Josh Files (Norwich) achieved his long awaited first race victory in the Renault UK Clio Cup with a faultless lights-to-flag performance during round nine of the season at Croft in North Yorkshire this afternoon, Saturday, 22nd June, to move back into second place in the championship.
The Team Pyro driver, who dominated qualifying earlier in the day to secure pole position for both of the weekend’s encounters, needed two attempts at trying to finally secure his first win in the UK championship when the initial race was red flagged after three laps following a heavy accident at the exit of the chicane for Scuderia Vittoria’s Devon Modell (Maidstone).
At the second time of asking, Files again led the way and was never truly challenged as he strolled to a 4.4 second winning margin, also bagging the Graduate Cup victory and securing the bonus points for fastest lap which he posted on the second tour with a time of 1m34.868 seconds (80.63mph).
Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch), who set the pace during pre-event testing on Friday for KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria, finished in second place to climb into the championship top six, while Josh Cook (Bristol) earned his third podium of the year for JHR Developments just a fraction behind Hodgetts.
“The first start I made was mint, I pulled away and felt comfortable straight away”, said Files, “Then we had the red flag, which made it a little harder! My second start wasn’t quite as good, Jordan (Stilp) got the legs on me but I went down the inside at the first corner, we had a little rub, and we were through.
“Unfortunately, that little rub bent the steering so I thought it would be much more difficult. It wasn’t bad enough to make much difference though, I thought I’d have more of a fight on my hands but the car was mint other than that. Tomorrow, hopefully we’ll do the same.”
Celebrations on the Clio Cup podium were muted in light of the tragic news which filtered through from the Le Mans 24 Hours Race in France where Danish racer Allan Simonsen, who competed in Formula Renault UK in 2001, succumbed to injuries sustained in a lap three accident.
Thoughts of all of the competitors and organisers turned to the 34-year-old and runner-up Hodgetts summed up the feeling in the paddock: “What’s happened to Allan today really puts things in perspective, I knew him and he was a great lad, a proper quick driver. It’s a massive loss and really sad sad, sad times.”
The grid for the re-start was taken from the order at the time of the red flag, so Files held pole ahead of Westbourne Motorsport’s Jordan Stilp (Potterspury), Hodgetts, JHR team-mates Lee Pattison (Liversedge) and Cook, Pyro’s Ash Hand (Nuneaton), Names.co.uk/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering’s Paul Rivett (Banstead) and KX Racing’s Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield).
As Files saw-off Stilp through Clervaux for the first time, the Westbourne driver was elbowed back down to sixth on the exit recovering well after his car was sent sideways and so Hodgetts moved through to second ahead of Cook, who made a great start, Masters Cup leader Pattison and Rivett.
Files was untouchable and quickly built a healthy advantage at the front while Hodgetts had his mirrors full with the ever-present Cook. Stilp, meanwhile, was racing with the knowledge he would have to serve a drive-through penalty having been adjudged to have made a false start during the original race.
Pitting to take the penalty at the end of the fourth tour, shortly after losing sixth to Hand, Stilp’s afternoon only got worse when he received another penalty due to damaged bodywork having been removed from his Clio when he served his initial drive-through. Dropping him to 20th place, it was a disappointing end to a day which had begun so well with a season-best top two qualifying effort.
The top five of Files, Hodgetts, Cook, Pattison and Rivett remained unchanged to the finish but the fight for sixth was only decided at the final corner in favour of rapid rookie Hand. Whorton-Eales got ahead into sixth on lap five, and did challenge Rivett for fifth at the end of the penultimate tour, but at the exit of the hairpin on the last lap Hand squeezed inside Whorton-Eales to re-take sixth.
In the melee, Whorton Eales was edged out onto the grass but managed to rejoin the track in seventh just ahead of Alex Morgan (Reading). Rivett received a tap to the rear bumper but managed to keep fifth with Hand taking his best finish of the year just behind. James Colburn (Worthing) was ninth for Westbourne while Scuderia Vittoria’s Josh Wakefield (Colchester) rounded out the top 10.
Speaking on his second podium in as many race weekends, third placed Cook said: “After the red flag, I managed to get a good start. I got up to third from sixth, there was a bit of contact between three of us, but the car handled well. I had one or two opportunities [to try and pass Hodgetts] but it would have been too risky, not worth a potential DNF. I’m pleased we bagged some good points.”
Round 10 of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup season will take place at Croft at 15.50 tomorrow, Sunday, 23rd June, and will be broadcast live on ITV4, ITV4 HD and online at www.itv.com/btcc
Files will again line-up on pole position with Hodgetts alongside on the front row, Rivett and Colburn on row two, Stilp and Whorton-Eales will share row three and Cook and Morgan will begin the race from row four.
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 Rd9):
1st Paul Rivett, 227pts; 2nd Josh Files, 210pts; 3rd Alex Morgan, 199pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd9):
1st Team Pyro, 409pts; 2nd Scuderia Vittoria, 311pts; 3rd JHR Developments, 305pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd9):
1st Josh Files, 245pts; 2nd James Colburn, 223pts; 3rd Josh Cook, 199pts
Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd9):
1st Simon Belcher, 229pts; 2nd Graham Field, 211pts; 3rd Finlay Crocker, 167pts
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