As the Brands Hatch Indy rounds of the Courier Connections Renault Clio Cup were done and dusted, it was time to look forward to another trip southwards, this time to Donington Park for rounds 3 and 4 of the the Clio Cup alongside rounds 4,5 & 6 of the BTCC. With the motor home loaded and the trailer in-tow (with a special little car on board!) it was southbound for 270 miles trip. Donington was another of the tracks that we had never before visited and arriving late evening on the Friday we were taken back by the size of the facility!
Saturday morning brought the first official unveiling of the drivers championship winners prize, our Renault 5 GT Turbo, a pristine 1989 example showing 60’000 miles. The early morning crowd were drawn to the beauty of the freshly painted car, on show outside the Renault race centre for the weekend. We were certain that it would get the drivers talking and give them something to drive that little bit harder for! Read our article on the full unveil along with more pictures here.
We were also happy to welcome our Donington Prize Draw ticket winners along with us on Saturday morning, Ben and Steph had been the fortunate beneficiaries of some last-minute personal circumstances that had happened to the original winner. They were happy to have won tickets last minute and are planning to visit all BTCC rounds this year! As a special addition to the prize tickets, we treated Ben and Steph to lunch on the Saturday and Sunday courtesy of Courier Connections at the Renault race centre. We were delighted to have entertained our first Facebook competition guests with us at the weekend and we are sure we will see them again during the season along with our other competition winners!
And then it was time for Saturday’s Clio Cup on-track action, with Qualifying starting at 14.05 the sun was shining and the track temperature had risen to perfect qualifying conditions. With the new generation Clio giving much more of a ‘tow’ than the old car, running in tandem was the order of the day in order to gain the vital couple tenths to put the car on pole position for Sundays races. Josh Cook started out strong with an excellent couple laps behind team-mate Ash Hand, putting in an early pacesetting time. Further down the field, Paul Rivett struggled to get the car to work running on his own in qualifying, and looked set to start Saturdays first race on P8. A frantic qualifying session saw the top 11 drivers separated by less than 0.6 of a second, with Josh Cook taking pole position infront of Ant Whorton-Eales and Jordan Stilp. Stilp put in a fantastic qualifying session setting the fastest second best time to put the car on pole for the second of Saturdays races. All looked set for a great day of racing on the Sunday and we couldn’t wait!
Sunday looked set to be wet from the offset with the rain starting to come down before the first cars could make it out on track. With the first Courier Connections Clio Cup race scheduled for 10.05 it looked like wet tyres would be the order of the day. This would be the first time many drivers would have driven the new car on the wet tyre, and the first time a lot of the teams were required to set the cars up for wet race conditions.
A close race ensued with great battles throughout the field, but the star of the show was Josh Cook, starting on pole position allowed him to be out of the spray and drive an impeccable race from lights to flag for his first race win of the year. Mike Bushell followed into second place, overtaking Ant Whorton-Eales on the last lap to take the second step on the podium. Paul Rivett took the Masters trophy despite finishing where he started in 8th place with Josh Cook taking the graduate cup honours alongside the race win.
With changing conditions throughout the day, the teams had various set-ups dialled into the cars in preparation for the days afternoon race at 15.47 broadcast live on ITV4. Finally the sun broke though and the cars could go out on slick tyres again! With Jordan Stilp lining up on pole alongside Mike Bushell, it was set to be a close race.
Unfortunately, a coming together between Stilp and Bushell, off the line, heading for turn one unsettled the rear of the number 1 car of Bushell and sent it directly for the left side grass and impending safety barrier, with Bushell becoming a passenger and the car requiring recovery, it brought out the safety car at the end of the first lap in order to ensure the car could be safely pulled back in the end of the pit lane.
One lap however was enough for Josh Cook to capitalise on the leaders misfortune and put his SV Racing/KX Akademy car into first place by the time the pack caught the safety car at the end of the first lap. From then on Cook left the rest of the pack to fight there own battles for the remaining places, while he gained a commanding lead, finishing the race with another healthy gap over the rest of the field. It was battles galore throughout the rest of the contenders, from Mark Howard and Craig Milner battling it our for P11 to a 4 way battle consisting of Ash Hand, Ant Whorton-Eales, Alex Morgan and Paul Rivett for remaining podium places behind the flying Josh Cook. The race finished with Hand taking the second place honours ahead of Morgan and Whorton-Eales, an all-roud excellent result for Kx Akademy/SV Racing, managing a lock-out of the top 4 places, resulting in a champagne shower for team boss Danny Buxton at the conclusion of the podium presentation. Paul Rivett also managed another Masters trophy this time with a 5th place finish after a very close battle with the SV Racing cars ahead.
All-round, we think that Courier Connections Clio Cup round 4 at Donington Park may just have been the most exciting race of the season yet! With the results showing that the season is still wide open and poised for another exciting meeting at Thruxton on the 3rd and 4th of May. The updated points table after Donington is shown below, with Alex Morgan still leading, ahead of Josh Cook by only 4 points! Its all still to play for!
So, that pretty much sums up our Donington Park weekend – a mixed bag of weather, another 2 great races and the unveil of our Renault 5 GT Turbo! We can only end by saying we are looking forward to watching the racing at Thruxton, not so much to the drive down South! But we will be there, with the Renault 5 in-tow once again, and we look forward to seeing you there!
We’ll leave you with some of our favourite images from the weekend.