Andrew HerronDromore’s Andrew Herron gained further ground on chief rival Alex MacDowall in the race for the 2009 ELF Renault Clio Cup Vice-Champion’s position at Rockingham International Super Sports Car Circuit today, Sunday, 20th September, with his seventh podium of the campaign.

The Brian Herron Contracts-backed racer actually equalled his best result of the season, second place, during round 17 at the Northamptonshire venue but an unexpected four-second penalty dropped him to third position on amended times behind returning 2001 Clio Cup Champion Danny Buxton.

Following an early Safety Car period Andrew got good drive out of Brook Chicane as the race headed towards its re-start and although he didn’t pull alongside Buxton’s car before the start/finish line, a little known championship regulation – new for 2009 – now prevents drivers from getting so much as the front bumper of their car alongside the rear bumper of the competitor ahead before a re-start.

Nonetheless, a welcome return to the podium with third place meant Andrew gained five points on MacDowall in the driver standings and with the addition of a fine fourth position in round 18, from seventh on the grid, he is now just 30 points behind on overall scores heading into the season finale on 3rd/4th October. Taking into account ‘drop scores’ though, the gap increases to 41 points.

Bearing in mind the Northern Irishman’s weekend didn’t start as he wanted when a bolt on the lower part of his car’s steering failed in qualifying, to still qualify inside the first four rows of the grid for both races, take his seventh podium and also close the gap to MacDowall in the championship – with only two races remaining – all points towards a successful event for the 21-year-old.

“The weekend was killed on Saturday with the bolt snapping, it was always going to be hard starting the races from seventh place, but to just be three 10ths of a second off the pace even with that problem meant I knew we’d be fast today”, said Andrew.

“To go from seventh to second was well earned, there was no luck in it as I had to pass people and drive well. I showed good pace but to get put back to third is gut-wrenching. The new rule is one I didn’t know, the team didn’t know and nobody I’ve talked to didn’t really know about it! Still, rules are rules and we accept that.

“In the second race I got held up a bit behind (James) Colburn and (Daniel) Lloyd but I made really clean moves on those two kids, who are very good drivers as well, and then I stretched away. Once you’re out of the tow of the front runners though, it’s difficult to get it back. I consolidated fourth though and gaining points on MacDowall, and pulling further away from (Dave) Newsham, is good.”

In the first race, Andrew made up a couple of positions on the opening lap and then moved into the top four with a pass on MacDowall at Gracelands. Remaining in fourth but pressuring Buxton ahead, the Co.Down racer was then hoisted into third spot when race leader Lloyd crashed out after making contact with the Rockingham Oval wall.

After a two-lap Safety Car period, Andrew positioned himself well behind Buxton to make the most of the re-start and even though he didn’t get alongside his rival until after they had crossed the line to begin lap 12, officials deemed the JHR Developments driver to have gained an unfair advantage.

Andrew sealed the move for second place through Turn 1 and he pulled well clear of Buxton over the remaining few laps but post-race he was given the four-second time penalty to drop him to third in the final classification. He also just missed out on the fastest lap by a mere 0.004 seconds!

In race two, Andrew climbed into sixth place on the first lap and after another Safety Car period he closed in more and more on Colburn. Taking fifth place at Deene Hairpin on lap five with a great move, he passed Lloyd at the same corner three laps later to take fourth position where he stayed to the flag.

Although the points gap to MacDowall is still a big one to bridge, Andrew is intent on going to Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit – his first ever experience of the full length Kent track – two weeks from now with the sole aim of usurping his rival in the fight for the runner-up spot in the standings.

Rounds 19 and 20 of the 2009 ELF Renault Clio Cup will take place over the weekend 3rd/4th October.

Provisional 2009 ELF Renault Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd18):
Champion: Philip Glew, 528pts; 2nd Alex MacDowall, 385pts; 3rd Andrew Herron, 355pts

Provisional 2009 ELF Renault Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd18 – minus drop scores):
Champion: Philip Glew, 499pts; 2nd Alex MacDowall, 385pts; 3rd Andrew Herron, 344pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.