Brands Hatch’s legendary Grand Prix circuit will this weekend provide the backdrop for the crowning of a new Renault UK Clio Cup Champion with Ash Hand (Nuneaton), Ashley Sutton (Bishops Stortford), Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) and Paul Rivett (Epsom) all still in the frame to lift the title in what are likely to be two highly charged final rounds to the 2015 season.
A bumper trackside crowd is expected to cram into the world-famous Kent venue where the outcome of the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship will also be decided. The UK Clio Cup’s exhilarating title showdown will be shown as part of ITV4’s eight hours-plus live coverage of the event that runs from 10.15am-6.30pm on the Sunday.
Team Pyro’s Hand and Maximum Motorsport’s Whorton-Eales will go into the event dramatically tying on points at the top of the UK Clio Cup standings. With the championship’s all-important ‘two-dropped-scores’ rule applied, however, Hand currently draws away in the lead with BMR Restart-backed Pyro team-mate Sutton emerging as his closest challenger. If Hand wins the first of this weekend’s two races – on the Saturday – he will provisionally be the new 2015 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion. And with an unrivalled seven wins from the 16 races already this season he is determined to end on a high.
“I’m going to Brands Hatch to dominate and win the title in style,” insisted Hand, a protégé of triple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx. “Whorton-Eales and Sutton might think they’ve got me on the run, like a pack of wolves chasing an injured dog. If that’s the case then you have to turn round and bite them back hard. If I turn up at Brands Hatch in the same form I was at, say, Knockhill or Thruxton earlier in the year then they have no chance.”
Sutton believes he has the beating of Hand at Brands Hatch but said: “It’s a circuit I’ve excelled on in the past and ideally I can win both races this weekend, but it’s in the lap of the gods as to what happens behind me. If I win on Saturday it goes into Sunday at least. I think Ash is rattled but trying not to show it whereas I’ve been in these situations before from my karting days. I’m feeling good.”
Whorton-Eales commented: “I have nothing to lose and will probably be pushing harder than I’ve done before in a race car. If I go off trying then so be it – I certainly don’t want to go to bed Sunday night wondering… Hand I’d say is definitely rattled, but he’s still in a good place with points on the board. On paper catching him should be hard but anything can happen when the nerves take hold.”
Rivett, who has won the UK Clio Cup title three times before, knows his chances are near impossible this time around. A winner on the Brands Hatch GP circuit 12 months ago for the local Ashford-based WDE Motorsport team, however, he is going into the event open-minded. He said: “Realistically am going to need Divine Intervention. My target this weekend is to give WDE a couple of wins on their home circuit and keep the great momentum we’ve built during the second half of this season in particular going into the off-season.”
The title might be gone for the rest of the grid but there is still personal pride at stake and a host of names have the pace to get in among the main championship contenders and add to the unpredictability. Among them are WDE’s Charlie Ladell (Ipswich) and Rory Green (also local, from Hildenborough) and Cooksport’s Rory Collingbourne (Newport, South Wales) and George Jackson (Bedford). Notably their teams are embroiled in an intense fight for second in the Entrants Trophy with Cooksport re-enforcing its Brands efforts by bringing in the rapid Jon Maybin (Chinnor). Watch too for JamSport Racing’s Tom Grundy (Jumeirah, Dubai) who showed potential podium pace last time out at Silverstone and, after some rotten luck there, is fired up for a breakthrough rostrum result.
Recent rounds have attracted some exciting new names to the grid and it will be interesting to see just how far up the points table Pyro’s Josh Price (Redbourn), Cooksport’s Alex Sedgwick (Leamington Spa), JamSport’s Luke Kidsley (Northampton), Maximum’s Tom Witts (Rugby) and 20Ten Racing pair Tom Butler (Derby) and Sam Watkins (Swansea) can get before the flag falls on Sunday afternoon. Pyro’s Mark Howard (Oakham) may have already sewn up the Masters Cup for older drivers but that won’t stop 20Ten’s Graham Field (Southwell) pushing him all the way at Brands Hatch.
Timetable: Renault UK Clio Cup, Brands Hatch GP
- Fri 9 Oct: 9.00am-9.45am Free Practice 1
- Fri 9 Oct: 3.30pm-4.15pm Free Practice 2
- Sat 10 Oct: 10.55am-11.25am Qualifying
- Sat 10 Oct: 3.00pm Race 1 (12 laps)
- Sun 11 Oct: 1.30pm Race 2 (12 laps)