Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn secured his first victory in the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup today at Brands Hatch, with a dominant lights to flag victory which sees the eighteen year-old driver take the championship lead into tomorrow’s final round.
Following a good start from second on the grid, Colburn challenged polesitter Paul Rivett (Lumison BlueSquare Data/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering), around the outside of infamous first corner Paddock Hill bend to take the lead off his fellow title contender.
As Colburn led Rivett into the Druids hairpin for the first time, behind them there was plenty of action; Team Pyro’s Jack Goff saw his 2011 title hopes disappear after a collision with the pacey Luke Wright (Scuderia Vittoria), both however retired immediately in the gravel following contact. Jake Packun (Get On Track Development) and Aron Smith (Team Pyro) emerged as the main benefiters from Wright and Goff’s demise and chased after Colburn and Rivett.
Elsewhere, Total Control Racing’s James Dixon continued his less than happy return home to Brands Hatch. Having dropped from ninth to eleventh off the grid, Dixon couldn’t find a way past David Dickenson (Team Pyro) until lap five, where he remained until the flag. The Maidstone based racer’s tenth place finish sees him remain in the title hunt, albeit now needing those ahead of him in the championship to not score.
Following Goff and Wright’s incident, the safety car was deployed to remove them from the gravel. Two laps later the safety car returned to the pits and the race resumed with Colburn pulling out a lead on Rivett having backed the field up ahead of the restart.
Smith, rejuvenated after his recent experience in the British Touring Car Championship, took advantage of the safety car period, closing on Packun and overtaking him with a bold move that he later admitted he closed his eyes to complete.
With little separating the leading quartet, the positions remained the same to the finish line, allowing Colburn to achieve his first victory in the series at the most crucial point of the season.
“That felt mega, finally a first win in the Clio Cup. It’s been a long time coming,” said a jubilant Colburn.
“We got off the line well against Paul, and when the safety car came out I had to really think about where I could back them up. I managed to pull out a bit, Paul would pull me back, and then I’d get a bit further away from Paul. It’s so hard to pull out a quick lap round here in this heat, but we coped better than most and we managed to maintain it.”
“Now we go into tomorrow full of confidence. It’ll be a lot harder as we start from sixth, which isn’t where we want to be, but we’ll see what we can do.”
Sitting three points behind Colburn now is double champion, Rivett. Try as he might, Rivett couldn’t find a way past Colburn, crossing the line just half a second behind the winner.
“It was good race,” said Rivett. “James got a better start than me and he led from there. Congratulations to him on his first win.”
Aron Smith’s hopes of taking the 2011 title remain a very realistic possibility heading into the final race. The Dubliner was clearly happy to have made it to the podium and remained confident about his title hopes.
“I really enjoyed the race, it was a shame I lost a place at the start trying to get past Paul but these things happen.
Speaking of his move on Packun, Smith added, “It was a nice clean move on Jake, and I tried to chase down the other two, but I took a bit too much out of my tyres as the gap was so big. It was good I caught up with them, but I’m happy to be on the podium.
“It’s all to play for tomorrow, I start third, if I get a good start and hopefully get in front. That’s my goal now.”
Scuderia Vittoria’s Ant Whorton-Eales – fresh from his promising debut last time out at the Rockingham Motor Speedway – continued to impress, taking a fifth place finish from an eleventh place grid slot. Whorton-Eales also set the fastest lap of the race, a 1 minute 40.563 secs time that earned the youngster two extra points. Rounding out the top six was Smith’s Team Pyro team-mate, Josh Files.
Nic Hamilton (Total Control Racing) also had cause for cheer today. Starting thirteenth on the grid, Hamilton made up five places on the first lap and held off JHR Developments’ Rob Boston until lap nine, when with five laps to go he conceded the place to the more experienced Boston. Hamilton held on and crossed the line an impressive ninth, his best result to date.
Elsewhere, Total Control Racing’s Mark Proctor brought his Clio Cup car home in 14th to claim the honours in the Masters Cup, also enabling him to close the gap on 20 Ten Racing’s Darren Wilson, who currently leads the way in the Cup standings.
Fans watching Sunday’s final round of the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK can win flights to Kuala Lumpur thanks to series title sponsor AirAsia, as one competing Clio will be carrying the name of an AirAsia destination on its ‘Win’Screen’. Email this destination to email@example.com to be entered into the draw to win two return flights from London Stansted to Kuala Lumpur.
Tomorrow’s championship deciding race is live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD at 13:25, with live text commentary available on Twitter.
Round 15 top-ten results
1. James Colburn Westbourne Motorsport 25:21.998 G
2. Paul Rivett Lumison BlueSquare Data/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering +0.539
3. Aron Smith Team Pyro +0.829 G
4. Jake Packun Get On Track Developments +1.125 G
5. Ant Whorton-Eales Scuderia Vittoria +4.261 G
6. Josh Files Team Pyro +5.004 G
7. Adam Bonham Team Pyro +6.844 G
8. Rob Boston JHR Developments +8.244
9. Nicolas Hamilton Total Control Racing +10.137 G
10. James Dixon Total Control Racing +10.380 G
Round 16 qualifying top ten
1. Paul Rivett Lumison BlueSquare Data/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering 1:40.118
2. Luke Wright Scuderia Vittoria 1:40.164
3. Aron Smith Team Pyro 1:40.236
4. Jake Packun Get On Track Developments 1:40.313
5. Jack Goff Team Pyro 1:40.367
6. James Colburn Westbourne Motorsport 1:40.426
7. Adam Bonham Team Pyro 1:40.458
8. James Dixon Total Control Racing 1:40.553
9. Josh Files Team Pyro 1:40.596
10. Ant Whorton-Eales Scuderia Vittoria 1:40.622
Round 15 qualifying top ten
1. Paul Rivett Lumison BlueSquare Data/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering 1:39.906
2. James Colburn Westbourne Motorsport 1:40.066
3. Aron Smith Team Pyro 1:40.131
4. Luke Wright Scuderia Vittoria 1:40.134
5. Jake Packun Get On Track Developments 1:40.242
6. Jack Goff Team Pyro 1:40.292
7. Josh Files Team Pyro 1:40.337
8. Adam Bonham Team Pyro 1:40.371
9. James Dixon Total Control Racing 1:40.483
10. Rob Boston JHR Developments 1:40.586