Mike Bushell led the final Renault UK Clio Cup race at Rockingham from lights to flag to secure his third victory of the season so far and draw the championship battle level with four races remaining.
While the standings show Bushell with a 22 point advantage, when the dropped scores are taken into account he’s dead level with Ant Whorton-Eales, who battled to a fourth place finish.
Bushell started the race from his ninth pole position in the last ten races, and unlike the weekend’s opening race he was able to convert his advantage into the race lead through the first lap.
Whorton-Eales made a characteristically lightning start off the line meanwhile and from sixth on the grid, he was challenging Paul Rivett for second heading into Deene hairpin for the first time.
The duo ran side-by-side through the corner and towards Yentwood, when contact in the braking zone sent Whorton-Eales sideways, dropping him to fourth behind Josh Price.
The action was quickly neutralised however after a heavy contact with the Chapman kerbs dramatically sent George Jackson’s JamSport Racing Clio onto its roof.
With Jackson fortunately walking away unscathed, the action resumed on lap four with Rivett leading the challenge to Bushell, whilst Whorton-Eales tried to find a way past Price behind.
A textbook restart from Bushelll earnt him a near one second advantage though, which he slowly increased throughout the race en-route to a 1.9 second success.
Rivett meanwhile took a comfortable second place finish, with a fierce battle over third allowing him to pull clear of all pursuers – three different men holding third during the race.
Price’s occupancy of the final podium position lasted until lap eight when Whorton-Eales got past at the Deene hairpin, but inside of pushing forwards, his focus was soon on Max Coates in his mirrors.
After passing Senna Proctor for fifth at Deene on lap four, Coates worked his way ahead of Price on lap eight as well with a dive down the inside at Tarzan, which put him onto Whorton-Eales’ tail.
Pressuring his adversary for a couple of laps, a dive down the inside at Deene would lead to the duo running side-by-side for a few corners before Coates made the move stick through Pif Paf.
The Ciceley Motorsport ace held off a determined Whorton-Eales to the finish for his fifth overall podium of the campaign, while Pyro team-mates Price and Proctor rounded out the top six.
Lee Pattison and Chris Smiley were fighting it out over seventh in the first half of the race, but their duel ended when Pattison hit the rear of his adversary under braking at Deene hairpin – sending them both flying sideways.
While Smiley eventually retired from the race and Pattison recovered to a lowly thirteenth, it was Charlie Ladell who finished up seventh at the finish ahead of David Dickenson.
Cooksport duo Rory Collingbourne and Shayne Deegan completed the top ten ahead of Ollie Pidgley, who had earlier made contact with Anton Spires that led to the latter’s retirement.
Full race results can be found here.