Matrix Motorsport rises to the challenge at Donington
Press Information - 30th April 2018
Renault UK Clio Cup Rounds 3 & 4 - Team Race Report
Matrix Motorsport approached this weekend’s Renault UK Clio Cup rounds three and four at Donington Park aiming to build on its successful first outing at Brands Hatch earlier this month. Whilst the team’s four drivers: Mike Epps, Andy Wilmot, Aaron Thompson and Jeff Alden, all rose to the challenge of fighting through the field following a tough qualifying session, the final results did not truly reflect the team’s combined efforts.
As it transpired, the weather rather than local knowledge - Donington being the team’s closest track - had a greater bearing on the outcome of Saturday’s 30-minutes of qualifying. With rain falling throughout the morning, all 19 Clio Cup competitors went out on wet tyres for the early-afternoon session.
But after 20-minutes, a dry line appeared around the 1.979-mile National configuration of the circuit, signalling that slicks would be the tyre of choice from then on. Consequently, the quartet of Matrix Motorsport cars came into the pits to change, but frustratingly, drivers were unable to post a clear lap before the end of the session, meaning that all four would start closer to the back - rather than the front - of the grid in both races.
Sunday dawned dry, although a bitterly cold breeze would keep track temperatures down and see the hoards of spectators that had flocked into the circuit to witness to the two Clip Cup and three BTCC races, wearing winter coats for the duration of the day. A clean start in race one by all four Matrix men saw them gain places by the end of the first lap, but a three-lap Safety Car period - after series front-runner Paul Rivett was punted off the track - slowed down and closed up the pack.
At the re-start, Thompson emerged as the leading team member in ninth, but within a few laps the 18-year old was caught and passed by Epps who survived a spectacular two-wheeled moment exiting the chicane. The ex-BTCC driver continued to push hard and was pleased to cross the line seventh and therefore, achieve an impressive seventh, a 10-place improvement on his grid position.
Thompson then found himself getting involved in a series of battles and was frustrated to lose his earlier advantage following an excursion onto the grass to finish as he had started in 16th. With difficulty getting enough heat into their rear tyres, Wilmot and Alden both suffered spins during the race: Wilmot’s taking place at over 100mph as he plunged downhill through the Craner Curves, with Alden’s a result of him getting used to a new suspension setup. Consequently, they were satisfied to finish 14th and 18th respectively.
The ambient conditions remained unchanged for the second of the two races in the afternoon. Another good start by Epps - this time from 14th on the grid - saw him launch into a battle for sixth place and by lap nine, he headed the frantic five-car group, only to be physically pushed off the track in a clumsy move by his then pursuer. The subsequent damage meant he could not stay on the pace and had little choice but to accept an 11th place finish on this occasion.
Another strong performance by Wilmot rewarded him with a 13th place finish this time around, whilst Thompson found himself in another series of time-delaying incidents, including a significant visit to one of the circuit’s strategically-placed gravel traps. Alden however, had found better pace and a repeat 18th place finish was only due to another spin and not a true measure of his ever-increasing performance.
The upshot of this weekend’s results sees Matrix Motorsport now fourth in the team’s standings and Epps seventh in the drivers’. Whilst Donington didn’t deliver the ideal outcome, the outlook of the team is one of optimism as this was only its second ever race weekend and with another seven to go, there’s still plenty of time to fight back!
“The first race went as well as it could have done really. To go from 17th on the grid to finish seventh is a good result given the circumstances. It just goes to show that, if we can sort out qualifying and start from a higher position on the grid, then we can definitely get closer to the front of the field.
“The second race was a different matter though. I had a good start and was up to sixth by lap five, but the battle with others around me got a little too physical and I dropped back having picked up some damage. The result means I’m now seventh in the driver standings, but in this championship it doesn’t take much for the pendulum to swing in the other direction.”
“I enjoyed both races, even though things got a little exciting at times. The first race was going well until something happened dropping down through the Craners and I spun at over 100mph. Now that was exciting, but thankfully there was no harm done, other than lost time.
“I wanted to post a solid result in race two and was pleased I managed to keep out of trouble. Once again, I really enjoyed the weekend with the team and, with my pace increasing race-by-race, I don’t think it will take much to get into the top ten.”
“I like Donington and I really thought a good result was on the cards this weekend. But it just didn’t work out that way, which happens sometimes. When things went well I was able to mix it with the others, but there was some silly contact. I must admit that I over compensated for the lost time on occasions and it backfired on me, so I need to rethink my strategy for Thruxton. Onwards and upwards!”
Jeff Alden (Team Principal)
“My word for the weekend is ‘interesting’. We’re a new team and racing at this level is fairly new to me personally, so this season is a steep learning curve. I tried different set ups to see what would work best and I spun a couple of times while I was getting used to things. I was very pleased that the data showed my times are headed in the right direction though.
"I thoroughly enjoyed both races and the team did another great job of representing us in the TOCA paddock. We know there’s more to come and we’ll be working on finding that extra bit between now and the next event at Thruxton in a few weeks time.”
The third meeting of the season takes place over the weekend of the 19th and 20th May, when the MSA British Touring Car package heads to Thruxton in Hampshire for rounds five and six of the 2018 Renault UK Clio Cup.
Matrix Motorsport’s 2018 campaign is supported by: Old Cottage Beer Company, HVAC FM, De DATA, Nexus Consultancy Services, Ortu Solutions, Inspired Business Media, First Plumbing and Heating, East Midlands Civil Engineering, ACCL. KD Group, Simply Race, Anytime Fitness, SDT Contracts, Boxo, East Midlands Forklifts, SAS Energy, Spearmint Rhino, This Week in FM, CVL Group, The Wheel Specialist, Alpine Works and Davidsons Homes.
Matrix Motorsport has an association with race winning BTCC team Power Maxed TAG Racing through its driver Senna Proctor and congratulates the team and for scoring its second victory of the season at Donington, with its other driver Josh Cook taking the honours on this occasion.