Close racing and potential podium for Matrix Motorsport provides a fitting finale to team’s inaugural year
Press Information - 2nd October 2018
Renault UK Clio Cup Rounds 17 & 18 - Team Race Report
Whilst Matrix Motorsport headed to Brands Hatch for the final meeting of 2018 and rounds 17 and 18 of the Renault UK Clio Cup aiming for a podium finish, the thrillingly close racing and Mike Epps' potential top-three performance in the second of the two races made it a grand finale to remember. It also ensured that the team ended its inaugural season on a high.
With Aaron Thompson falling ill earlier in the week, for the first time this year Matrix Motorsport fielded three instead of four cars and drivers: Jeff Alden, Andy Wilmot and Mike Epps. The final two rounds of the year on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th September also saw the championship return to where it started in April, but this time competition took place over the 3.908-mile long Grand Prix circuit rather than the 1.929-mile Indy configuration.
The cool autumnal air combined with cloudless Kent skies made for near perfect conditions for Saturday morning's Qualifying. Once again, Epps was quickest of the Matrix trio and, although he was less than 0.5 second off pole, he couldn't get into a perfect position during the session and would start the races in P9 and P8 respectively. Wilmot experienced similar issues to claim P19, whilst Alden was pleased to improve on his practice times to start P21.
Epps made a good start in race one, but was caught up in someone else's incident halfway round the first lap and, with cars stopped in the gravel trap at Hawthornes, the Safety Car was deployed. After a quick pit stop to remove the stones and to check-over his Clio, Epps used the three convoy laps to catch up with the rest of the field and when racing recommenced, he scythed through the back of the pack and up to 10th. But it could well have been higher if it had not been for another incident on lap eight that caused a red flag and subsequent race stoppage with seven laps to go.
Wilmot managed to avoid a series of first lap incidents and took advantage of the misdemeanors of others to finish 11th. After surviving a punt and subsequent spin the first time through Druids hairpin, Alden did well to make up places and keep out of trouble and was pleased to claim 15th place and score one of his highest finishes of the season. Bearing in mind frantic nature of the race, the Matrix Motorsport team was pleased to be one of the few to get all of its cars to the finish in one piece!
So, after 17 rounds and eight race weekends, it all came down to the 18th and final race on Sunday afternoon - and what a race it was! Epps rocketed off the start and went from eighth to fifth on the exit of Druids.
He went on to pass two more cars by the end of lap two and then grabbed second place with a demon move on the inside of Sheene Curve on lap three and started to edge ahead of the chasing pack. Everything then slowed and the field closed up when the Safety Car was deployed at the end of lap five.
Racing recommenced on lap eight, only to be interrupted by another Safety Car period a lap later. But this time when the lights went green, Epps was elbowed out of the way and such was the ferocity of the challenges from those that followed, by the time he managed to re-establish momentum, he was in sixth place.
Not giving up for a moment, he fought back as best he could and, whilst it wasn't the end-of-season podium that the team had been looking for, Epps' display of on-the-limit driving was an exciting way to bow-out of the inaugural year as a team. Consolation however, came as his position in the race consolidated his sixth place in the series standings and means that the team now has the opportunity to compete in the International Clio Cup Finals at Paul Ricard Circuit in France at the beginning of November.
Both Wilmot and Alden did well to keep out of trouble and went on to finish 14th & 16th respectively in the race. Consequently, with their points combined with those of Epps, Matrix Motorsport ended the year fourth in the teams' standings.
The team congratulates James Dorlin who won the race and in doing so, becomes the 2018 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion pending an outstanding appeal to the MSA National Court by Paul Rivett. Congratulations also goes to Team Pyro for winning the Team's Championship.
Matrix Motorsport would like to thank everyone who followed the team's progress throughout the season and all of its sponsors for their support: Old Cottage Brewery, Nexus Consultancy Services, Ortu Solutions, Inspired Business Media, First Plumbing and Heating, Power Maxed Racing, EMC, Simply Race, De DATA, The Wheel Specialist, SDT Contracts LTD, JDS, ACCL, Boxo, East Midlands Forklifts, KD Group, SAS Energy, This Week in FM, CVL Group, Anytime Fitness, HVAC FM and Davidsons Homes.
"So near and yet so far! I was very happy with the way the second race panned out and to get up to second and start to pull away from the rest of the field in the second race was a true reflection on what we as a team is capable of. It was very frustrating to get elbowed out of the way at the restart following the second safety car.
"It would have been great to score a podium in the final round and I feel we deserved a win during the season, but it wasn't to be. It's been great to be with Matrix this year and I have to thank the team for all their support."
"It's been a fantastic year and I've ticked the box for competing for a full season in the Clio Cup. It's something I've always wanted to do. The championship certainly lived up to my expectations and I've learnt a lot, although I feel there's still more to come. I'm delighted to have made it through the season relatively unscathed, especially as the competition is so fierce. It's definitely been a year to remember and for that I have to thank everyone in the Matrix Motorsport team."
Dave Hayes (Team Manager)
" I can't believe we're reached the end of the season. It's been an amazing year and great to be part of team that has come together so well. I must congratulate and thank everyone for their hard work and camaraderie. I'm looking forward to next year already!"
Jeff Alden (Team Principal)
"It’s been an awesome season. As a team we’ve shown we have the pace to score podium results - and we did that again today. I believe we’ve made an impression in the TOCA paddock too, so I’m proud over everyone in the team that has enabled us to do that in our first season, which I feel is a great achievement. In addition, Mike’s performance this season has given us the opportunity to compete in the Clio Cup International Final at Paul Ricard in a few weeks time. So you never know, we may yet become world champions!
"Personally I‘ve had a ball this season and to compete in a high profile national championship on the best circuits in the UK, has enabled me to fulfil a lifetime ambition. I must congratulate and thank everyone in the team for their hard work and our sponsors for supporting us in our very first year of competition. We are now considering a number of options for 2019 and look forward to making some exciting announcements over the coming months."