Mid Term report. Article written by renaultsport.co.uk
Paul Rivett admits he now needs some luck to be in with a chance of a fourth Renault UK Clio Cup crown but has warned the three young rivals ahead of him he’s ready to pounce should any of them choke in the season’s second half…
After some early frustrations Rivett ended the season’s opening half in very strong form indeed with a win at Oulton Park and a pole position – the first in the Clio Cup for his WDE Motorsport team – at Croft.
At ‘half-time’ he’s fourth in the standings but with some ground to make up on the three ahead, SV Racing’s Ant Whorton-Eales and Team Pyro pair Ash Hand and Ashley Sutton.
“It’s gone well but I’d like to have seen better results,” said Rivett. “I’m not as high up as I’d been hoping at the start of the season but I think we’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time. At the Brands Hatch opener I ended up off the track following contact with Brett Smith which cost me places and valuable points.
“We effectively lost the whole Friday test at Donington after Smith ran into me – we don’t test out of the season so those test days are very valuable to us. Then there was a coming-together with Hand in one of the races and I ended up crawling around in last position with a severely hobbled car. It’s things like that which have knocked us back.”
There was at least a podium result at Donington (with a third in race two of three). And Rivett has been on the rostrum at every event since with another third at Thruxton when he just kept championship leader Ant Whorton-Eales at bay, a lights-to-flag victory at Oulton Park (after sprinting past Whorton-Eales at the start) and a second place at Croft (thanks to a masterclass in defensive driving against ‘form man’ Hand).
It is that race at Croft (pictured above left) which stands out as Rivett’s most satisfying of the season so far – more so than his win at Oulton. In fact, he says, it’s among the best of his career which now tallies a staggering 181 races!
He explained: “To keep someone behind for so long like that… it’s one of the best Clio Cup races I’ve driven. I think Ash was frustrated afterwards because he couldn’t get past and Sutton escaped and won. On reflection I’m sure he realised he just couldn’t make it work against me and maybe even learnt a few things himself. It was a mighty race, although if I’d not been defending like that I’m sure we had the pace to go and take the fight to Sutton.
“Leading everyone all the way at Oulton was a nice feeling but Croft was more satisfying. It was nice to learn after my old sparring partner Daniel Buxton (boss of rival team SV Racing) had shown his drivers the video of me defending to show them how to do it!”
While Oulton did bring Rivett a win, it also showed that even the best in the business can make mistakes and the 37-year-old admits to a costly error there.
He said: “I hit the tyre stack on the inside of the kerb exiting Knickerbrook in race two – it took off the front bodywork and Sutton hit it which was very unfortunate on his part. My mistake and I should have known better – I’ve clipped it before in the past.
“I still clung on for fourth place but it should have been a lot better. Race two at Croft also got away from us I felt – I knew Whorton-Eales was coming up like a rocketship on fresh rubber after his qualifying shunt and started trying a few things in the car to counter that later in the race. It meant the outright pace wasn’t quite there…”
Fourth outright in the standings, Rivett finds himself 50 points adrift of championship leader Whorton-Eales. That comes down to 47 if the two dropped scores rule is applied (when Hand would currently take over the top spot)…
With eight races to go, Rivett is sure Whorton-Eales, Hand and Sutton will begin to feel the heat soon. It is, after all, a situation he knows well having come out on top of three title fights before.
“They are three young hot shots who know I always fight them hard but fair on the track which works in my favour I’m sure,” he added. “Experience tells me anything can happen – we are only just over half-way through the season, after all.
“Personally I think all three are good enough to deal with the pressure but you never know – they could implode. I’ve seen people running away with it before and then suddenly they’ve never won a race again and I’ve seen people come from 100 points behind to challenge for the title.
“All it takes is one bad weekend. We just need to be strong everywhere and, unlike the first half of the season, be in the right place at the right time to capitalise if and when they do have problems… Certainly there’s no reason why, at present, we shouldn’t still count ourselves in it.”
Rivett also sees WDE Motorsport – which has lured back rising star Charlie Ladell for the second half of the season – going from strength to strength.
He continued: “It’s great to have Charlie back – he’s really got what it takes and I feel we can help him be right up there and maybe even helping me a bit.
“My wins ratio is one in four and my podiums ratio is one in two – I want to maintain that for the rest of the season and there’s no reason why I can’t. Everything is there – the car is amazing set-up wise. I have a feeling the rest of this season is going to be very good for us.”