Close but not quite close enough as team misses out on first Clio Cup victory
Press Information - 17th September 2018
Renault UK Clio Cup Rounds 15 & 16 - Team Race Report
Matrix Motorsport was denied the opportunity to claim the only step of the podium it hasn't occupied yet, when Mike Epps was squeezed out as he challenged for the lead in the first of the two Renault UK Clio Cup races at Silverstone this weekend (15th & 16th September). But with the competition so close - and often too close - the team was pleased to claim a 100% finishing record and again show it has the pace to win when the opportunity presents itself.
After a third at Snetterton at the end of July and a second at Rockingham in August, the Matrix Motorsport team headed to rounds 15 and 16 at Silverstone aiming for that so-far elusive top spot. Whilst Epps was again the quickest of the Matrix quartet in Saturday morning's qualifying session, it was Aaron Thompson who emerged happiest after setting the ninth fastest time and in doing so, secured his first top-ten grid position of the season.
Epps started one place ahead in the first race and one-by-one, picked off the cars ahead of him to find himself challenging for the lead on lap six. He kept up the fight for three laps and, as he made his move to the front, was pushed off the track and onto the gravel on the outside of Brooklands corner, loosing five places in the process. He fought back as best he could and after 18 laps crossed the line in fifth place.
With his improved pace behind him, Thompson also began well and was aiming to make the most of his top-ten start. However, damage caused by a clash with other competitors early in the race saw him to slip back to 16th.
It was clear to see that Andy Wilmot enjoyed his battled up the field from P19 on the grid and to 14th in the race, while Jeff Alden made sure he kept with the pack and out of trouble to cross the line in 17th and ready to fight again on Sunday.
Starting Sunday's race two from P6 and knowing the pace was there to achieve what he and the team were hoping for, Epps made a cautious start with the aim of repeating his ascendancy as-per race one. Unfortunately a slow front-left puncture put paid to his aspirations and, powerless to mount a challenge, he did well to hang on to finish 10th.
Following a 10-place grid penalty for an indiscretion in race one, Thompson was confident he could make up places. After dropping back at the start to avoid contact with others who were not so courteous, he rekindled the pace he showed on Saturday and fought his way through the pack to finish 12th.
After an impressive first lap, Wilmot made good progress only to be forced wide at Luffield before the start of lap two, which meant he had to fight his way back to 18th. Alden demonstrated his familiar on-the-limit driving style and following contact with another car in the braking zone at the end of the Wellington Straight, survived a heart-stopping two-wheels-only moment to cross the line in 20th place.
Whilst the weekend didn't deliver the results it had promised, Matrix Motorsport and its drivers know that when circumstances permit, the results are there for the taking. The team now prepares to end the season on a high when it takes part in the final two rounds at Brands Hatch on 29th & 30th September.
Mike Epps "I was very pleased with race one. It was a strong performance, but very disappointing to be pushed off when I was battling for a podium and a potential win. Race two was just very unlucky. To pick up a slow puncture early on was frustrating but unfortunately it happens, especially when the racing is as close as it is in this championship. Let's see what we can do if we take the pace we found this weekend through to Brands."
Aaron Thompson "The highlight of the weekend for me was claiming my first top-ten in qualifying. Starting higher on the grid should have helped me get closer to the front of the field, but a few of us got tangled up in the first race and that set me back. Of course, starting further back in race two didn't help, but I was really pleased the improved pace I'm finding at this end of the season enabled me to get as high as 12th."
Andy Wilmot "I thoroughly enjoyed the first race. Battling with other competitors and getting past them is what it's all about. Therefore, my confidence was up for race two, but running wide at the end of the first lap and then having to push to make up for it was not what I had expected. It was still good to catch and pass other cars though and I'm looking forward to doing more of the same at Brands Hatch."
Jeff Alden (Team Principal) "The team worked extremely hard between Rockingham and this weekend to give us all the best chance of further improvement and another podium. But it's such close racing out there, it's not always speed that makes the difference but good fortune and avoiding the advances of others. I was therefore pleased that we all managed to survive both races which sets us up for a good showing in the season finale in two weeks time."