Sam TordoffSaloon car rookie Sam Tordoff enjoyed an outstanding international race debut at Circuit Zolder in Belgium on Saturday, 22nd August, by securing a brace of podium finishes for Total Control Racing during a guest outing in the Belgian Renault Clip Cup Championship.

Joining the Leeds-based 21-year-old for the trip across to the continent were his regular ELF Renault Clio Cup team-mate Alex MacDowall and the Carlisle racer’s father Ray, all three drivers taking the opportunity to run at the Belgian venue in support of the prestigious 24 Hours of Zolder race.

Tordoff and MacDowall junior were both on the pace from the off in the pre-event practice on Wednesday, 19th August, and during the all-important qualifying session for the opening race of the weekend Tordoff posted the second fastest time of 1m49.714 seconds (131.61km/h), Alex was fifth fastest with a lap of 1m50.041 seconds (131.22km/h) and Ray was 14th quickest.

In the race two qualifying period, an unbelievably close session, Alex turned the tables on Tordoff by securing a superb pole position with a lap of 1m50.111 seconds (131.13km/h) while Tordoff took fourth on the grid with a time of 1m50.195 seconds (131.03km/h) – just eight 100ths of a second splitting the team-mates – with Ray MacDowall 15th fastest.

In race one, all three TCR drivers held position early on with Alex the first to gain a place with a good move on Czech racer Joakim Lambotte to move into the top four on lap six. The following tour wasn’t a good one for Tordoff or Alex though with both slipping back a place – Tordoff to third behind Dutchman Robert van den Berg and MacDowall to fifth following a tap from behind.

Tordoff hit back quickly by moving into second position again on lap eight and he remained there to the chequered flag on lap 15, finishing just 0.375 seconds shy of winner Francois Verbist to end his first international race as the top ‘Junior’ runner. Alex MacDowall took fifth place with a good drive while Ray was 13th on his first competitive outing in the newly upgraded Clio Cup car.

The second encounter was incredibly tight throughout and at the finish on lap 14, less than four 10ths of a second covered the top four. Unfortunately for Alex, he wasn’t able to make his pole position start count and slipped to eighth on the opening lap after being pushed wide onto the grass at the first corner.

The Cumbrian, who is currently second overall in the ELF Renault Clio Cup driver standings, produced a great fightback though and by lap nine he was in the top four ahead of Tordoff. On lap 11, Alex moved into third place while Tordoff dropped back to sixth but the place swapping didn’t end there.

Into lap 12, third-placed MacDowall was just 0.183 seconds shy of the race leader – underlining the closeness of the racing – but Tordoff edged ahead of his fellow TCR driver on the penultimate tour before getting the better of David De Saeger on the last lap to take another second place result. Alex ended the race in fourth position, frustratingly a mere 10th of a second outside the podium.

Ray MacDowall enjoyed an improved run in race two with a fine 11th place result to win the battle of the gentleman drivers ahead of JJ Magalhaes. Gaining two positions on the opening lap, the seasoned campaigner moved into 11th place on lap six and remained there to the finish.

Reflecting on a successful weekend in Belgium, TCR team principal Lee Brookes said: “The Zolder races were a good chance for Alex and Sam to gain extra experience and it was good to have Ray back out with us too. Sam did a great job to take two second places on his first ever visit to Zolder and the same goes for Alex who took a great pole position and was unlucky not to be on the podium.

“It’s been a busy few weeks for us but we’ve enjoyed it and now we’re looking forward to next weekend’s Clio Cup and Ginetta G50 races at Silverstone. It’s important we have a strong showing in both championships, especially with the season at a critical stage, so hopefully we can carry on the momentum in Clios and get back to winning ways in the G50 Cup too.”

TCR will be back in action this coming weekend, 29th/30th August, at Silverstone National Circuit in Northamptonshire for the 15th and 16th rounds of the ELF Renault Clio Cup and rounds 21 and 22 of the Michelin Ginetta G50 Cup. In addition, the rescheduled 11th round of the G50 Cup season will also take place.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.