Palmer Makes Clio Series Title Break As Spires Suffers Donington Retirement

by Simon Paice

While Michelin Clio Cup Series title rivals Ben Palmer and Anton Spires shared the victories during the latest rounds at Donington Park, a crucial first retirement of the season for Spires has allowed Palmer to make a break at the top of the championship standings.

Palmer headed into the weekend as the in-form driver having secured double wins in each of the previous two meetings at Croft and Rockingham, though it remained close between him and Spires, with the duo finishing in the top two in every race so far.

Former Road Series champion Spires once again set the pace in qualifying, with another double pole position meaning he has taken seven of the eight on offer so far this year, but there was no surprise to see Palmer join him on the front row for both encounters.

What could prove to be one of the most pivotal moments of the season came at the start of race one however. As the field pulled away for the green flag lap, the driveshaft broke on Spires’ Westbourne Motorsport Clio and ended his race before it had begun.

With the poleman out of the equation, Palmer would go on to enjoy an unchallenged run to the opening victory. Leading by 2.5 seconds by the end of lap one, the MRM racer would extend that to nearly seven seconds at the flag for a fifth victory on the bounce.

In only his third ever outing in the series, Simon Freeman would enjoy his best performance so far as he converted a seasons best third on the grid into his first ever top two finish, while Ben Colburn notched his second podium of the campaign ahead of Tyler Lidsey.

Spires would get a chance to make up for his race one disappointment in the second encounter on Sunday, though the former Renault UK Clio Cup racer would face a race-long battle with Palmer for the victory, with less than a second splitting them all race.

Palmer would get right onto his rear bumper heading into the closing laps as they negotiated backmarkers, but could not make a clean move so saw his winning streak come to an end as Spires took a much-needed second win of the campaign.

Freeman would make it four podium finishes in a row behind, pulling clear of the chasing pack to enjoy a clear run to third, while Lidsey got the best of his season-long sparring rival Colburn as they battled for the final positions in the top five.

Sarah Franklin would complete the finishers in the depleted Race Series class in both encounters, with the Road Series enjoying more entrants than the headline class for the first time this season as six drivers battled it out for victory.

Shanel Drewe emerged from the opening race with her first victory in the championship, before continuing her 100% podium record for the season with second in race two, which points leader Nic Harrison won for a fourth victory of the campaign.

It proved to be a weekend to forget for Sean Thomas and Finlay Robinson on their second outings in the championship meanwhile, with both drivers suffering unfortunate double retirements, which opened the door for two new podium finishers.

In the opening race it was the turn of James Joannou, who just fended off the challenge of Tom Oatley, but the latter would not have to wait long for his opportunity as he finished third in race two – only his fourth ever car race.

The championship is next in action at Anglesey over the 2/3 September. The full race results from the Donington Park weekend can be found here:

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