Mike Epps’ second place at Rockingham gives Matrix Motorsport best result to date
Press Information - 13th August 2018
Renault UK Clio Cup Rounds 13 & 14 - Team Race Preview
Mike Epps scored the team’s second podium result in as many meetings when he mastered the wet and slippery conditions around Rockingham Motor Speedway to finish second in round 14 of the Renault UK Clio Cup on Sunday (12th August). In doing so, he gave Matrix Motorsport its best result to date.
For the team’s three other drivers it was a weekend of mixed fortunes: Aaron Thompson showed well with a top-ten finish in Saturday’s round 13, Andy Wilmot found he had lost none of his fighting spirit having missed the previous two rounds and, after surviving a tough race one, Jeff Alden was caught out by the tricky conditions in race two.
Saturday morning’s Qualifying session in the Northamptonshire sunshine underlined the competitiveness of the UK Clio Cup, when just 0.344 seconds separated Epps from scoring his first Pole Position in the series. Although an extremely narrow margin, it still meant he was eighth fastest! It was also frustrating for Thomson and Wilmot, who were within a second of the pole-sitter but ended up 17th and 18th.
Although the forecast threatened rain and the clouds rolled in before the first of the weekend’s races on Saturday afternoon, conditions remained dry and, if Qualifying was close, then the activity over the next 14 laps was to be even closer! With Rockingham’s first corner a hairpin off the banking that takes competitors into the twisty infield section, it was perhaps predictable that the opening-lap action - and contact - was to start here.
Epps was pushed out by others around him and lost a couple of places, but went on to become the highest Matrix finisher after fighting his way back to eighth. Alden however, became more entangled, resulting in a visit to the pits where a wheel with an inflated tyre was fitted. Although his car never handled the same again, the Matrix Team Principal managed to keep his Clio on the track and bring it home in a credible 18th place.
With a fresh engine for this event, Thompson found he had a new lease of life and battled his way through the field and up to tenth, where he skillfully fought off challenges from others and claimed his first top-ten finish of the season. Wilmot also made progress in the first half of the race and was right with Thompson at one stage, until he became victim to a number of impolite advances and was literally knocked-back to 16th.
In a repeat of rounds 11 and 12 at Snetterton two weeks ago, just as the Clio Cup drivers were about to head towards the assembly area for the start of Sunday's second race, rain began to fall, which triggered a flurry of activity as teams swapped from slick to wet tyres. However, the downpour was short-lived and although the race was declared ‘wet’, the track surface was somewhere in between, making levels of grip difficult to judge. Excelling in challenging conditions, this last-minute turn of weather was just what Epps had been hoping for.
A great start from eighth on the grid saw him immediately in the ascendancy making up a place on lap one, another on lap two, two on lap three and by the end of lap four he was up to third. Waiting for the right moment, crowds watched as #37 exited the final corner at the end of lap seven, got along side the Clio of Matt Coates and pulled past on the banked start/finish straight.
Epps then set about the leader Jack McCarthy and, although getting close, could not quite get close enough to make the move and consequently, the Matrix Motorsport driver crossed the line in second place. It was a result that provided the team with its best result so far and its second podium finish in as many meetings.
Whilst Epps was doing the business at the front of the field, the other three Matrix men were caught out in various measures by the slippery conditions. Alden got off to a fabulous start and moved up five places, but contact with fellow competitor Ben Colburn on lap two saw them both retire on the spot.
Wilmot had to take avoiding action on the opening lap which lost him time and positions, but fought back to finish 16th after passing two cars on the final lap. Thompson continued his positive weekend with a 14th place and reported that if he can get his wet set-up working as good as his dry, there's definitely more to come.
After four races in two weeks, the Matrix Motorsport team now has five weeks before the next two, with time to mount its trophy in pride of place and prepare its cars in readiness for rounds 15 & 16 at Silverstone, appropriately on 15th & 16th September.
“I’m so pleased to get another podium for the team this weekend. I must admit I was a little disappointed after race one, as eighth is not where we should be. But, as for race two that was much more like it. I had a strong car and it felt really good for the whole race. The tyres just started to lose a bit towards the end, so it was difficult to bid for the lead, but if we can nail qualifying then we can start - and then hopefully finish - further up the field. Big thanks to the team for all their hard work this weekend and let’s see if we can go one better at Silverstone!”
Jeff Alden (Team Principal)
“What a weekend for the team! A great drive from Mike and another podium, which is just what we were looking for and I have to congratulate and thank everyone who made this happen. It was a great all-round team effort. As for my weekend, the start of both races was fantastic. All I need to do now is to carry that initial momentum through to the finish.”
“I seemed to spend both my races trying to get out of the way of others. I was hit a few times in the first so I was determined it wasn’t going to happen in the second and trying to keep out of the way I dropped a few places. However, I did get back up to 16th after overtaking a couple of cars on the last lap. Overall I enjoyed the weekend and it was great to be back in the car again.”
“The first race of the weekend was much more like it. The new engine made all the difference. I was happy with the second race but the conditions and where I was the field didn’t help, so I know there’s more to come when it’s wet and slippery. I really have to thank the Matrix Motorsport team and my family for all their support, especially my sister who joined us to celebrate her sixteenth birthday on Sunday.”
Dave Hayes (Team Manager)
After a difficult start to the weekend, the end result was fantastic! The team did a great job and I think we have one of the best wet set-ups on the grid which, combined with Mike’s natural talent, enabled us to score our second podium and best ever result in race two. So that’s a third and a second. All we need now is a first! No pressure...”