Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography

ELF Renault Clio Cup front-runner Andrew Herron managed to maintain his top three placing in the driver standings over the weekend, 29th/30th August, at Silverstone National Circuit even though a potential podium finish in round 16 was snatched from his grasp due to contact early in the race.

Returning to his regular JHR Developments-run Clio for the first time since making a successful sportscar debut in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB Championship ‘VIP’ car at Knockhill in Scotland a fortnight ago, Andrew ended qualifying on Saturday disappointed with the outcome after missing out on the front row of the grid by around three 10ths of a second.

Such is the competitiveness of Clio Cup action at Silverstone’s short National Circuit, a deficit of just over a quarter of a second was enough to drop him to the fifth row of the grid and so for the weekend’s races, the 21-year-old from Dromore knew he would have a tough battle on his hands.

At the start of Saturday’s 15th round, the Brian Herron Contracts-backed racer wasn’t able to make up the ground he wanted on the first lap and so remained in 10th position until a moment on lap two dropped him to 13th place. Working hard to get back into the thick of the action, Andrew fought well and by lap 10 he had climbed into the top 10 with some quality overtaking.

Close behind David Dickenson and putting him under huge pressure, Andrew made the breakthrough on the penultimate lap and underlined the point of what might have been had he qualified higher by opening up a one second advantage over the course of the final 1.64-miles.

Sunday’s 16th round, which was screened live across the UK on ITV4, was another robust affair from which Andrew emerged with a top eight finish. Lapping on the pace of eventual race winner and series leader Philip Glew, the Northern Irishman easily had the potential to record his seventh podium of the season but a series of unfortunate incidents ruined his chances.

Making a lightning getaway from the fifth row of the grid, Andrew headed into Copse bearing down on the top four but contact then occurred between Lee Pattison and James Colburn sending both cars spinning into the path of the oncoming traffic.

Although Andrew managed to avoid major contact and move into the top four, his car did glance that of Pattison and the net result was damage to the steering on the JHR machine. Even though it compromised his straight-line speed, Andrew’s lap times were impressive and following a short Safety Car period he set about chasing down the top three.

On lap 10, third-placed Tom Carnaby ran wide at Copse under pressure which gave Andrew the chance to move into the podium positions but at Brooklands on the very same lap, contact from behind pitched him into a spin. By the time he recovered he was in ninth place and then received a further tap at Luffield which cost yet more time.

With his podium chance having slipped away through no fault of his own, Andrew mounted a good recovery and took the chequered flag on lap 21 in ninth place. Post-race though, Daniel Lloyd was handed a 1.5 second time penalty which promoted Andrew into the top eight.

Commenting on the weekend, he said: “In Sunday’s race, when (Lee) Pattison spun at the first corner, my car just made contact with him and that knocked my steering out which made the rest of the race really difficult. I had no straight line speed after that which was really frustrating as I had some good tyres and we were really quick through the corners.

“The top three pulled away from me on the straights but I still managed to hold my own until I got hit going into Brooklands. Having said that, we did make the weekend harder for ourselves with qualifying not going to plan. I didn’t get the first corner right and that was the difference between being on the fifth row for both races or the front row.”

Andrew added: “These weren’t the sort of results we need but its still given me some good points for the championship and we still have a chance of catching (Alex) MacDowall for second place. It’ll be tough but we’re going to give it a good go.”

Rounds 17 and 18 of the 2009 ELF Renault Clio Cup, the crucial penultimate event of the season, will take place at Rockingham in Northamptonshire three weeks from now, 19th/20th September.

Provisional 2009 ELF Renault Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd16):
1st Philip Glew, 462pts; 2nd Alex MacDowall, 351pts; 3rd Andrew Herron, 307pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography