Finesse Motorsport driver Paul Streather raced to a best finish of sixth place at the team’s home track, Snetterton 300 Circuit, on Sunday, 31st July, as the second half of the Renault UK Clio Cup season got underway with two robust and action-packed contests.
Racing to his seventh top six result of the season for the Wisbech squad in round 12, Streather had a tougher time of things in round 11 earlier in the day when a lower than expected starting position was compounded by a five second time penalty for a perceived track limits infringement – he ended the race in 13th position.
Even so, the Hinckley-based driver maintained sixth position in the championship standings and goes into the four week break ahead of the next event at Rockingham within 27 points of the series top four. In the team standings, Finesse also holds sixth place.
“It’s not been a bad weekend, not what we wanted as we know we’ve got the pace for the podium, but sixth in race two was OK”, reflected team principal Neil Giddings, “Qualifying went wrong with the weather and on the one lap Paul had to do a good time, he was blocked. It was an uphill battle from there but at least we took some points away.”
Changeable conditions in qualifying on Saturday, 30th July, proved problematic for Streather when rain started to fall as he went out on slick tyres. As the track then dried out later on, he had one lap with which to try and set a representative time but he was badly baulked by another driver and ended the session 14th fastest.
Storming through into the top 10 on the opening lap of round 11, the Finesse racer pressured David Dickenson ahead but was then edged back to 11th place on lap four. Moving back into 10th position on the next tour, Streather then closed on the cars queuing behind sixth placed Chris Smiley.
As the race entered the last few laps, though, there was a bit of a double whammy for Streather when he was hit with a five second track limits penalty after being unceremoniously shuffled back to 11th place. On the 10th and final tour it was all change again as he managed to take ninth on the drag to the line, but on corrected times with the penalty he was classified 13th.
Aiming for much from more from seventh on the grid in round 12, screened live on ITV4, the Clio ace made a good start but received contact at the first corner while battling for sixth. Running door handle-to-door handle with multiple series champion Paul Rivett, Streather managed to take sixth through the infield section but was re-passed by Rivett into the Esses.
On lap three he managed to climb into sixth at the exit of Riches with a good pass on Smiley, who had been passed by Rivett previously, and then had a significant gap to close to catch the quintet ahead. Remaining sixth to the finish on lap eight, Streather’s best lap of 2m07.733 seconds was faster than the best managed by race winner Ant Whorton-Eales and second placed Luke Kidsley.
“Race two was definitely better than race one, although in both races there were a lot of people trying to bump me off at the first corner which didn’t help – I had some hard hits”, said Streather, “I had a bit of a battle with [Chris] Smiley in the second race, he held me up and that allowed [Paul] Rivett to get away. The pace was there though, the car felt great and we had good speed.
“It’s the same story we’ve had for the last few rounds, qualifying didn’t go our way but if we get that right and can qualify at the front I know we can stay there in the races. At the end of the day, we gained places and didn’t lose any this weekend so we have to be happy enough with that.”
With the Renault UK Clio Cup foregoing the BTCC package’s visit to Knockhill in Scotland, the series will resume at Rockingham International Super Sportscar Circuit over the weekend 27th/28th August. Finesse hopes to see the return to action of Daniel Rowbottom at the Northamptonshire venue, the Kidderminster driver having missed this weekend’s racing for budgetary reasons.
Provisional 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd12):
6th Paul Streather, 202pts; 11th Daniel Rowbottom, 118pts; 20th Jake Giddings, 31pts
Provisional 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Entrants’ Trophy Standings (after Rd12):
6th Finesse Motorsport, 314pts