To win or not to win; that seemed to be the question at Donington Park last weekend as Max Coates and Paul Rivett shared the victories in the Renault UK Clio Cup, despite both having been previously been removed from the results in their respective races.
That was just a couple of the crazy storylines that played out across one of the most dramatic and controversial meetings in recent series history – from which Mike Bushell emerged as the new championship leader; he himself having been declared the race one winner at one stage.
The surprises started in qualifying on Saturday as Dan Zelos stormed to his maiden championship pole position in new lap record pace around the Leicestershire circuit, while Shayne Deegan also starred with the second fastest time, his career best Clio start.
It was Deegan who led the sprint to Redgate at the start of race one, however it was short-lived as a tangle with Rivett and Pattison exiting the bend led to him spinning back on track and getting collected by two cars, whilst another incident behind led to a massive barrel roll for Lucas Orrock.
All in all, the first lap chaos led to the retirements of Orrock (whose weekend was over), Deegan, Ollie Pidgley, Oscar Rovelli, Aaron Thompson and Luke Reade, leading to an instant red flag and a complete race restart once the clean-up operation was complete.
With both Rivett and Zelos starting the new race from the pitlane for reasons not clear at the time, fourth placed Pattison led the field away from ‘pole’ and would maintain the advantage early on as a four car battle developed for the race lead, with Bushell, Coates and Jack McCarthy in hot pursuit.
On the penultimate lap of a shortened seven lap encounter Bushell made his move, diving down the inside at Coppice corner to take the advantage, with a loss of momentum for Pattison dropping him behind Coates and Ash Hand – McCarthy’s challenge having ended with a retirement the lap before.
Bushell went on to take the race win on the road ahead of Coates, whilst Pattison passed Hand on the last lap for second – however post-race Bushell was handed a 1.5 second penalty for his move on Pattison, dropping him back to third in the final classifications.
Coates was therefore the victor, but he himself had to make a visit to the race stewards to ensure this was the case. The Yorkshireman was initially excluded for having received outside assistance which enabled him to rejoin the grid after the red flag, but this was rescinded on appeal.
The final podium was therefore Coates, Pattison and Bushell, with Hand taking fourth ahead of Sam Osborne and Nathan Harrison, with Westbourne Motorsport duo James Dorlin and Myles Collins climbing into the top eight ahead of the charging Rivett.
As Rivett reached ninth from his pitlane start, Zelos climbed up to twelfth, one spot ahead of Daniel Rowbottom who ran second early on, but fell down the field when he accidently triggered his pitlane speed limiter, and was then handed a ten second penalty post-race for a false start.
The drama would continue in the second race later that day, which poleman Pattison led in the early stages ahead of Rivett and Coates, who dispatched Bushell for third heading into the Old Hairpin on lap two – with the top four fighting closely throughout the opening six laps.
The action was then halted however when the safety car came out on track following an incident between Pidgley and James Colburn at the Old Hairpin, with Colburn left on his roof in the gravel trap next to Starkeys Bridge.
With rain beginning to fall during the interlude, the field were met with tricky conditions at the restart and that led to a dramatic collision between top two as Rivett locked up under braking for Coppice and made contact with his team-mate Pattison.
With Pattison stranded in the gravel trap and conditions worsening, the race was brought to a premature end as the red flags came out, leading to the race result being taken back a lap to the order of the field behind the safety car.
With Pattison and Rivett declared at fault for the incident that brought out the red flags, they were removed from the final classification, giving Coates what he thought was a second win of the day ahead of Bushell and Rowbottom.
Post-race however, Rivett successfully appealed his removal from the result as further evidence showed he had rejoined the track following the incident and could therefore not be deemed at fault for the red flags coming out, so was reinstated to victory.
Coates and Bushell therefore completed the podium alongside him, with Rowbottom missing out on his maiden Clio Cup rostrum finish. Zelos took fifth, his best result in the Clio Cup to date, with McCarthy completing the top six ahead of Harrison, Dorlin and Hand.
The full final race results for the weekend can be found here: http://tsl-timing.com/file/?f=TOCA/2017/171503cli.pdf