Mark Fish Motorsport's Rick Pearson ended his debut season of Elf Clio Renaultsport UK Cup competition on a high at Silverstone last weekend with an immensely creditable fifth position in the overall driver standings. In the course of the ...
Mark Fish Motorsport's Rick Pearson ended his debut season of Elf Clio Renaultsport UK Cup competition on a high at Silverstone last weekend with an immensely creditable fifth position in the overall driver standings.
In the course of the inaugural season of Clio Cup racing in the UK, Fulham-based Pearson has established himself as a consistent front-runner and series pace setter. He boasts one of the most impressive score sheets in the championship with two poles, two podium slots and one race victory to his credit.
Entering the new-for-2000 Clio Cup on the strength of a two-and-a-half year stay in the Renault 5 GT Turbo class of the Freeparking.co.uk SuperCoupe Cup, Pearson was quick to adapt to the diminutive saloons.
Bettered only by Daniel Buxton and eventual drivers champion, Jim Edwards Junior, Pearson set the third fastest time in qualifying for the season opener and enjoyed a consummate battle with Henry Taylor, Jim Edwards Snr and Mat Jackson en-route to fifth position in the race.
As the season progressed with visits to Donington, Thruxton, Knockhill and Oulton Park, Pearson added to his points tally with a string of top six placings. He also began to establish a strong qualifying rhythm which he maintained for the duration of the season; in twelve rounds, the thirty-year-old secured no less than twelve top ten starting positions.
Pearson consolidated his phenomenal qualifying achievement with eight top ten race finishes. When the championship reached Snetterton for the inaugural, mid-summer Clio Cup night meeting, Pearson capitalised on his consistency to claim the first of two pole positions.
The race- conducted under floodlights at the Norfolk track- marked the beginning of Pearson's assault on a top six finish in the overall standings. Despite never having raced in the dark prior to the historic event, Pearson led the race for five of the fifteen completed laps and clinched his first-ever series podium with second position.
"Snetterton was a breakthrough for me in terms of confidence, having claimed pole position and led part of the race, I was ready to run at the front for the rest of the year," Pearson says.
Two rounds later, the Clio Cup arrived at Brands Hatch in Kent. Hailing originally from Canterbury, Pearson regards the famous venue as his home circuit. Appropriately, it was there that Pearson recorded his stunning maiden victory to consolidate his status as one of Britain's finest saloon car talents.
Amidst a plethora of local support, the Englishman gave a faultless performance in qualifying to clinch pole position by one tenth of a second. The race, though a fast paced affair, was also a Rick Pearson white wash and despite being momentarily demoted to third on the opening tour, he'd fought his way back into the race lead when the chequered flag appeared on lap twenty four.
"The race seemed to last forever and I wanted that victory in front of my home crowd so badly... it got a little emotional on the podium!" he admits.
Following ninth place at Oulton Park two weeks later, the final race of the season again saw the Clio's taking to the track under the cover of darkness. As at Snetterton earlier in the season, Pearson again qualified on the front row for the night meeting. For the third time in five races, the Englishman was joined at the head of the grid by his Mark Fish Motorsport team mate, Jim Edwards Junior.
Fifth place in the final round of the season gave Pearson sufficient championship points to secure fifth position in the overall driver standings.
In addition, Pearson's consistency over the course of the season contributed to the team championship league table and ensured that Mark Fish Motorsport were crowned Clio Cup Team Champions with one round remaining.
"We came to the Clio Cup to have fun and learn the ropes for a serious championship challenge in 2001," Pearson explains. "We managed to do all that and ended up getting some fantastic results as well, a glorious season!"
With an impeccable debut season behind him, Pearson has recently confirmed his commitment to saloon car racing in the UK with the announcement that he has resigned for his current team, Mark Fish Motorsport.
"Together with Mark Fish and my race engineer, Rob Friend, we have had an exceptional year," he commented. "I know that there are a lot of drivers in discussion with Mark already and places in the team are likely to fill up very quickly.
"Since around fifty percent of my budget is in place already thanks to returning sponsors, ActiveShop and Freeparking.co.uk, I have now committed to the option which I believe will provide me with the best platform from which to launch a championship-winning season."
Off track, Pearson has proved himself to be a crowd favourite and has initiated a new level of spectator and driver interaction. Such is Pearson's popularity and versatility, demand has dictated that he launch his own dedicated newsletter, 'R1'. He is also a regular driver columnist for leading Internet web site, 10 Tenths Motorsport.