SEASON REVIEW: 2017 Michelin Clio Cup Series


Credit: Phil Laughton Photography

Ben Palmer and Nic Harrison wrote their names into the record books at the latest champions in the Michelin Clio Cup Series, emerging victorious in the Race Series and Road Series respectively following a pair of thrilling title battles across the fifteen race campaign.

Palmer Edges Out Spires For Race Series Success

Palmer and Anton Spires were the class of the field in the headline Race Series this season, with the duo enjoying a monopoly on all the pole positions and race victories for the majority of the campaign – only a win for guest driver James Colburn on the final weekend spoiiled their joint domination.

It was second year contender Palmer who gained the upper hand with a run of five consecutive race victories from Croft to Donington Park, with the opening race in Leicestershire proving ultimately pivotal as Palmer’s win was coupled with a decisive retirement for Spires due to a driveshaft failure.

That left the former Renault UK Clio Cup racer playing catch up in the final three meetings of the season and whilst he took the battle down to the Silverstone season finale, a second place finish in the opener would secure Palmer the honours with a race to spare.

Palmer would go on to complete the season with a sensational 100% podium record for the campaign, the first driver in championship history to achieve that feat, which he also walked away with ten race victories to break the record of nine in a season set by James Dorlin a year prior.

Spires’ Donington retirement meanwhile would be the only race he didn’t finish on the podium and whilst he missed out on the title, he would end the year as the undoubted qualifying king with ten pole positions, just one shy of equalling Dorlin’s series record.

Not Much Could Separate Palmer And Spires All Campaign – Credit: Mick Walker

Whilst those two were a class above at the front of the field, there was a great battle for the final position in the championship top three as Ben Colburn, Tyler Lidsey and Simon Freeman fought right until the very final race of the season.

It was Colburn who took the spot with third by a single point over Lidsey, the former JSCC champion having only finished outside the top five on three occasions through the year as he notched three podiums, with Lidsey taking one more rostrum but being left to rue an extra retirement.

A hugely impressive run from Freeman meanwhile saw him finish within touching distance of his more experienced rivals in his first season in the championship despite missing the opening weekend of the year, with six podium finishes across the campaign earning him fifth in the standings.

Nick White would endure a rollercoaster campaign, with a weekend-ending crash in Croft qualifying the lowpoint, but he showed his potential with a pair of podium finishes through the year, while Jon Billingsley battled in the top six during the three meetings he contested.

The aforementioned James Colburn was only one corner away from making it four victories in four Clio Cup Series starts during an impressive outing during the season finale, with John Hamilton and George Young both debuting that weekend as they assessed options ahead of 2018.

Completing the class entry through the season meanwhile was Sarah Franklin, who took a best finish of fifth on two occasions in her first year in the Race Series after a number of years in the Road category, and it was one of her former sparring rivals that topped the Road contingent this year.

Harrison Beats Drewe For Long-Awaited Title Glory

After finishing as vice-champion in each of the last three seasons, Harrison finally got his hands on the Road Series title silverware this year, but it didn’t come without a fight as he duelled it out with his Jade Developments team-mate Shanel Drewe all season.

Youth v Experience: Drewe Chased Harrison Hard Across The Season – Credit: Phil Laughton Photography

While Harrison would break his own series record with twelve pole positions across the season and take a brilliant six class victories to Drewe’s three, it was impressive podium consistency for the latter in her first season in the series that meant the title battle went down to the wire.

The JSCC graduate would match 2016 class champion Jack Fabby’s record tally of thirteen podium finishes in a season, however Harrison’s superior win tally would be enough to counteract a retirement at Anglesey and win him the title.

One driver who showed the pace to indicate he could have been a title contender had he completed a full season was Sean Thomas, who joined the ranks with Finlay Robinson for the third meeting at Rockingham onwards and made an immediate impression with a double win.

Every race in which Thomas reached the finish he would do so on the podium, eventually notching four victories on his way to third in the final standings, while Robinson would break onto the rostrum four times and end the year on a high with a maiden win at Silverstone.

Separating those two in the final standings were James Joannou and Tom Oatley, the former being ever-present through the year and taking two podiums in his first year of car-racing, while Oatley also raced from Rockingham onwards and took a sole top three at Donington Park.

Richard Colburn took four consecutive podiums to start the year before stepping away, while Darren Geeraeerts took a best of fifth during a two weekend spell at the end of the year and Chris Williams was a podium finisher during a single appearance in the Silverstone opener.

The full final championship standings can be found here: https://barc.blob.core.windows.net/barcnet/2017-final-points-pos-qw3bn.pdf