Matrix Motorsport moves closer to target at Croft
Press Information - 25th June 2018
Renault UK Clio Cup Rounds 9 & 10 - Race Report
A fourth place for Mike Epps in the first of this weekend's (23/24 June) two Renault UK Clio Cup races at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire, means the Matrix Motorsport team is moving ever-closer to its target of scoring a podium position.
As well as hosting rounds nine and ten of the high profile and fiercely-fought one-make series for identical specification Renault Clios, Saturday and Sunday’s meeting also marked the middle of the season and the most northern venue in the nine-weekend, 18-race calendar. Amazingly for a British-based championship, it was the third event in succession that hot and sunny weather prevailed throughout, with the scorching conditions putting cars and drivers to the test.
In keeping with the format with most of this season’s meetings, the action got underway on Friday, when all four of the Matrix drivers: Jeff Alden, Andy Wilmot, Aaron Thompson and Mike Epps, took to the track for two, 45-minute practice sessions. It was again an opportunity for the team to dial its cars into the circuit conditions and, with 2018 the team’s inaugural season, it’s a task that it has to perform at every track.
Saturday’s qualifying was another closely contested affair for Epps, who ended the session just 0.305 seconds from pole position for the first race and 0.287 for the second, times that would see him start P7 and P6 respectively. A similar scenario applied for Wilmot, Thompson and Alden who all set times closer to the front of the field and they would start P15, P17 and P18 for both races.
The day’s temperature appeared to be at its highest as Saturday afternoon’s 12-laps around the 2.1-mile track got underway. Epps was blocked in during the first lap and dropped a couple of places. Unhappy not to have capitalised on his starting position he fought back and, with others ahead tripping over themselves later in the race, he crossed the line fourth and more significantly, just half-a-second from scoring the team’s first podium position of the season.
In contrast, Alden had a stunning start and made up four places, only to get boxed in and lose the advantage he initially gained. He then settled into a battle with fellow competitor Luke Warr and, as the two of them gained on the cars in front, Alden went onto the grass coming out of the suitably named (considering the weather) right-hander of Sunny. With debris on his tyres and trying to make amends, Alden out-braked himself and slid wide and into the side of Warr’s Clio, the outcome resulting in the Matrix team principal having to watch from the sidelines for the rest of the race.
Having been involved with someone else’s accident last time out at Oulton Park, Wilmot was keen to keep out of trouble and built up pace during the race to finish 15th. Thompson was also hoping to find better fortune this time round, but his aspirations were dampened with a loss of power during the race and a somewhat frustrating run resulted in 17th place.
Saturday evening was to see a few tweaks made to Epps’ and Wilmot’s cars and something a little more significant to Alden’s and Thompson’s. Either way, all were ready for the off when the second of the weekend’s two races got the green light on Sunday - again, in conditions that were akin to the drivers competing in the French Grand Prix in the South of France that same afternoon.
Epps was probably the most frustrated of the Matrix quartet this time around. Although his launch off the line was as good as ever, so was everyone else’s and he exited the first corner in sixth behind a train of five other cars. Whatever he did, he couldn’t get past and therefore, crossed the line having held the same position throughout the race.
Willmot’s goal to stay out of trouble was seriously put to the test in race two, when he found himself embroiled in a series of battles with a variety of other drivers. Whilst a frantic 12 laps, he finished 14th and afterwards admitted that he had thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
As for Thompson, after the frustrations of the past, it was clear all that was behind him and following an impressive start, he spent the whole race challenging for a place in the top ten. However, his eventual finishing position of 17th didn’t reflect his performance, as organisers had applied a 10-second penalty for an over-eager getaway. Without it, the 19-year old would have finished 11th, a result much more in keeping with his acknowledged abilities and potential.
Unfortunately for Alden his second race lasted even less time than his first. He was pushed out by others going into turn one, clipped a kerb and picked up a puncture that resulted in an inevitable pit stop and consequently finishing a lap behind the rest of the field.
Although the team didn’t achieve the podium result it was looking for, everyone in the team was upbeat about the outcome of the weekend: the data collected, the improving pace of its cars in comparison with the rest of the field and to see Epps now fifth in the drivers’ standings and Matrix Motorsport fourth in the teams’ points table.
“The first race went well. The car felt good and I had the momentum to make up three places and grab fourth. We just made detail changes for race two hoping that by starting one place higher on the grid I could make up three places again and score the team’s first podium. But I just couldn’t get past the five cars ahead whatever I tried, so had to take what we could get. We’ll get there though. The lap times are so close, it’s only fraction of seconds that make the difference between being on the podium or not.”
“Wanting to keep out of trouble, Saturday’s race was quite straightforward. However, Sunday’s was very different. I became involved with a four-car battle. I gained a couple of places, then lost them, then got them back... So much happened that I can't remember it all, but it was great fun all the same and just what single make racing is all about.”
Sunday’s race was the best one of the year so far for me - in fact, the best race I've ever had in Clios! I got a lightning start - too much so as it turns out - and was awarded 10-second penalty. So officially I was 17th but 11th on track, which would have been the best result I've had all year. We’ve fixed the power problem and the car feels fantastic now. What a difference. Bring on Snetterton!”
"I’ve actually had a great weekend, even though I had issues in both races. The team did well and I’m pleased that Aaron appears to have turned a corner. Mike posted another strong performance, Andy did well and is making constant progress, while I had an off and a puncture - but still enjoyed it while it lasted. I now can’t wait until Snetterton. Shame it’s over a month away...”
There’s now a five-week break before rounds 11 and 12 of the championship, which take place at Snetterton on 28th & 29th July. The team intends to make the most of this valuable summer sabbatical and plans to make some changes and announcements between now and then.
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.