A star was born this season as James Dorlin fended off the challenge of a competitive field to win the 2016 Michelin Clio Cup Series championship, with his second title in only four years of car-racing showing him to be one of the brightest young tin-top talents in UK motorsport.
To win the title though, Dorlin had to overcome a pair of quick and experienced Clio Series contenders, with MRM’s Brett Lidsey and Dorlin’s Westbourne Motorsport team-mate Sam Randon pushing the seventeen year old star hard throughout the seven weekend, fifteen race campaign.
Dorlin fired a warning shot to his rivals during the season opener at Oulton Park, with a perfect start to the season seeing him take a clean sweep of race wins and fastest laps, which kicked off a run of five victories in the opening seven races that established him as the man to beat.
Lidsey and Randon kept in touch early on though with a win apiece during the championship’s first ever visit to Pembrey, with it soon becoming clear that consistency was going to be key to Lidsey’s championship challenge in particular as he started the year with nine consecutive podium finishes.
Dorlin would really stamp his authority on proceedings at Croft in July however, with another perfect score giving him a healthy points advantage that he maintained with another win during the penultimate meeting of the season at Anglesey.
That meant the 2014 Junior Saloon Car champion headed into the Silverstone season finale needing just a podium finish to seal the title honours, which he duly delivered with second in the opening race before capping off the year in style with victory in the season finale.
That means Dorlin’s superb title-winning campaign featured a remarkable nine race wins in fifteen races, the most wins by a driver in a Clio Series season so far, with the Westbourne ace finishing off the podium just three times all year as he won the crown by twenty points.
The fact that was only his winning margin is a testament to the fight and perseverance of Lidsey, who impressively ended the campaign with one more podium finish than the champion, adding to the win at Pembrey with further successes at Brands Hatch and Silverstone.
Randon meanwhile slipped out of title contention as the season wore on, with his focus turning to a thrilling scrap with reigning Road Series champion Luke Pinder for the final position in the championship top three that wasn’t decided until the season finale.
Pinder finished outside the top five only once during the first six meetings of the year, with that impressive consistency in his first season in the headline class meaning he headed to Silverstone in the hot seat, but race one drama ended his weekend early.
That meant it was Randon who secured the final position in the top three courtesy of seven rostrum finishes to Pinder’s six, with Dorlin, Lidsey and Randon all now aiming to follow the likes of Paul Streather and Anton Spires in making the move up to the Renault UK Clio Cup.
Whilst the leading four drivers had a stranglehold over the top positions in most races, three other regular drivers managed to fight their way into the podium spotlight, with Tom Barley, Dan Kirby and Ben Palmer taking one top three finish apiece across the campaign.
One-time BTCC racer Barley secured his podium breakthrough at Croft in his IG-backed Clio, though that plus nine other top five finishes weren’t enough to help him steal fourth in the final standings from Palmer – a missed outing at Pembrey proving crucial in that respect.
Palmer would eventually take fourth by six points after being a regular top five finisher as well, with his podium result coming at Brands Hatch. For Kirby meanwhile, a rostrum finish at Silverstone was the perfect conclusion to a part-campaign that saw him only contest three meetings.
As well as the regular names, there were also some one-off guest drivers who made their presence felt at the front of the field this year. BTCC star Josh Cook was a double podium finisher at Croft, whilst Renault UK Clio Cup driver Rory Collingbourne took a top six finish on the same weekend.
Former Clio Cup front-runner James Colburn was the star of the show at Anglesey meanwhile as he stormed to a double victory – another accolade for his family Westbourne Motorsport team who with Dorlin successfully defended the drivers title they won with Luke Herbert last season.
James wasn’t the only man in his family to race in the series this season meanwhile, with JSCC graduate Ben Colburn breaking into the top six on four occasions in his first Clio campaign, having battled regularly with two-time top five finisher Tyler Lidsey through the year.
In the Road Series meanwhile, it was a case of quality over quantity, with only three drivers entering the full season, Nic Harrison, Jack Fabby and Sarah Franklin. Whilst numbers were low, the trio still managed to produce an exciting title battle that went down to the season finale.
Franklin got the upper hand during a chaotic season opener, but victory in round one would prove to be her only success of the campaign, with Harrison and Fabby quickly establishing control of the class as they would go on to share the other thirteen race wins between themselves.
A run of four wins in a row across the Rockingham and Brands Hatch weekends gave the advantage to Harrison in the middle of the season, but Fabby hit back perfectly with three victories across the next four races at Croft and Anglesey to take it to the Silverstone closer.
Retirement in the opener for Harrison would prove to be pivotal, with Fabby securing the title with his sixth and seven victories of the campaign to successfully defend the title for Jade Developments, whilst Harrison was left to settle for second after taking six victories himself.
Franklin ended the campaign with six podium finishes to her name meanwhile, the same number as Damian Hirst who had joined the series from Brands Hatch onwards, while the class entrants for the season was completed by Nick White who took a double podium on his Silverstone debut.