It’s all tied up between Mike Bushell and Ant Whorton-Eales at the top of the Renault UK Clio Cup championship standings as we head into the penultimate meeting of the 2016 season at Silverstone this weekend (17/18 September).
A win apiece for the top two at Rockingham last time out means that when dropped scores are taken into consideration, Bushell’s current 22 point advantage is eradicated and the duo sit on an equal 328 points with four races remaining.
Whorton-Eales success in Corby was his seventh of the season so far with JamSport, continuing his run of winning 50% of the races so far this year, while Bushell’s came as part of a podium double that make it an unmatched ten top three finishes in the fourteen races to date.
Pyro’s Bushell is also the qualifying king at present with a superb nine pole positions out of the last ten up for grabs, while Whorton-Eales is the top overtaker in the series having gained seventy places from his grid positions this season – remarkably moving forwards in all bar two races so far this year.
Those statistics mean the duo are nearly fifty points clear of their nearest challenger, which on dropped scores is Paul Rivett – the three-time champion having enjoyed his best weekend of the season so far at Rockingham as he secured a pair of second place finishes.
Hot on Rivett’s heels though is Max Coates, who continued his superb maiden Clio season with a fifth podium in Corby. While neither driver has given up on the title, they will both need a lot to go their way this weekend to head into the Brands Hatch finale in serious contention.
While Lee Pattison does remain a mathematical contender for the title, his chances of the crown realistically ended with a nightmare weekend at Rockingham, in which his highest finish was only thirteenth in his Team Cooksport machine.
Similarly having a weekend to forget in Corby was Paul Streather, who joins Pattison in remaining in the top six of the standings despite neither driver recording a podium finish since back in April, with their focus now on ending their seasons on a high with returns to the top three.
Pattison has taken home the first title of the season though, having wrapped up the Masters Cup honours last time out, and Coates looks set to join him on the roll call of champions as he heads to Silverstone with a substantial lead in the Graduate Cup standings.
Coates’ closest competition in the class comes from Team Pyro pairing Josh Price and Senna Proctor, who are currently battling it with Charlie Ladell over seventh in the overall standings – with Price and Ladell currently sitting level on points.
Proctor sits eighteen points behind the duo after losing ground with a retirement at Rockingham and he’ll be fired up to regain those points this weekend, with all three of the young chargers more than capable of fighting for their maiden victories at Silverstone.
Another rising star with lofty ambitions is Chris Smiley, who has made a seamless transition from the BTCC into the Clio Cup. In his first two weekends the JamSport racer has shown he can qualify and race in the top five, meaning a breakthrough podium will now be in his sights.
Smiley isn’t the only driver with podium desires this weekend though, with David Dickenson, Anton Spires, George Jackson, Rory Collingbourne, Dan Zelos and Ollie Pidgley all capable of challenging for the top three, while Luke Kidsley will want to add to his Snetterton breakthrough.
One driver who has quickly established himself in the midfield action meanwhile is Shayne Deegan, who made a real impression at Rockingham as he rose from the back of the grid to a pair of top ten finishes, and he has the potential for more as he gains more experience in the Clio.
The grid will be bolstered this weekend by a number of returnees. Jake Giddings and Graham Field are back after being missing from action since Oulton Park, while Daniel Rowbottom will be on the grid for the first time since Croft, the scene of his one and only top five finish of the season so far.
Making his first outing of the year meanwhile is Ben Davis, who is taking a second crack at the Clio Cup at Silverstone after making his series debut in the corresponding meeting twelve months ago. Teaming up with Pyro, he’ll be eager to match his top seven results this time around.
The weekend’s action kicks off with qualifying at 11:25 on Saturday, with Round Fifteen following that afternoon at 16:30. Round Sixteen will follow on Sunday at 13:45, with live television coverage on ITV4 and itv.com.
Full championship standings ahead of the weekend can be found here.
*Article images: Jakob Ebrey Photography