MOTOR SPORT: Belcher on course for top spot
6:00am Wednesday 18th September 2013 in Latest News
MASTERS Cup class points leader and reigning champion Simon Belcher managed to remain in control of the 2013 title battle at Rockingham in Northamptonshire over the weekend, despite one of his toughest outings of the season in the Renault UK Clio Cup.
Unfortunate contact in round 13 on Saturday, followed by a tyre gamble which didn’t pay off in Sunday’s 14th round, prevented the Swindon saloon car racer from adding to his tally of 10 Masters Cup podiums.
He still managed to end the event on top of the class standings, however, and with the category’s ‘drop score’ ruling applied – where each driver has to deduct their lowest score of the campaign from final totals – he is 16 points clear of his closest rival with just two races left to run.
Qualifying on Saturday morning took place on a wet track, although a few of the drivers did risk using slick tyres during the closing minutes of the session.
With his Masters Cup lead in mind, and preferring not to gamble at that point, Belcher remained on treaded Dunlop rubber throughout and ended up third quickest in the Masters – 18th on the grid overall for round 13.
Making a good start to the weekend’s opening race, the Handy Motorsport with Pyro driver climbed as high as 12th place overall initially before settling in to 14th position prior to the emergence of the safety car.
After two laps under caution, to enable the recovery of Paul Rivett’s stranded Clio, racing resumed on lap six and Belcher circulated in 14th position on the tail of second-placed Masters Cup runner Peter Felix.
On lap seven, though, a bid by Belcher to wrestle the place away only resulted in broken suspension following contact between the two.
“The first race wasn’t too bad to begin with, I had a good start and at one point I was up into about 12th place and everything was looking good”, said the 39-year-old.
“We were challenging in that group between 15th and the top 10, it was going well, and I went for a move inside Felix. He turned in and there was contact – it was just one of those things.”
Ahead of round 14 on Sunday, light rain before the race led to some debate over whether to run with treaded rubber and Belcher and his team opted to make that decision.
Unfortunately, the rain ceased soon after to leave the Wiltshire racer with a very tough challenge. Despite the difficulties of running wet-weather tyres on a dry track, he finished fourth in the Masters Cup and 18th overall.
“Race one was a bit of a dent in the Masters battle for us, DNFs are very costly, but we managed to get some decent points in the second race”, said Belcher.
“It looked like it would be wet, it started to rain and the sky was black when we were in the assembly area so we made the decision to go with wets.
“Halfway around the green flag lap though, it stopped raining.
“We had no choice but to just keep going and we managed to pick-up fourth in class.
“The same sort of thing happened at Croft earlier in the season, we took a gamble on the weather and it didn’t pay off.
“We’re still in control of the Masters, we just don’t have the points gap we did have.”
There is now a four-week break from track action with the final two races of the Renault UK Clio Cup season, rounds 15 and 16, set to take place on 12th/13th October at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent.
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