Smith keeps his head to take eventful Clio brace

Aron Smith brilliantly won two closely-fought Clio Cup UK races at Thruxton to stake his claim as a genuine championship threat this season.

The Irishman started hiswhitewash with a double pole position on Saturday afternoon before claiming his first win later in the day after a battle that ended with Smith taking the flag 0.4s ahead of the Westbourne Motorsport driver James Colburn.

The Pyro Motorsports driver made a perfect getaway at the start, but the real action came from the third row of the grid as fifth place man Colburn shot into second place, while his fellow third row starter Lee Pattison faired even better as he a pulled great move around the outside at the Complex to take up the position himself, Grice also taking Colburn for third place.

Smith began to break away at the front in the opening laps ahead of a train of cars dicing for second place. Grice attacked Pattison at Campbell on lap four only to lose it again a corner later, the bunching resulting in the pack running four abreast as they headed into Noble at one point as Colburn was shuffled back behind Luke Wright and Paul Rivett.

Championship leader Rivett would however suffer a puncture in the closing stages of the race, dropping him a lap down and costing him valuable points for a top five result.

Pattison, Grice and Wright soon began to break away in the fight for second, while further down the field, a battle for seventh emerged between James Dixon and Allison. The latter tried to get past at the complex midway through the race but in attacking the Total Control Racing man he was hit in the rear by Adam Bonham, the resulting suspension damage forcing him to pull over into retirement.

The entertaining battle for second meanwhile then reached breaking point when Pattison and Grice had simultaneous half-spins at Noble, the former’s car then flinging itself into a tankslapper where he was collected by the following car of Wright who was unable to avoid the JHR Development driver, Wright’s car unable to be repaired for the second race a day later as a result of the accident.

Grice survived the incident and was one of the men who benefitted from the incident along with Colburn, who was now second and right on the back of Smith thanks to a safety car, while Jake Packun and Jack Goff moved up to fifth and sixth after starting well down in twelfth and ninth positions on the grid respectively.

As the safety car wiped out his lead, the pressure was on Smith get the best restart to fight off Colburn and Grice, and after doing just that he rounded the final two laps of the race without drama to take the win and also the Graduate Cup honours ahead of Colburn, Grice taking a maiden podium in third.

Nicholas Hamilton scored his first top 10 result in his first season of car racing when he came thorugh the chaos in race one, a remarkable feat after a heavy crash at Goodwood in Friday practice meant there were doubts the team would even manage to repair the car in time for Hamilton to be able to race.

The start of race two was again a dramatic one as Allison suffered his second bad start in as many days and slipped back into the pack. Things got worse for the Scuderia Vittoria driver at Allard when he edged across the nose of Colburn and spun into the barriers, prompting a safety car to clear up the two cars.

This time at the restart Smith had Rivett for close company as the latter tried to make his move coming out of Church for lap after lap, while Dixon further back made a mistake exiting the final chicane that allowed Bonham to sneak ahead of the TCR driver on the inside approaching Allard.

Smith found himself soon with a train of cars behind him until lap 12, when Rivett found himself offline trying to take the lead in the middle of the complex that allowed Goff to take advantage. The two headed out of Seagrave and into Noble side-by-side, the battling allowing Pattison and Bonham to close up, the latter taking fourth place away from Pattison, while Rivett held on to his second place with a stunningly brave move around the outside of Goff through Church corner.

“I tried to make the move to the outside which left me wide open for them to have a run” Rivett told ITV4 afterwards. “What you can’t see is that I was then on all of the marbles on the outside of the back of the circuit. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to make it myself”.

Rivett then set about his pursuit of leader Smith again, and on the last lap he got a great run through Church again to draw alongside the Pyro car before the two rubbed doors as Rivett tried to go around the outside at the chicane, but it wasn’t enough as Smith took his second win of the weekend.

Rivett still leads the championship after an eventful weekend on 161 points, 21 ahead of Dixon (140), while Smith now moves up into third on 134.


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