Leading Renault UK Clio Cup team Finesse Motorsport endured its most frustrating, and luckless, outing of the 2016 season at Rockingham International Super Sportscar Circuit over the weekend, 27th/28th August, with category race winner Paul Streather encountering nothing but misfortune.
Despite a strong start to the seventh event of the season, with Streather delivering impressive top five pace in pre-event practice, everything came unravelled for Finesse in the weekend’s two races where absolutely dreadful misfortune ruined any hope of a consistently strong points haul.
Torrential rain on Saturday afternoon, coupled with warm temperatures, resulted in a badly misted windscreen for Streather’s Clio on the opening lap of race one and following a costly pit-stop to clear the problem he ultimately finished in a very uncharacteristic 14th position.
In the televised second race on Sunday, the Finesse driver was bundled off the track at Chapman Curve on lap one as multi-car contact to his right resulted in a car rolling into his path and forcing him off the track across the grass. Recovering to the pits, Streather’s damaged Clio did make it back into the race and he went on to finish in 15th place but a lap down on the leaders.
It wasn’t just on-track incident either which turned the Rockingham weekend into one to forget for Finesse – high winds on Saturday resulted in an awning from another team being swept into the air, before landing on the Finesse team race transporter, causing damage to the cab unit!
“This definitely goes down as a weekend we’ll happily forget”, said team principal Neil Giddings, “It’s really frustrating the way everything turned out for us in the races as Paul proved his pace, and how quick the car is, in testing on Friday. You couldn’t really make it up to be honest, it’s been a bit of a nightmare but we’ll be back and aiming for the podium at Silverstone in three weeks.”
Pre-event practice on Friday, 26th August, went well with session two the real highlight – Streather ending the afternoon with the fifth fastest time, just 0.4 seconds shy of the outright pace, having led the way for much of the session.
In qualifying on Saturday morning, the times were incredibly close again and despite being just half a second away from pole position Streather had to settle for ninth on the grid for round 13, pipped for a place on the fourth row by a mere 0.003 seconds late on.
Ahead of race one of the weekend later in the day, torrential rain resulted in a wet contest – the Finesse driver’s first at the wheel of a fourth generation Clio Cup car. Frustratingly, though, he was forced to pit at the end of the opening lap when his vision was impaired by the badly misted screen.
Rejoining the race in 16th position, a long away down on the lead group, after an early Safety Car period the action resumed on lap five and Streather was able to climb as high as 13th place before being edged back to 14th spot prior to the conclusion on lap 14 with a reoccurrence of the misting.
Dry weather returned for Sunday’s track action and the Michael Smith Switchgear and AVW Fabrications supported driver started the second contest from 13th on the grid. Making a good start, he moved into the top 12 on the inside at Turn One and was determined to make strong progress but into Chapman Curve three corners later everything went wrong.
On the outside line out of the right-hander at Yentwood, Streather minded his own business into the next right at Chapman but contact among three cars on the inside resulted in the Clio of George Jackson being launched into a roll off the kerbs – directly into the Finesse car. Streather was forced further wide across the grass in avoidance, but did manage to recover to the track soon after.
After pitting to enable the Finesse mechanics to give the car a full check, Streather eventually rejoined the race a lap down on the leaders and he ultimately finished the contest in 15th position to pick up a handful of points.
Reflecting on a bitterly disappointing weekend, Streather said: “It’s been a worse weekend than when I had my illness at Oulton Park! I don’t even know what happened out there in race two, I knew there was someone on the inside so I left room but then, the next thing I know, I was hit out across the grass. It knocked all the steering out and the damage slowed us in a straight line too.
“Obviously Saturday wasn’t any better for us, I couldn’t see a thing through the windscreen on the first lap and even though we cleared it after the pit stop it came back later on. It’s definitely been a weekend to forget.”
Next on the schedule for the Clio Cup is a return to Northamptonshire, this time to Silverstone National Circuit, over the weekend 17th/18th September.
Provisional 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd14):
6th Paul Streather, 215pts; 11th Daniel Rowbottom, 118pts; 22nd Jake Giddings, 31pts
Provisional 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup Entrants’ Trophy Standings (after Rd14):
6th Finesse Motorsport, 327pts