THE SUP­PORT­ING ACTS

There were some en­thralling ti­tle bat­tles on the TOCA pack­age this year. By Stephen Lick­o­r­ish RE­NAULT UK CLIO CUP BRI­TISH F4

Motor Sport News - - Btcc Supports Review - POINTS Re­nault UK Clio Cup

Last year was an in­cred­i­ble sea­son for the Re­nault UK Clio Cup. It had a thrilling ti­tle bat­tle be­tween three evenly matched driv­ers, with Ash Sut­ton even­tu­ally seal­ing the crown in a tense fi­nale, so 2016 had a lot to live up to. And it cer­tainly de­liv­ered.

Right from the mo­ment Ant Whor­ton-eales was stripped of two poles for the Brands Hatch opener it was clear the fre­netic ac­tion would con­tinue this year. That the Jam­sport driver fought through from the back of the grid to im­pres­sive eighth and sixth places showed how de­ter­mined he was to make up for the dis­ap­point­ment of 2015, when he missed out on the ti­tle hav­ing led the stand­ings for much of the year.

He was to be one of the ti­tle pro­tag­o­nists again with re­turn­ing 2014 cham­pion Mike Bushell the other key player.

Both had strengths in dif­fer­ent ar­eas. Team Pyro racer Bushell was the king of qual­i­fy­ing as he claimed an in­cred­i­ble 12 poles out of 18. Whor­ton-eales’ ad­van­tage was in the races as he was ca­pa­ble of mak­ing some blis­ter­ing get­aways – the way he surged from 10th to sec­ond on the first lap at a very wet Rock­ing­ham was in­cred­i­ble – and also his su­pe­rior race­craft.

He pulled off some bril­liant passes, with his dou­ble over­take on team-mate Luke Kid­s­ley and Bushell into Riches at Snet­ter­ton a high­light.

The pair were al­most in­sep­a­ra­ble in the points head­ing into the Brands Hatch fi­nale. But that was when the rac­ing be­came even more un­pre­dictable. First, Bushell spun off while weav­ing too en­thu­si­as­ti­cally be­hind the safety car in race one.

Three-time cham­pion Paul Rivett then proved to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the ti­tle bat­tle in the fi­nale as he lunged down the in­side of Whor­ton-eales at Graham Hill Bend. AWE just about con­trolled the slide but re­turned to the track in the path of the in­no­cent Bushell, which speared the Pyro driver off into the bar­ri­ers. His ti­tle hopes were as bat­tered as his Clio ma­chine.

“I couldn’t be­lieve I tagged Mike – I was gut­ted to see his race end like that,” says Whor­ton-eales, whose fi­nal win­ning mar­gin was eight points. “I wanted to bat­tle him on track hard and fair.”

Bushell was left think­ing of what could have been. “I’m ru­ing a cou­ple of mis­takes that cost me those eight points, but I have to give credit to Ant for his prow­ess at the starts,” Bushell says. “To be on pole by a sec­ond at Thrux­ton – I don’t know how I did that. So they [the 12 poles] are feath­ers in the cap.

“The only thing I’m gut­ted about is I’ve never had a win taken away from me be­fore.”

Bushell only took three wins all year, com­pared to Whor­ton-eales’ nine, but was twice stripped of vic­tory post-race. The first was for a track lim­its penalty in race two at Thrux­ton, while an overly-ro­bust move on his ti­tle ri­val in the Sil­ver­stone opener led to an­other post-race penalty. Had he kept those wins, he would’ve been cham­pion.

For a sea­son with so many in­ci­dents it was per­haps un­sur­pris­ing that the very fi­nal act would be so dra­matic, as a roll for Kid­s­ley brought the sea­son to a close.

Y

ou would think that any­one who has a 93-point lead head­ing into the fi­nal three week­ends of the sea­son is a pretty sure bet to win the ti­tle. But the 2016 Ginetta GT4 Su­per­cup cam­paign showed how quickly for­tunes can change as in the end Tom Wrigley tri­umphed by a mere three points.

The Rob Bos­ton Rac­ing driver was dom­i­nant in the first half of the sea­son. He took a hat-trick of vic­to­ries at Don­ing­ton Park and also nearly com­pleted a quar­tet at Knock­hill un­til a col­li­sion with Carl Board­ley and Cal­lum Poin­ton ended his run of fin­ish­ing ev­ery race on the podium. That kick­started a dis­mal spell for the 24-year-old.

“Rock­ing­ham started off well as I qual­i­fied on pole by half a sec­ond and it went down hill from there,” Wrigley ex­plains. “I had an elec­tri­cal prob­lem in the first race and race two was go­ing well un­til I made a slight er­ror of judge­ment [when he col­lided with ti­tle ri­val Will Burns at Chap­man Curve] – I can laugh about it now!

“Af­ter that, the pres­sure mounted up a lit­tle bit and I wasn’t per­form­ing as well as I could. I ended up get­ting in lots of dif­fer­ent scuf­fles and it messed with me a bit men­tally.”

In the space of one week­end Burns cut Wrigley’s ad­van­tage from 93 points to 19 and set up a thrilling fi­nal six races. More er­rors from Wrigley fol­lowed as he was pe­nalised for an­other in­ci­dent with Board­ley and Poin­ton at Sil­ver­stone and then he had a dis­mal qual­i­fy­ing at Brands Hatch.

This helped set up an in­cred­i­ble fi­nale where he just scraped home. But it all came down to a bold move on Jack Mitchell that net­ted him third and the ti­tle. With Burns fin­ish­ing sec­ond, the ti­tle would’ve been his had Wrigley not pulled off the risky pass.

“It [the over­take] felt a lot less bold in the car,” ad­mits Wrigley. “I re­ally en­joyed the last race – the cards were on the ta­ble. There was no way I was let­ting it go – for me be­ing so dom­i­nant not to win the cham­pi­onship would’ve been crazy.”

As for Douglas driver Burns, he ap­proached the fi­nal rounds with no pres­sure and so nearly came away with the crown him­self.

“I had com­pletely writ­ten off the cham­pi­onship by Knock­hill,” he re­calls. “For the last round I had no pres­sure and gave 110 per cent. I did about every­thing I could do – it was out of my hands re­ally.

“In hind­sight you think you should’ve taken a few more risks ear­lier in the year but I was only try­ing to fin­ish ev­ery race as con­sis­tency is so im­por­tant.”

That con­sis­tency nearly brought re­wards as he fin­ished ev­ery race and was just twice out­side of the top five, but in the end it wasn’t quite enough.

Third-placed Jamie Or­ton would also have been a ti­tle con­tender af­ter Wrigley’s slump but for miss­ing the four Knock­hill races when his wife was ex­pect­ing their first child.

Whor­ton-eales was often lead­ing the pack AWE won Fewtrell’s con­sis­tency net­ted him the F4 ti­tle

Bushell’s sea­son ended in the Brands bar­ri­ers

Wrigley Wrigley had a su­per run un­til fi­nal Knock­hill race

Burns (r) fought hard in Brands fi­nale

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