Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit provided a mixed final race meeting of the Renault UK Clio Cup season for Finesse Motorsport over the weekend, with Paul Streather bouncing back from a costly non-finish in race one to end the event with a fine top six in the second contest.
Wisbech-based Finesse concluded the 18 race season sixth in the Entrants’ Trophy while Streather just missed out on a top six placing in the Drivers’ Championship, the first year Renault UK Clio Cup racer ending his first full campaign in the British Touring Car Championship feeder series in seventh.
His race two performance was certainly impressive, Streather scything his way through from the seventh row of the grid into sixth and also posting the second fastest lap of the race – quicker than anything managed by the podium finishers.
“It’s definitely been a season of ups and downs, Paul’s had the pace but we haven’t had much in the way of luck and that’s really cost us”, said Finesse team principal Neil Giddings, “It’s good to end the season with a strong top six in the last race, though, and second fastest lap showed the potential of Paul and the car.”
To begin with, the last weekend of the season started impressively as Streather built on the excellent pace he showed at Silverstone a fortnight previously with the second fastest time in the first of two practice sessions. In the second run he was fourth fastest and went on to end the test day just 0.2 seconds shy of the outright pace – a big confidence boost ahead of qualifying.
Rain arrived for the grid-determining session on Saturday morning and Streather ended the run with the eighth fastest time for the round 17 starting grid. Track conditions improved ahead of the first of the weekend’s two races, but the circuit remained slippery so wet tyres were the order of the day.
Making a blistering start, Streather stormed through the order from eighth into fourth position as he judged the grip perfectly but hopes of mounting a podium challenge were dashed when red flags were shown as a result of a major multi-car tangle further back in the pack at the exit of Druids.
Undoing all of the Finesse driver’s hard work, the stoppage gave drivers a chance to change to slick Dunlop tyres with the track surface drying out. Parts of the Grand Prix loop remained very greasy, though, and Streather – who wasn’t sure if slicks would be the right call – fell victim to the lack of grip at the re-start with his Clio pitched into the barriers, and retirement, on the first lap.
Aiming to make amends during round 18 on Sunday afternoon, albeit from the seventh row of the grid, Streather made a rapid launch from the line and displayed lightning reactions to avoid the stalled car of Dan Zelos. Piecing together a superb opening lap, he climbed through into 10th position and then set about challenging for ninth before the Safety Car was deployed on lap three.
At the re-start a lap later, the race took a major twist when a multi-car tangle, triggered when Paul Rivett made contact with Ant Whorton-Eales, resulted in Streather being able to move up into eighth before the Safety Car made a swift re-appearance.
Racing resumed on lap six and the Finesse driver initially pressured Luke Kidsley before his target then became Whorton-Eales. Grabbing seventh place from the eventual champion on lap nine, Streather chased after James Colburn for sixth but on the penultimate tour, lap 11, a dramatic series of barrel rolls for Kidsley at Stirlings, after contact with the barriers, brought out the red flags.
Streather, therefore, was credited with sixth in the final classification and he also ended the race with the second fastest lap time – a great achievement considering he had to contend with damaged steering after early-race contact.
“Race two was good, a good way to end the season”, said the Michael Smith Switchgear and AVW Fabrications-backed driver, “I did get hit which bent the steering, there was definitely more pace in the car but the steering meant we couldn’t show it even though we still had second fastest lap.
“We started the weekend with good pace in practice and then qualifying was good considering the lack of wet running we’d had. In the first race I was absolutely flying at the first start, I went from eighth to fourth. The circuit was still pretty wet round the back and at the re-start I just lost the back of the car, I did catch it but then it gripped-up on a dry patch and spat me off.”
He added: “Race two was the high point of the weekend and it’s a strong way to finish the year with the sort of pace we know we’re capable of. Big thanks to the guys at Finesse for all their work this season, and to my sponsors for all their support and for putting me on the grid.”
Final 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings: 7th Paul Streather, 253pts. Final 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Entrants’ Trophy Standings: 6th Finesse Motorsport, 391pts.