Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) is the new 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion but only after surviving dramas in Sunday’s highly charged final round of the season at Brands Hatch which resulted in his big rival Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) crashing out and Josh Price (Redbourn) achieving a first win – all played out live on ITV4.
JamSport Racing’s Whorton-Eales went into the race knowing a top-three finish would be enough to clinch the crown and at the start took an immediate lead from Team Pyro’s Bushell. But then 4Front Motor Group with WDE’s Paul Rivett (Epsom Downs) made a move for the lead and this was the moment that decided the destiny of the title.
Rivett’s and Whorton-Eales’s cars made contact and ran off the track. As he rejoined the circuit Whorton-Eales and Bushell then collided and the latter was sent spinning into the barriers and out of the race.
That automatically meant Whorton-Eales was the new Champion (he eventually finished the race in seventh) but the incident had allowed Pyro youngster Price through into the lead. And there he stayed, eking out a two-second gap to nearest challenger Ciceley Motorsport’s Max Coates (Scorton) by the time they took chequered flag. WDE’s Charlie Ladell (Bury St Edmunds) was third.
The recovering Rivett – winner of Saturday’s race ahead of Price and Team Cooksport’s Lee Pattison (Scholes) – later received a time penalty which meant he was classified 16th and has missed out on third in the final standings by one point to Graduates Cup Champion Coates.
“I feel very sorry for Mike – he didn’t deserve to lose it like that,” commented Whorton-Eales. “But then again I always felt we had the beating of him in that race and the title would come to us so I’m going to be greedy and really savour this moment. I feel ecstatic!
He added: “From when I first started in this championship five years ago… to finally get it is just a really magical moment. And particularly for the JamSport team who have been brilliant all season. Together we’ve won nine of the 18 races and I think that fact alone speaks a lot for how well we’ve worked together and how strong we’ve been all year.”
Bushell said: “Obviously I’m disappointed but Ant has won nine of the season’s 18 races and is a very worthy Champion. It’s been a great fight between us – tense at times but totally fair – and who knows… maybe I’ll be back next year for another shot at it.”
Notably Price becomes the seventh different driver to win a race in 2016. He commented: “It’s almost a case of third time lucky – I came close to the win at Croft earlier in the year and close again yesterday but this time we’ve got it. When I saw Charlie and Max fighting in my mirrors I knew it was my chance to get the hammer down and escape up front. It’s just the best feeling.”