DOUBLE DONINGTON PODIUM BOOSTS HERRON'S WINTER CUP BID
ELF Renault Clio Cup sensation Andrew Herron got his Winter Championship campaign off to an excellent start at Donington Park National Circuit today, a double podium finish placing him second in the title race ahead of the decisive series finale at Croft in North Yorkshire next Saturday.
Not only did the 19-year-old Northern Irishman score heavily at Donington with second position in round one and third place in round two, the Brian Herron Contracts-backed ace also set a new circuit lap record for the latest model 197 Clio Cup racer during the second of the day's encounters with a superb time of 1m 18.857 seconds (89.35mph).
"It's been a really good day for us and I'm delighted to be heading to Croft second in the championship", said Andrew at the conclusion of round two, "Through testing and then qualifying and the races, the pace was consistently there. I wanted a win but a couple of podiums and a new lap record shows we're in the fight for the title."
This morning's 20-minute qualifying session, which saw each driver's quickest lap time determine the grid for round one and their second fastest lap going to form the starting order for round two, proved Andrew would be a major threat in both races.
Posting the third fastest time overall with a lap of 1m 18.959 seconds (89.23mph) placed the Dromore teenager third on the grid for the first race, a mere five 100ths of a second shy of pole position, while for race two the gap to pole was even closer; Andrew second fastest with a time of 1m 19.156 seconds, only four 1,000ths of a second the difference.
Round one was certainly the most action-packed of the two races for Andrew, the JHR Developments ace involved in an outstanding see-saw battle with reigning Winter Cup Champion Niki Lanik for the duration of the 15-lap encounter -- the pair split at the chequered flag by just a 10th of a second.
Although not making the best of starts, Andrew still managed to emerge from Redgate Corner in third position before taking second on the exit as pole-sitter Harry Vaulkhard ran wide. Remaining glued to race leader Lanik's tail for the next few laps, Andrew's pressure paid off and on lap five he moved ahead to lead his first ever Clio Cup race.
Defending well, Andrew remained at the front for a couple of laps before Lanik seized the advantage at Coppice on lap seven. But the JHR man returned the favour into Goddards Chicane to move back into the box seat before the end of the lap.
The lead changed hands another couple of times before both drivers ran wide through the gravel at the Old Hairpin as light rain threatened to potentially cause problems for the slick-tyre shod Clios on the penultimate lap. Rejoining safely, both continued at the front with Andrew ahead but Lanik managed to snatch the lead and the win on the last lap.
At the start of round two Andrew was caught-up in some minor contact between his JHR team-mate Richard Cannon and Harry Vaulkhard which forced the Co. Down star back into sixth place by the time the cars headed through Redgate for the first time.
Totally unruffled, Andrew pressed on and quickly began to make inroads. By lap five he was beginning to lap quicker than anyone and after moving into the top three just before mid-distance, he scorched to a new lap record on lap nine -- and with it taking two bonus points -- before crossing the line on lap 15 in third position.
"I'm really pleased with my second place in race one, especiallybecause on the penultimate lap at the Old Hairpin Niki (Lanik) and I both went off and I mean almost right to the wall!", explained Andrew, "We came back onto the track and almost spun. On the last lap I was too cautious at the Old Hairpin and that allowed Niki to get the win.
"At the start of race two (Harry) Vaulkhard bounced off Richard (Cannon) and then bounced into me. I got held up through Redgate so then I pushed real hard to get back up to third but by then I thought I had killed my tyres. I backed off for a lap but then realised I could still run quickly so I started to push again."
The Northern Ireland star added: "I've been pleased with my driving all weekend. We're going to Croft with a lot of points which is what we needed to do and I've also led a race in Clios now which is the sort of experience we wanted. Racing with Niki was good, we both showed each other some respect and allowed each other to race which was great."
After such a terrific start to his 2007 Winter Championship campaign, Andrew now has just seven days to wait until the decisive third and fourth rounds which take place at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire next Saturday, 10th November. Pre-event testing will be held on Friday, 9th November.