Daniel LloydTeenage saloon car star Daniel Lloyd led an ELF Renault Clio Cup race for the first time in his short career at Rockingham in Northamptonshire today, Sunday, 20th September, but a suspected puncture potentially cost the category rookie his maiden race victory in the ultra-competitive championship.

Starting round 17 of the season from a career-best third on the grid, the Scammonden-based driver managed to take the lead from 2009 Clio Cup Champion Philip Glew on the run from Deene Hairpin just two corners into the race.

Immediately slotting into a tidy rhythm, Daniel looked confident and assured as he led Glew and returning 2001 Clio Cup title winner Danny Buxton. Setting a string of fastest laps during the early stages, the 17-year-old showed talent and skill belying his lack of experience and although Glew started to up the tempo on lap five, Daniel wasn’t rattled as the battle at the front intensified.

Bitter disappointment came at the end of lap eight though when his Total Control Racing-run Clio under-steered into the wall on the outside of Turn 4 as Daniel exited Brook Chicane and the resulting damage meant an immediate retirement. Hugely frustrating for the West Yorkshire racer, it later emerged a right-rear puncture may have unsettled his car as he pressed on towards lap nine.

“I’m absolutely gutted”, said Daniel following his retirement, “I felt really comfortable at the front, the car was great and my lap times were good. I didn’t feel under pressure, everything seemed to be going well, but then at the end of lap eight the car just under-steered into the wall on the outside of Turn 4. I didn’t do anything differently on that lap but now we think I’d already picked up a puncture.”

With around four hours in which to try and repair the No.23 Clio for round 18, the TCR mechanics did an outstanding job to prepare the car as well as possible and even though it was far from 100 per cent, Daniel was able to run to an extremely impressive top five result – ironically his best result of the year.

Starting in sixth position, he got away from the grid well and avoided a multi-car tangle at Deene Hairpin to emerge in fourth place. Following a three lap Safety Car period, the race resumed on lap four with Daniel working hard to try and stay with the top three.

Adapting his driving style to suit the limitations of his less-than-perfect Clio, he pressed on and although losing a position to Andrew Herron on lap eight he maintained a top five placing to the finish to secure 20 very hard earned championship points with an incredibly impressive drive.

Daniel commented: “The team did an absolutely fantastic job to get the car ready for race two, it was pretty seriously damaged after the race one incident but they worked wonders. Although the car wasn’t 100 per cent it was as good as it possibly could have been, the mechanics worked so hard to get me back out for race two so a huge thank you to all the boys at TCR.

“Finishing fifth is a good result considering I had to change my driving to adapt to the car but it’s still disappointing to look back on what could have been my first win in race one. We again showed how quick we are and now I’ve led a race in Clios, it’s given me even more confidence for the final two rounds at Brands Hatch in two weeks even though I’ve never driven on the Grand Prix track before.”

Looking ahead to the season finale at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit a fortnight from now, 3rd/4th October, Daniel is just a single point shy of the 200 point barrier in his first season of Clio competition and will be aiming to end the year on a high at the Kent venue. Following this weekend’s action, he maintains 10th place in the driver standings, 12 points clear of his closest pursuer.

2009 Provisional ELF Renault Clio Cup Standings (after Rd18):
Champion: Philip Glew, 528pts; 2nd Alex MacDowall, 385pts; 10th Daniel Lloyd, 199pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography