Oulton Park: Series race one report

NINTH WIN FOR WINROW AS WOOD SCORES FIRST PODIUM ELF Renault Clio Cup championship leader Ben Winrow (Earls Barton) celebrated his ninth win of the season with victory in round 15 at Oulton Park on Saturday, 26th July. Team Wood Racing's Lea...

NINTH WIN FOR WINROW AS WOOD SCORES FIRST PODIUM

ELF Renault Clio Cup championship leader Ben Winrow (Earls Barton) celebrated his ninth win of the season with victory in round 15 at Oulton Park on Saturday, 26th July. Team Wood Racing's Lea Wood (Hereford) had a fantastic race to second place and a maiden podium in Clio Cup, while JHR Developments' Paul Rivett (Banstead) climbed from ninth on the grid to finish third in an action-packed race held in sweltering conditions.

Mardi Gras Motorsport's Gavin Pyper (Fleckney) started the race from Michelin pole position for the first time this season but lost out on the run to the first corner to Total Control Racing's Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch), making his first appearance of the season after finishing as vice-champion last year. Pyper then lost out to Team Pyro's Winrow to cross the line in third at the end of lap one.

Pyro's Chris Rice (Beverley) had his best qualifying of the season to start fifth, but lost out to Wood on the opening lap. Further down the order, Full Speed Racing's Phil Glew (Alford) gained three places to 13th, while Mardi Gras' David Dickenson (Keatingstown) picked up four places to lie 19th. Contact between Mardi Gras' Aron Smith (Rathfarnham) and Amery Motorsport's David Shepherd (Sandbach) at Cascades left the latter in the gravel and the Safety Car was brought out to enable recovery.

At the restart on lap four, Rivett immediately passed EPS UK with Robertshaw Racing's Robert Gaffney (Waltham Abbey) for seventh, while Pyper and TCR's Alex MacDowall (Carlisle) both passed Hodgetts as he took to the grass. Rivett, along with the rest of the field, rose two more spots on lap five when Hodgetts nudged MacDowall into Pyper at the hairpin. Both MacDowall and Pyper retired, while Hodgetts was later issued with a three-point penalty by the Clerk of the Course.

The shuffling at the front ended with Winrow in a clear three-second lead ahead of Wood. Hodgetts was narrowly ahead of Rice but struggling with a damaged car, while Rivett and Gaffney completed the top six. Glew, lying third overall in the drivers' standings, had reached ninth place behind Coastal Racing's local driver Carl Bradley (Morecambe) and TCR's Mike Robinson (Effingham).

Lap seven saw Gaffney drop down the order from sixth and then retire on the following lap, his car overheating after collecting grass in the radiator from other cars' excursions. The race for third continued to be the best battle on the track, with Rice pressuring Hodgetts but then having to defend from the charging Rivett at the hairpin.

Wood continued his fine weekend with the NGK fastest lap of the race on lap eight of 1min 36.417s (83.11mph) to score two bonus championship points. This saw him close the gap slightly on Winrow, but remain 2.9s adrift of the race leader. On the following lap, Rivett finally passed Rice for fourth, before contact between Hodgetts and Rice gifted third place to the double former champion. Rice was forced to retire, while Hodgetts plunged to 12th place.

Bradley, Glew and Robinson had all caught the race for third and together with Rivett, all set their personal best laps on the 11th tour of the 2.23-mile Cheshire circuit. Hodgetts, meanwhile, was defending from Pyro's Jeff Smith (Wellingborough), while the race for ninth was between drivers who started on the ninth row of the grid, JHR's Steven Hunter (Dronfield) coming under pressure from Double Six Racing's Rob Boston (Doncaster).

Hodgetts succumbed to Jeff Smith on the penultimate lap as Rivett continued to head the train of four drivers racing for third place. Winrow began the final lap with a five-second lead over Wood, who had driven superbly to maintain a comfortable gap over the chasing pack and assure himself of a first Clio Cup podium.

The last lap saw Full Speed Racing's Chaz Small (Braunston) pass Boston for 10th place, while his team-mate Peter Felix (Allestree) in the Valtra with FSR car also gained a position to finish 13th ahead of Hodgetts. Winrow brought his car home 5.577s ahead of Wood, with Rivett using his experience to hold off the challengers in third.

Commenting on the race, Ben Winrow said: "That was fantastic, exactly the way we want races to go. I got a good start to get past Gavin on the first lap and to be honest, I'd have been happy to follow Stefan home but then he went wide and gifted me the place. It was to and fro behind me but I just had to keep my head down and build the gap."

Second-placed Lea Wood said: "This is a great result and I'm really happy for the team because they put in all the hard work. I had a big crash at Rockingham but the new car has been working well so I knew I could get a result like this. I won at Oulton Park twice last season so it's a track I feel comfortable at and that's the way it worked out."

Third-placed Paul Rivett said: "From ninth on the grid I thought third was a possibility but probably not much higher. I got past Gaffney on the restart, which was quite hard because of staying close enough across the line. A couple of people came off ahead of me and third is a great result given where I started."

Round 16 takes place on Sunday, 27th July and will be broadcast on ITV4 during the channel's coverage of the British Touring Car Championship.

-credit: renaultsport.co.uk

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Series General
Drivers Chaz Small , David Shep , Gavin Pyper , Stefan Hodgetts , Paul Rivet , Lea Wood , Alex MacDowall , Jeff Smith , Aron Smith