Renault UK Clio Cup front-runner Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch), above, centre, claimed a richly deserved second victory of the 2013 season at Oulton Park Island Circuit this afternoon, Sunday, 9th June, during round eight of the championship the halfway point of the campaign.
In front of the live ITV4 cameras, and tens of thousands of spectators enjoying glorious sunshine, the KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria driver took the lead at the exit of the first corner after a blistering start from fourth on the grid and delivered an inch-perfect performance despite huge pressure.
“It’s fantastic”, said Hodgetts, who earned the ‘BuyOils.co.uk Driver of the Event’ accolade, “We started P4 and, if you say about it Motocross-style, we got the hole-shot at the start. When you’re in the lead in these cars you can kind of control the race but, in order to do that, you need a fantastic car. We’ve been really fast all weekend, it’s just desserts we got the win.
“Turning up at these race meetings with all the crowds, there’s no better feeling than to race in front of that many people it’s a massive privilege. To be on this package and in this championship is pretty cool to be honest!”
Pole-sitter, and championship leader, Paul Rivett (Banstead) had problems with a slipping clutch at the beginning which compromised his getaway. Although managing to see off the quick-starting Alex Morgan (Reading) initially at the exit of Old Hall, the Team Pyro driver hit back on lap two into the hairpin and held on to an excellent second place from that point forward.
While Morgan’s runner-up spot, his fourth podium of the year, moved him into second place in the championship ahead of team-mate Josh Files (Norwich), Rivett’s third position was enough to see him marginally increase his advantage at the top of the standings to 22 points.
“I’d say the season is probably going better than I imagined initially”, said Morgan, “I knew we were quick in testing during the pre-season but you never know until you line-up with the other guys where you’ll be. To be at the halfway stage of the season and have had four podiums, one each weekend, and be second in the championship is fantastic I couldn’t have asked for much more.”
Hodgetts’ launch away from the second row was outstanding and although Morgan appeared to have the lead into Old Hall, the KX Racing driver was able to bravely move ahead around the outside while Rivett recovering well from his difficult getaway followed Hodgetts through on the outside line, taking second on the run down The Avenue and into Cascades.
Into lap two, Hodgetts, Rivett and Morgan were nose-to-tail and into the hairpin Rivett thought about looking to the outside of the race leader. In doing so though, the Names.co.uk/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering driver left the door open for Morgan to edge up the inside.
There was absolutely nothing to separate the top three throughout, Hodgetts smartly backing the others up lap after lap. On lap eight the Safety Car was deployed, following an excursion into the barriers at the top of Clay Hill for Ronnie Klos (Market Harborough), but after the re-start nothing changed at the front with Hodgetts, Morgan and Rivett covered by just 0.7 seconds at the finish.
The end of the race actually came one lap early when Finlay Crocker (Bathgate) made contact with the barriers at the top of Deer Leap, bringing out the red flags, just moments after Pyro team-mates James Nutbrown and Ash Hand (Nuneaton) had tangled at Druids.
Reflecting on his third place, Rivett said: “It was probably quite lucky I didn’t slip any further back at the start to be honest, once we got going in the race it was OK but at the start the clutch just didn’t bite and that really cost us.
“When Alex [Morgan] got by at the hairpin it was my mistake, I shouldn’t have gone to the outside of Stef [Hodgetts] I was desperate to get the lead back after the clutch slip though! Championship wise we’ve got another podium, more points and we’ve extended the lead even more. It goes without saying, a huge thank you to all my fantastic sponsors as usual.”
Behind the lead trio, Finesse Motorsport’s Jake Giddings (Wisbech) produced a star performance with fourth giving him his first Graduate Cup win of the season. After taking fourth place from JHR Developments’ Lee Pattison (Liversedge) on lap one, Giddings was a consistent threat to the podium placings but just wasn’t able to carve open an opportunity.
Pattison finished fifth, taking his second Masters Cup victory of the weekend, ahead of team-mate Josh Cook and Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing). KX Racing’s Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) made amends for his non-finish on Saturday with eighth while Total Control Racing’s Rob Smith (Telford) was ninth, just seeing off Files the latter taking the extra points for fastest lap.
There are only two weeks to wait until the next outing for the Renault UK Clio Cup competitors with rounds nine and 10 of the 2013 campaign taking place at Croft in North Yorkshire on 22nd/23rd June.
Renault UK Clio Cup is sponsored by www.buyoils.co.uk with support from ELF, NGK Spark Plugs, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd8):
1st Paul Rivett, 207pts; 2nd Alex Morgan, 185pts; 3rd Josh Files, 176pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd8):
1st Team Pyro, 359pts; 2nd Westbourne Motorsport, 272pts; 3rd Scuderia Vittoria, 267pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd8):
1st Josh Files, 213pts; 2nd James Colburn, 203pts; 3rd Jake Giddings, 179pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd8):
1st Simon Belcher, 204pts; 2nd Graham Field, 191pts; 3rd Finlay Crocker, 139pts
Official website: www.renaultsport.co.uk/championships/cliocup
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Full results and timings available at www.tsl-timing.com
Photos courtesy & copyright Jakob Ebrey Photography