Smith takes maiden win at Thruxton

Team Pyro’s Aron Smith scored his first win in the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK in an incident-filled first race of the weekend at Thruxton in Hampshire today.

Smith led from pole to chequered flag, unflustered by the incidents taking place behind him. He crossed the line under half a second ahead of Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn, after a two lap dash to the flag following five laps behind the Mégane Renaultsport 250 safety car as stricken cars were cleared from the track

“I pulled out a good lead in the first laps so I was comfortable in front,” said Smith. “When it all kicked off behind I lost the gap with the safety car coming out, but I played it safe after the restart and I’m delighted with the win.”

Second across the line was fifth-qualifying Colburn. “It was an opportunistic result,” he said. “I was catching the cars in front and then all of a sudden there was a coming together between them. I just aimed for the gap and got up to second place.”

Total Control Racing’s Tom Grice took third after an eventful race from second on the grid, including contact with JHR Development’s Lee Pattison.

“It was all going so well,” said Grice. “I made a really good start, but then there was contact. Lee was defending but I got a run into Noble. I felt a bit of a tap at the rear, but I managed to catch the slide and didn’t get sideswiped.”

Pattison was not so lucky in the incident. “There was not enough room,” he said. “I half spun at Noble and caught it, but the car then swung violently the other way and I was caught in the pack with Luke the unlucky one as he was next along.”

Luke Wright’s Scuderia Vittoria Clio made heavy contact with Pattison, leaving the squad with a long night ahead of them to get the car repaired for tomorrow’s race.

“I’d made a great start up to fourth,” said seventh-starting Wright. “I think Pattison made a mistake and let Grice alongside then they were both sideways. Grice caught it, but Pattison was right in front of me and there was nowhere I could go.”

Scuderia Vittoria’s Matt Allison had already been a casualty a lap before the Grice-Pattison-Wright incident.

“I made a distinctly average start and was down to seventh at the end of the first lap,” said the racing returnee.

“I could see there was an incident about to happen ahead of me, but then Adam Bonham tried to overtake but collected my left rear instead. The saving grace is the team found that a stone had pierced the radiator and we had no coolant left; and a new rear suspension arm is cheaper than a new engine.”

Bonham was able to continue, finishing an eventual 13th and last of the running cars.

There were other incidents too. Team Pyro’s Jack Goff finished an eventual sixth after twice taking avoiding action from incidents around him.

“I had to avoid Jake Packun at the first chicane and then my team-mate spun at the second one, so it was a nightmare first lap for me,” he said. “After that I just kept my head down and avoided other people’s incidents.”

The aforementioned team-mate was Josh Files. “I went a bit deep into the chicane and the back came round,” he said.

The safety car was out for a third of the race distance as the damaged cars were cleared. In the midst of the pack, and one lap down on those around him, was Lumison BlueSquare Data/SVE’s championship leader, Paul Rivett.

“I was running in fifth when my front left tyre deflated at Village corner on the seventh lap,” explained the two-time champion. “You’ve got to have a bad day every once in a while, but I still think I’m leading the standings.”

With all the incidents in the race, Total Control Racing’s Nic Hamilton had a solid run to tenth place – his first top ten finish – after going off at the high-speed Goodwood corner in practice on Friday and then in qualifying this morning.

“It was a good result after a difficult weekend so far,” he said. “The big smash on Friday certainly knocked my confidence so I got my head down and just tried to learn as much as I could. I wasn’t carrying as much speed through Goodwood in the race. It is a horrendous corner, the worse in my four weeks of racing so far, but with more time and experience I’m sure I’ll get on top of it.”

The AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK at Thruxton concludes with race two at 12:50 tomorrow, Sunday May 1. It can be seen live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD.

Aron Smith is well placed to repeat today’s win as he will start from pole once more, with second finishing today James Colburn beside him.

AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK fans can win flights to Kuala Lumpur this weekend thanks to title sponsor, AirAsia by listening to the following competition, downloadable from iTunes: http://tiny.cc/wlqwl.

Race one top ten results

1. Aron Smith Team Pyro 15 laps G
2. James Colburn Westbourne Motorsport +0.494s G
3. Tom Grice Team Pyro +0.898s G
4. James Dixon Total Control Racing +1.700s G
5. Jake Packun Get On Track Developments +2.219s G
6. Jack Goff Team Pyro +2.977s G
7. Chris Swanwick Team Pyro +4.825s G
8. Josh Files Team Pyro +7.110s G
9. Craig Currie Team Pyro +10.245s
10. Nicolas Hamilton Total Control Racing +23.461s G

Race one top ten qualifying times

1. Aron Smith Team Pyro 1:23.897s G
2. Tom Grice Total Control Racing 1:23.913s G
3. Matt Allison Scuderia Vittoria 1:23.944s
4. Paul Rivett Lumison BlueSquare Data/SVE 1:23.967s
5. James Colburn Westbourne Motorsport 1:23.994s G
6. Lee Pattison JHR Developments 1:23.996s M
7. Luke Wright Scuderia Vittoria 1:24.107s G
8. James Dixon Total Control Racing 1:24.125s G
9. Jack Goff Team Pyro 1:24.157s G
10. Adam Bonham Team Pyro 1:24.189s G

Race two top ten qualifying times

1. Aron Smith Team Pyro 1:24.015s G
2. James Colburn Westbourne Motorsport 1:24.034s G
3. Matt Allison Scuderia Vittoria 1:24.054s
4. Paul Rivett Lumison BlueSquare Data/SVE 1:24.086s
5. Lee Pattison JHR Developments 1:24.155s M
6. Jack Goff Team Pyro 1:24.169 G
7. Luke Wright Scuderia Vittoria 1:24.191s G
8. James Dixon Total Control Racing 1:24.215s G
9. Adam Bonham Team Pyro 1:24.242s G
10. Josh Files Team Pyro 1:24.385s G

-ends-

About AirAsia Clio Cup

Each season drivers come from around the United Kingdom and internationally to compete in the thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing that the Renault Clio Cup demands. The Championship continues to be the UK’s premier one-make saloon-car championship. Using race cars based on the road-going Clio Renault Sport 200, the Championship continues to be a breeding ground for future Touring Car drivers. As a prominent support race on the British Touring Car Championship platform and benefiting from live, comprehensive and new for 2011, HD TV coverage on the ITV sport network, it remains the most direct link to the BTCC. Almost one third of the current BTCC grid graduated from the ranks of Renault Clio Cup UK http://www.renaultsport.co.uk/championships/cliocup/Default.aspx
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