TOTAL CONTROL RACING -- 2010 RENAULT CLIO CUP SEASON REVIEW
Legendary ELF Renault Clio Cup team Total Control Racing enjoyed a highly successful 2010 and although just missing out on entrants title success by a mere four points, the Wednesbury squad once again proved its position as a consistent championship contender and race winning force.
With all three of the team's regular drivers -- Sam Tordoff, Mike Robinson and James Dixon -- ending the campaign inside the championship top six, TCR enjoyed a high level of success and is now hungry to reclaim outright title glory in 2011.
"We had a good year in Clios but we're disappointed we didn't win the championship", said team principal Lee Brookes, "Sam, Mike and James performed really well all season but it took us too long to get that first win. It was great to see James join Sam as a race winner and he came on very strong in the second half of the year. Mike was as consistent as ever -- just a shame a win eluded him."
Plenty of silverware was secured over the course of the 20-round season with Leeds based Tordoff winning the Graduate Cup title in only his second year of car racing action. The 21-year-old took two outright victories and 10 other podiums from 18 races along with one pole position and four fastest race laps.
Tordoff strung together an excellent tally of eight podiums from the first 10 races but two highly unfortunate retirements dented his bid to remain in touch with eventual champion Dave Newsham, although the second half of the season started very strongly as he took TCR's first win in round 12.
The next two events, at Silverstone National Circuit and Knockhill, were the nadir of the season for Tordoff though and realistically put the overall title beyond his reach with a best finish of sixth from the four rounds.
Up next was the biggest race meeting of the season at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit and Tordoff bounced back superbly in front of a huge crowd of 120,000 with his second win of the campaign and a further podium -- the latter securing third place in the overall standings and the Graduate Cup title.
With those goals achieved, he had the opportunity to step-up to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship on the final weekend of the season at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit and therefore sat-out the last two rounds of the Clio Cup.
Dixon confirms future title potential as maiden win eludes Robinson... Entering his third season of Clio Cup action with TCR, Surrey racer Mike Robinson aimed to improve on his sixth place championship finishes from the previous two years and did so with a top five placing just a single point shy of fourth position.
Making a solid start to the campaign at Thruxton with a best of fifth place during round two, he put together an outstanding weekend at Rockingham with a double podium during rounds three and four -- third and second place respectively in each race.
Sixth and fifth place finishes at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit were followed by two top fours and a fifth position over the course of the next four races at Oulton Park and Croft. For the second half of the season things didn't start brilliantly at Snetterton with a best of ninth place.
At Silverstone National Circuit though, he made a welcome return to the podium with a fine third place in race one and fifth in race two but two retirements over the next pair of events ended his hopes of challenging Tordoff for the championship top three. Nonetheless, the 28-year-old finished fourth and seventh during the season finale to just miss out on fourth in the standings by one point.
Clio Cup newcomer James Dixon really did improve markedly throughout the campaign and after taking two victories, three other podiums, three pole positions and three fastest laps he concluded the championship a fantastic sixth overall -- third in the Graduate Cup rankings.
Moving into saloon car competition after budget restrictions called time on his single-seater career, the 20-year-old from Stockbury in Kent had to miss the opening two rounds of the season but still managed to put together a tremendous campaign which culminated in two outstanding debut wins during the championship finale.
Thanks to Dixon's stunning performance in rounds 19 and 20, in addition to the pair of strong results from team-mate Robinson, TCR scored over 100 points to almost grab the entrant's title. Only four more points would have made the difference for the multiple Clio Cup champions.
Making his Clio Cup debut at Rockingham, Dixon got things off to a good start with a pair of ninth place results but the first visit of the year to his home track -- Brands Hatch -- ended in bitter disappointment when an accident in testing prevented him from taking part in the weekend's races.
With that in mind, his championship run from that point on was especially impressive. Taking three strong results over the next four races, Dixon scorched to his first pole position during qualifying at Snetterton and then claimed his maiden podium with a second place finish in the first race before adding another runner-up spot to his tally in race two.
The visit north of the border proved to be another successful weekend with a double Graduate Cup class win and although a contact induced steering failure at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit resulted in just a couple of points -- secured by setting the fastest lap prior to his retirement -- he hit back with a fine second place in race two. From there, the finale at Brands Hatch capped off the year superbly.
Lee Brookes added: "Yet again this year we showed we prepare a great car and, aside from a bit of bad luck, we would have won the team championship. We're out there to win so it's obviously a disappointment when you miss out on the title but we aim to be back on top in 2011."
Over the course of the season TCR also fielded cars for Alastair Barclay (at Rockingham and during the first Brands Hatch race meeting) and Andy Jordan (during the season finale). Both relative newcomers, Barclay had only completed track days prior to his step into the Clio Cup while Jordan had only previously raced in one club event as part of the Arrowpak Euro Saloons Championship.