the temperature in his tyres handing him back a small advantage. At the end of the lap Mike was thrown another lifeline as Paul Streather ended up in the gravel trap causing the first safety car period of the weekend, enabling everyone to bunch up and close the gap to the car ahead of them. As the safety car headed the field disaster would strike for Mike as he wrestled to keep the heat in his tyres, ending up in the gravel trap and unable to return to the track for the remainder of the race handing a huge advantage to Whorton-Eales in the process. At the start of lap 8, Whorton-Eales attempted a move around the outside of Rivett for the lead of the race and as the latter forced him wide Josh stuck his nose up the inside of Rivett and took the lead of the race with just three laps remaining as Rivett dropped to 2nd and Lee Pattison moved up the order to 3rd. On the very last lap of the race Rivett found a way past Josh for the race win ahead of Pattison who finished 3rd. Josh also took the graduate win claiming the first two trophies of the weekend. Senna also had a great battle through the field to finish in a very impressive 5th place.
With Mike now ten points adrift of championship leader Whorton-Eales it was game on to see who would come out on top and be crowned 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion with Mike back on pole position and Whorton-Eales alongside him once again. Josh would line up 6th with Senna 11th of the 19 strong field after Ollie Pidgeley being absent from 4th after the huge amount of damage suffered in the previous race.
As the lights went out to signal the start of the second race, it was Whorton-Eales who once again got the jump on Mike taking the lead of the race as both Josh and Senna moved rapidly up the order to 4th and 9th respectively. On lap two the safety car was called to retrieve the stricken machine of George Jackson who ended his day in the gravel trap, that allowed Mike to close in onto the back of Whorton-Eales once again. The restart came at the start of lap 4 with Mike instantly on the attack as Rivett made an attempt to pass the pair of them on the outside at Druids and into Graham Hill Bend. Passing Mike, Rivett tapped the back of Whorton-Eales which sent him into a slide and onto the run off area and as he returned to the track a tap on the rear of Mikes car put him out of the race and into the wall as Rivett clambered across the grass only to re-join at the back of the field which also enabled Josh to emerge as the new race leader with Senna up to an amazing 4th place. The whole of the team fell silent as we watched on in horror as they replayed the on-board footage from Mike's car ending his day and his championship hopes in just three and a half laps, two of which were spent behind the safety car. As Mike exited the car there were huge rounds of applause for the local lad and to show his appreciation he took a bow to signal that he had put on a great performance over the season and to thank those who had supported him. Another safety car period followed to retrieve Mike's stricken car which stayed out on track until the end of lap 5. For the remainder of the race all eyes were on Josh out in front and Senna who had a fantastic drive in 4th with their positions remaining until a red flag stoppage at the end of lap 11 after Luke Kidsley rolled his car whilst running behind Senna in 5th. Needless to say Kidsley emerged unscathed from the incident, as Josh took to the top step of the podium for the first time in his Clio Cup career with Max Coates and Charlie Ladell joining him.
Whorton-Eales ended the race in 7th place and took overall championship honours with Mike being the first to congratulate him as he exited his vehicle in parc ferme.
After taking his first win of the season Josh told us here at Team BMR HQ: "It was a great weekend all in all, after changing engine late Friday night and the disappointment of losing the win on Saturday, Sunday definitely made up for it. I would just like to say thanks for the support from BMR this year and hopefully we can continue the partnership into the 2017 season!"
We also spoke to Senna who added: "It's been a great first year in the Clio cup. We have learnt a lot and now we look forward to next year whatever we may be in. It would not be possible without the amazing support we receive from Team BMR, Simpson Race Products and also LAPD property developments." When asked about where he sees himself next year, the youngster told us: "We will be up for the fight whatever we are racing in. I just hope we are on the TOCA package."
Following what can only be describes as Mike's worst weekend of 2016, he told us: "I'm not as disappointed as I thought I would be in being this years Vice Champion. I've been exceptionally quick all year and fastest in all but two free practices and taken 12 out of 18 pole positions. Those statistics are incredibly satisfying and a real confidence boost for my future. I'm happy to admit that I have made maybe 3-4 mistakes which have cost me a crucial couple of points that could have maybe given me the upper hand at the final round." Speaking of his only championship contender going into finals day he added: "Ant Whorton-Eales is a worthy champion. After 5 years graft in the championship I wish him all the best in his future endeavours." When asked about the race two incident he explained: "To crash out of the deciding race through no fault of my own has left people wondering who would have come out on top at the chequered flag, but I guess it's something we'll never know. I took it on the chin and bowed to the crowd as I have put on a good show this year and it has been a great return to the Championship. However I feel I have regrouped now and I am hungrier than ever to pursue my BTCC dream and will be exploring all possible options for 2017. I am very privileged to have achieved what I have in the last 3 years, Clio Champion, Vice Clio Champion and a full season in BTCC. I would like to take this opportunity in saying a huge thank you to the guys at Team BMR, along with my sponsors Vital Software, Time Electrical, Altima, Alphasport, Easthill Computer Services and Vital Cars."
The Renault UK Clio Cup returns on the British Touring Car Championship package in 2017 and round one will be back at Brands Hatch on the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of April.
Written by Chris Chatters
Photos by Phil Laughton Photography