Simon BelcherRounds one and two of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup at Brands Hatch this weekend, 30th/31st March, proved a great deal more challenging than expected for reigning ‘Masters’ class Champion Simon Belcher as contact in both races spoiled his hopes of beginning the campaign in winning ways.

Qualifying on the Masters pole for both races, 15th on the overall grid for round one and 14th for race two, Belcher was within just 0.6 seconds of the outright pace and confident of battling up towards the coveted top 10 in each encounter.

Bitterly disappointed to be forced out of the season-opener on Sunday morning mere yards from the start, after being pitched into the barrier following a tangle with Masters Cup rival Ronnie Klos, the Swindon driver did manage to bounce back in race two to open his account with second in class.

Putting the aforementioned retirement firmly behind him, the KÄRCHER and No Fear Energy-supported driver was determined for a better run in the afternoon’s race – broadcast live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD – and despite picking up some damage he was in the fight for the class win.

Scorching away from the line, Belcher threaded his way through to the cusp of the top 10 but a slight knock to the rear of his Handy Motorsport-run Clio soon after led to understeer problems from that point forward. Even so, Belcher drove around the issue as best he could and during the final few laps he managed to latch on to the tail of Masters class leader Finlay Crocker.

Sizing up a potential pass during the last couple of laps, the Wiltshire driver made his move on the final tour at Druids Hairpin but as he went to the outside, the pursuing James Nutbrown – not a threat in the Masters Cup – dived inside and manage to edge ahead. Belcher, therefore, had to settle for second in class but was pleased to get some points in the bag.

“The first race was a massive disappointment – Ronnie [Klos] hit me before the first corner and that was it”, said the 39-year-old, “It was partly my fault in as much as I got an atrocious start, I don’t know what I did wrong but whatever it was I didn’t do it in the second race as I got an absolute flyer.

“I made up about five places off the line, things were going well and then I got clipped by somebody on the first lap. I think it bent the rear beam a little bit as I had massive understeer then for the rest of the race, which made it really hard to try and capitalise on any opportunities that came up.”

He added: “Finlay [Crocker] was four or five cars ahead of me in the Masters so I thought that was it, he’d gone, but in the second half of the race he started to come back towards me. Two laps from the end I was right on his bumper, I tried to make a move on the outside at Druids but then [James] Nutbrown got down the inside of me and that was it – I had to settle for second in class then.”

The 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup will resume three weeks from now, over the weekend 20th/21st April, at Donington Park in the East Midlands where Belcher is determined to fight for a Masters Cup double and battle for overall top 10 results.

“We need to forget about this weekend, go to Donington afresh and concentrate on our target of qualifying and finishing in the overall top 10 and taking some Masters wins”, he said, “Maybe this weekend I’ve got all my bad luck out of the way for the season and, hopefully, we’ll be back where we should be at Donington.”

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.