After more than 200 laps and 420 miles of racing, the destiny of the 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup will finally be decided this coming weekend (Sat 1/Sun 2 October) when either Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) or Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) is crowned Champion in the final two rounds of the season on the legendary Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in Kent.
Bushell arrives at his home circuit holding a 14-point advantage over Whorton-Eales at the top of the table. He is also driving for the same team, Team Pyro, with which he won the title in 2014 – on the same Brands GP circuit.
However adding a major twist is the championship’s two-dropped-scores rule which requires drivers to discard their worst two results when totting up their end of season totals.
Bushell currently has 38 points to drop; Whorton-Eales 16. That suddenly means Whorton-Eales is in fact leading by eight points going into the weekend.
In short, therefore, Bushell needs to out-score Whorton-Eales by nine points across the two races to take home the silverware. Equalling Whorton-Eales’s score is no good for he will lose out on a tie-breaker, decided by the greatest number of wins – Whorton-Eales currently has nine compared to Bushell’s three.
The odds suggest their nail-biting title battle will go down to the final race, on the Sunday. If so it will be played out live on ITV4 and also in front of one of British motor sport’s biggest trackside crowds of the year for the same fixture will also see the high-profile Dunlop British Touring Car Championship decided.
Bushell commented: “The maths say if I win both races and also get the fastest lap in each for four bonus points then it will be enough. If I win both without a fastest lap and Ant sits behind me for a pair of second places then he gets it.
“I’m confident we have the pace to pull it off and I’m even more determined than I was in 2014 to make it happen. I will need two demons starts, though, as Ant has been unbeatable away from the line so far this year. On saying that, having won the title before I feel the pressure is off a bit and if anything I’m more focused on just driving the track – it’s the most exciting circuit on the calendar and I love the place.”
Whorton-Eales said: “I’m not feeling any nerves and don’t think I’ll get too flustered about things if I’m honest – I don’t tend to generally. Mike is on the backfoot given the dropped scores situation between us so my goal is to win the first race, on the Saturday, and then do just enough in Sunday’s final round to make sure of things. I was on pole for both final rounds here last year so know we have really strong pace around the GP circuit before we even get to the races which is when we are even stronger.”
Adding to the unpredictability of it all are the 20 or so other drivers on the grid who will be aiming to end their seasons on a high – some caring not a jot about the title protagonists.
Having sewn up the Graduates Cup (a la BTCC star Ashley Sutton in 2015), Ciceley Motorsport’s Max Coates (Scorton) hopes to hold off local Ashford-based team WDE Motorsport’s three-time champ Paul Rivett (Epsom Downs) for third in the final standings.
Similarly Team Cooksport’s Lee Pattison (Scholes) and Finesse Motorsport’s Paul Streather (Hinckley) – the winners of April’s opening rounds on Brands’s shorter Indy circuit – are being chased by young BMR-backed Pyro talents Josh Price (Redbourn) and Senna Proctor (Driffield) for fifth and sixth places in the table. Streather could be the pick of the bunch if he can repeat his form of 12 months ago (when, on his debut, he almost cost Sutton the title)…
Meanwhile PP Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing), Pyro’s David Dickenson (London), WDE’s Charlie Ladell (Bury St Edmunds), Ciceley’s Ollie Pidgley (Salisbury) and Dan Zelos (Dereham), Finesse’s Jake Giddings (Wisbech) and Cooksport’s Rory Collingbourne (Newport) could all influence things significantly.
So, too, the rapid Chris Smiley (Carrickfergus), Luke Kidsley (Northampton) and George Jackson (Bedford) who could prove useful to JamSport team-mate Whorton-Eales in the title fight. JamSport is set to enter seven cars in fact at Brands Hatch with Graham Field (Southwell) plus returnee Paul Donkin (Bishop Auckland) and newcomer James Grint (Hertford – a front-runner in British Rallycross and the brother of Harry Potter movie star Rupert Grint) also joining its line-up.
The UK Clio Cup drivers will first be on track at Brands Hatch on the Friday (30 Sept) with two timed practice sessions to enable them to fine-tune their cars’ set-ups to the circuit’s characteristics. On the Saturday comes the half-hour timed qualifying session (10.55am) that will decide the starting grid orders for the two races. The first of those takes place later that afternoon (2.30pm); the second on Sunday (1.30pm). Both are 12 laps in distance.