added to his three podiums so far put him only twelve points adrift heading to his home circuit.
Only 25 points separate the top five in the standings at the moment, with Paul Streather also in hot pursuit. After getting his ‘bogey’ circuit Thruxton out of the way, the Finesse Motorsport ace will be keen to return to the form that saw him take a maiden victory back at Brands Hatch.
Alongside the main championship fight, there is a tasty battle developing in the Graduates Cup. Max Coates stormed clear with the opening four class wins, but Josh Price hit back in style at Thruxton with a double of his own to start chipping away at the Yorkshireman’s advantage.
Those class wins came in a real breakthrough weekend for Price, who featured on the outright podium for the first time with second and third place finishes, results Coates is aspiring to achieve after showing he has the front-running pace with pole position at Donington.
Reigning Graduate Cup vice-champion Charlie Ladell currently rounds out the championship top eight, with more podium finishes in his sights after his maiden top three at Donington, while behind, only one point separates the next three drivers.
They are top six finishers George Jackson and Anton Spires plus the consistent David Dickenson, all of whom are hoping to make an impact at the head of the field, likewise Brands pole-sitter Daniel Rowbottom and reigning Ginetta Junior vice-champion Senna Proctor.
Suffering a tougher than ancitipated start to his second Clio season has been Rory Collingbourne, with the Team Cooksport ace a firm contender for top six results, while Ollie Pidgley, Luke Kidsley and Paul Plant will also be hoping to put themselves in contention.
One driver who must wonder whether he’s going to get any luck this season is Dan Zelos, who has seen heavy accidents and mechanical gremlins in the three meetings so far restrict him to only two championship points. His pace is clear though with three top six qualifying results.
After returning to the series at Thruxton, Jake Giddings is competing again for Finesse, while Rory Green is back in action after missing the last outing. Those two, plus Sam Watkins, will be eyeing first top ten finishes of the season, whilst Masters entrant Graham Field completes the grid.
With six different teams represented in the top six of the drivers standings, the increased competitiveness of the Clio Cup this season is clear to see as focus turns to Oulton Park, where once again the series will contest two races across the weekend.
Full championship standings can be found here.
*Ahead of the next rounds of the championship, check out this in-depth interview with two of the key men behind the current running of the Clio Cup about its current position and their hopes for the future.*