After a couple of close fought battles at Oulton Park last time out, Mike Bushell and Ant Whorton-Eales head to Croft this weekend looking to land a big blow in the Renault UK Clio Cup title battle ahead of the championship’s mid-season break.
The trip to North Yorkshire will move the series past the halfway mark of the 2016 season, and if we’ve learnt anything from the eight races so far, it’s that those two will certainly not be alone at the head of the field this weekend, with a host of drivers capable of taking victory.
It has been Bushell and Whorton-Eales who have set the pace in the last couple of meetings though, but despite Whorton-Eales taking three of the last four race wins, Bushell sits atop the standings by fourteen points courtesy of four consecutive podium finishes.
With their duel at the front having been full of drama so far this year with exclusions, penalties and contact on track, both drivers will be hoping for a trouble free outing this weekend – in particular Whorton-Eales who had a rollercoaster visit to Croft last year.
Leading the challenge for the chasing pack at the moment is three-time series champion Paul Rivett, who will be keen to fight back after a tricky Oulton weekend and add to his four podium finishes so far this season at a circuit where he took a top three finish twelve months ago.
Alongside Rivett, two other drivers looking to get their title bids back on track in Yorkshire are Brands Hatch race-winners Lee Pattison and Paul Streather. Pattison hasn’t been on the podium in the last five races, while Streather has only picked up one top six finish in the last four encounters.
Hoping to use his local knowledge to full effect this weekend meanwhile will be the in-form Max Coates. Twelve months on from making his BTCC debut at his home circuit, the Ciceley Motorsport ace returns with confidence high after taking a maiden outright Clio podium at Oulton.
Hot on the heels of the top six in the standings are a trio of young chargers, Charlie Ladell, Josh Price and Senna Proctor, who have tasted podium success at Donington Park, Thruxton and Oulton Park respectively, with Ladell leading them at present courtesy of five top five finishes so far.
One driver hoping for a double celebration this week is Daniel Rowbottom, who is getting married today (16th June) and will be aiming to give himself the perfect wedding gift by breaking into the podium positions for the first time.
Anton Spires and George Jackson complete the dozen drivers to have taken top six finishes so far this season, doing so at Thruxton and Donington Park respectively, while Luke Kidsley couldn’t have got closer with a seasons best seventh place at Oulton.
Kidsley therefore leads a number of drivers aiming to break into the top six for the first time this year, with Rory Collingbourne, David Dickenson, Rory Green, Ollie Pidgley and Dan Zelos all hoping to get themselves in contention to enter the second half of the season in style.
Masters Cup entrant Graham Field completes the entry for Croft, with him currently sitting a clear second in class behind runaway leader Pattison who has seven wins in eight races. There’s also a 50+ point lead at the top of the Graduate Cup, with Coates leading Proctor and Price.
The Clio Cup stars will kick off their on-track action with Friday’s two free practice sessions, before heading into qualifying at 11.20 on Saturday. Round Nine follows that day at 17:15, with Round Ten set to be televised live on ITV4 at 15:49 on Sunday.
Full championship standings ahead of the weekend can be found here.