Matrix Motorsport scores its first ever podium finish
Press Information - 30th July 2018
Renault UK Clio Cup Rounds 11 & 12 - Team Race Report
Mike Epps provided Matrix Motorsport with its first ever podium result this weekend (28th & 29th July), when he claimed third place in round 11 of the Renault UK Clio Cup at Snetterton on Sunday, an outcome the team has been aiming for all season. The weekend also saw an impressive performance by Matrix Motorsport debutant Ash Hand, who was drafted in at the last minute to replace a sick Andy Wilmot.
It would be fair to say that the weather conditions made for a ‘challenging’ weekend. Whilst Friday’s two Free Practice sessions were held in the hot and sunny conditions that the UK has become accustomed to since the beginning of May, Saturday’s qualifying session was decidedly cooler in terms of ambient temperatures and the outcome for the four-car Matrix team.
Fastest of the quartet was Hand in 10th, with Epps an uncharacteristic 13th having slipped off, clipped a barrier and damaged his car’s suspension. For Aaron Thompson and team principal
Jeff Alden, neither could find that perfect clear lap and ended the session P19 and P23 respectively.
Whilst the torrential overnight rain had subsided, conditions were decidedly changeable on Sunday and as the grid of 23 cars gathered in the collecting area for the first of the day’s two races, clouds also gathered in the grey Norfolk skies. With just a few minutes before the cars were released the inevitable rain started to fall, provoking a spell of rapid tyre changing by the assembled crews.
In true Clio Cup tradition, the first few hundred metres of the race was a frantic affair and, with cars around them losing traction and some spinning on the wet and slippery surface, Epps and Hand made the most of their rivals’ misdemeanours and ended the first lap sixth and ninth. Thompson also took advantage of the situation and moved up to 12th, whereas for Alden, he too was caught out by the conditions and spun on the opening lap, damaging his Clio’s suspension and was unable to continue.
After a series of impressive overtaking moves, Epps and Hand continued their charge towards the front of the field and started the last lap in third and fourth. Hand managed to get past Epps on the start/finish straight and then moved up to second later in the lap. However, following the race he was given a time penalty for an infringement when passing another competitor and was consequently re-classified in sixth. This change meant that Epps was reinstated in third place and in doing so he made history for the team by recording its first ever podium result.
With the rain subsiding at lunchtime and the wind picking up, by the time cars left the collecting area for the second of the day’s Clio Cup races the three-mile 300 configuration of the track was bone dry. But as cars got within sight of the grid at the end of the formation lap the heavens opened, leaving organisers no choice but to declare another wet race. Again, teams frantically worked on their cars - some on the grid and some now in the pit lane - swapping from slicks to wets.
In contrast to the morning’s race, Epps’ afternoon outing was compromised as early as the opening lap when another competitor ran up the back of him, the impact affecting the car’s handling. The same turn of fate also befell Thompson, luck not running his way this weekend. Both drivers did all they could to hold off the advances of others and ended the ensuing nine laps in 14th and 16th places.
Alden fared far better on his first lap this time round and was delighted to cross the line unscathed and in 17th, having enjoyed a race-long battle with the competitors around him. Hand again showed his class and made excellent progress, battling through the spray to get as far up the field as he could and finishing ninth.
The Matrix Motorsport team will now re-prepare its cars in its Burton-upon-Trent workshops in readiness for rounds 13 & 14 of the Renault UK Clio Cup on 11th & 12th August at Rockingham Motor Speedway - and, having now had a taste of the podium, the target is well and truly set for more of the same.
“Everyone in the team has worked hard to get to where we are, so it was great to be able to score the first ever top-three result for Matrix Motorsport. I enjoyed the first race. The conditions were difficult and I like the challenge that brings. The second race was disappointing, as the early contact meant I went backwards rather than forwards. However, we have shown what’s achievable and I know there’s still more to come.”
“It was great to get the call to join the team this weekend. Clearly, Matrix is a very professional outfit and they did a great job, listened to the changes I wanted made and together we were able to produce a very quick car. I was also pleased that, even though it’s been more than two years since I last raced a Clio, I was able to come back and be straight on the pace. I hope to get the chance to do it again soon.”
“I enjoyed the racing this weekend, even in the wet. But if it wasn’t one thing it was another. I didn’t have straight-line speed in the first race and then was hit up the back at the start of the second. However, I know that if I can get a clear run at Rockingham, then I can get my best result of the season there.”
Jeff Alden (Team Principal)
"I really enjoyed race two and to be battling with other competitors from start to finish was great. Overall it's been a fantastic weekend for the team. We have worked all year to score a podium finish and we finally achieved that with Mike in the first of the two races. All of us are over the moon and it sets things up perfectly for the rest of the season."