JamSport Racing and Clio Cup veteran Ant Whorton-Eales have been the team and driver pairing to beat in the 2016 Renault Clio Cup, as the former Championship contender had wrapped up half of the season races. Securing five wins in the first half of the season has given Whorton-Eales the series lead, however with six different winners so far in 2016, the second half of the season starting at Snetterton, Norfolk would see the start of a thrilling conclusion for the title. Sitting on top of the pile with 256 points, Whorton-Eales only found himself three ahead of the 2014 Champion Mike Bushell (Team Pyro) and fifty-one away from multiple champion Paul Rivett (WDE Motorsport), showing the level of competition in one of the best single touring car championships in the world. Whilst ten rounds had been completed and Whorton-Eales had five victories, you couldn’t really award him the title just yet, as Mike Bushell (1), Paul Rivett (2), Max Coates (1), Lee Pattison (1) and Paul Streather (1) had all visited the top step and secured multiple podiums in a season so far full of entertainment. The Snetterton round on the 30th and 31st July would get the second half of the 2016 Renault Clio Cup season underway and you wouldn’t want to predict the winners before, during or even after qualifying, as with 21 drivers on the grid, ranging from the up and coming to experienced, a winner could come from anywhere. It wasn’t going to surprise us if rounds eleven or twelve saw the seventh or even eighth winner of 2016, but what we can predict is that the battle for the title will likely intensify between the top three; Whorton-Eales, Bushell and Rivett.
Victory to Bushell after Pole Position
After taking pole position in a wet and slippery session on Saturday, Mike Bushell showed how he can control a Renault Clio Cup race in style, even by avoiding drama. Leading the field away on the opening lap when the lights went out, the Pyro prepared Clio of Bushell made contact with the Clio of Luke Kidsley, as the JamSport driver made a challenge into Riches and went flying towards the corn field. As Bushell remained on track, championship leader Ant Whorton-Eales took advantage and led into the Wilson hairpin, however a mistake behind from the experienced Paul Rivett saw the WDE Motorsport Clio ram both cars and retire with heavy damage. Whorton-Eales retained the lead after the impact with Rivett, but with his tail flapping on lap one, Mike Bushell moved ahead with more speed and started to pull clear.
With Bushell and Whorton-Eales tripping over one another, this allowed young guns Max Coates (Ciceley) and Senna Proctor (Team BMR) to close in, creating a four-way fight for the race lead. As Whorton-Eales lost out to both, dropping to fourth on lap two, Bushell broke clear and then saw his championship chances improved, as the JamSport prepared Clio entered the pits and the team retired Ant Whorton-Eales. With the stewards giving the championship leader a black/orange flag to enter the pits and remove the trailing bodywork, problems arose once in the pits and a DNF was called.
As Max Coates lay in second place and was losing ground to Bushell lap after lap, the race leaders’ team mate had trouble holding onto third and the final podium spot, as Josh Price closed in from fourth, creating space between him and Lee Pattison. Starting from eleventh and twelfth respectively on the grid, both Price and Pattison had storming drives through the field; however, they would have to settle for their positions at the flag. Just outside the top five would be Clio regular David Dickenson for Team Pyro, ahead of Dan Zelos in seventh.
Once everything had calmed down from the dramas of the opening lap, one battle on track that kept everyone entertained throughout was the battle for eighth, displaying a typical Renault Clio race between at least three to four drivers. Ending up the winner of this little scrap was BTCC’s Chris Smiley, who had departed the Touring Cars and the Team Hard Toyota due to budget and would end the season in the brightly coloured JamSport Clio. Making his Renault Clio Cup debut at Snetterton, Smiley would fend off Anton Spires (PP Motorsport), George Jackson (Cooksport), Charlie Ladell (WDE Motorsport) and Paul Streather (Finesse) for much of race, with the group racing wheel to wheel and bumper to bumper around the Snetterton 300 circuit.
Back up front, Mike Bushell recorded yet another win on his return to the Renault Clio Cup and with Whorton-Eales retiring from the race with damage; this gave the 2014 Clio Cup champion the lead in the series by 29 points heading into the second race of the day, and with pole position for race two, advantage was with Bushell.
Renault Clio Cup, Round 11 – Top Five:
- Mike Bushell (No.1 – Team Pyro) = 10 Laps = 21:29.254
- Max Coates (No.71 – Ciceley) = +4.765s
- Senna Proctor (No.66 – Team BMR) = +8.625s
- Josh Price (No.28 – Team Pyro) = +8.994s
- Lee Pattison (No.46 – Cooksport) = +10.684s
JamSport 1-2 With Whorton-Eales Back on Top
With Mike Bushell on pole and growing in confidence from win in race one, the 2014 Champion got away well, however at Riches it was the JamSport Clio of Luke Kidsley that led, as the Clio Cup rookie pulled into the lead ahead of his team mate Whorton-Eales. With Bushell dropping to third, the race one winner had a fight on his hands to overhaul his championship rival, slightly allowing Kidsley to pull away out-front. Bushell was able to get ahead of his rival and started to real in Kidsley, creating a fantastic battle, in a race which was slightly shorten due to other incidents in the races earlier.
Throughout much of the race there was certainly less drama than the opening race, however by the mid-way mark, pressure on Kidsley intensified as Bushell looked for a way to secure a Snetterton double. Along the Senna Straight Bushell lined up the race leader for a pass into Riches, however with a gap opening, Whorton-Eales pulled off the move of race by taking both Mike Bushell and Luke Kidsley on the run into the Wilson hairpin.
The battle between the leading three had slowed the pace of the race and before Bushell had a chance to fight back; Max Coates dived in and took third from Bushell before the end of the lap. With Bushell appearing to lose momentum, Paul Rivett dropped the race winner to fifth not long later, whilst settling a new lap record for the Snetterton 300 circuit, in a stunning drive and making up for the retirement in race one. After taking fourth, Rivett forced his way past Coates at the Nelson/Brundle chicane and in the midst of the move, Bushell regained fourth, passing Coates also.
In the run to the flag, Whorton-Eales held off his JamSport team mate for his sixth win of the season, whilst Luke Kidsley recorded his first Clio Cup podium. Paul Rievtt held on to the final podium position, with Mike Bushell fourth. With the championship moving to Rockingham for rounds 13 and 14 of the 2016 season, after missing the TOCA package visit to Knockhill, Mike Bushell now held a 19-point advantage over Ant Whorton-Eales, whilst Max Coates held third on 254 points ahead of Paul Rivett, setting up a great run into the finale at Brands Hatch in October. Just finishing outside the top five in race two was the Finesse prepared Clio of Paul Streather, ahead of Chris Smiley, who completed his first weekend in the Renault Clio cup with two top ten finishes. Lee Pattison would come home in eighth, just ahead of Bury St Edmunds’ Charlie Ladell on his home circuit, with Team BMR’s Senna Proctor completing the top ten.
Renault Clio Cup, Round 12 – Top Five:
- Ant Whorton-Eales (No.10 – JamSport) = 8 Laps = 17:13.726
- Luke Kidsley (No.8 – JamSport) = +0.245s
- Paul Rivett (No.22 – WDE Motorsport) = +1.535s
- Mike Bushell (No.1 – Team Pyro) = +2.010s
- Max Coates (No.71 – Ciceley) = +2.417s
For the latest and up to date news for the Renault Clio Cup, please visit http://www.renaultsport.co.uk/championships/renault-uk-clio-cup/
To find more of our photos from the Renault Clio Cup at Snetterton, please click here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.