As a strong grid of Clios took to the track for the first time this year at Donington Park, it would have been natural to expect that 2015 title contender Patrick Fletcher and eventual champion James Bark would be ones to watch.
Yet with the top ten places in qualifying separated by less than a second around the National Circuit, the opening meeting kicked off what looks to be a season that’s closer than ever in the K-Tec Racing Clio 182 Championship.
Bark started race one on pole but Fletcher lining up alongside Robert Armitage on row four, with last year’s tied pair now separated by George Williams, Philip Wright, Mark Balmer, Don De Graaff and Pete Morgan.
As the flag dropped for race one however it was the 2015 championship’s 10th placed man Martin Ward who made the most of the sprint to turn one, finding his way up to fifth at Redgate from tenth on the grid. Bark took control of the race but only as the frontrunner of a tightly-knitted pack, initially holding off Williams until lap five when Wright reversed their positions for second and third places. By this point Ward had dropped to seventh and Fletcher had made his way through to tag onto the back of the leading pack, setting the fastest lap along the way.
A good battle was hotting up through the mid-race distance between the number 14 car of Trevor Gregory and former stock hatch frontrunner Scott Sharp, with the pair going side by side in the drop down through Craner Curves. Various positions looked in jeopardy after fluids were laid down on lap nine, yet at the flag the race duly went the way of Bark to start his 2016 campaign, with Wright in second place and Fletcher getting the better of Williams on the last lap to close in and take third. De Graaff placed fifth with Gregory sixth.
The first few grid slots were occupied by much the same cars in the second outing of the day, where the top eight remained close but ordered until lap four, with an order of Bark from Williams and newly promoted Fletcher, then Wright, De Graaff and Ward.
It wasn’t long though until the Bark and Fletcher rivalry was going wheel-to-wheel, with the pair side by side through Coppice but also sharing their space with the now-omnipresent Wright and De Graaff. Bark dropped to fifth initially but soon fought back, taking third at Redgate and by the penultimate lap he’d managed to come out at the head of the battle.
The defensive driving from the trio however left enough breathing space for Fletcher to notch up some consistent pace; sufficient to pull a lead that would prove impossible for Bark to rein in before the end without any mistakes or traffic. As the flag came out for lap 11, the race duly went the way of Fletcher, from fastest lap-setting Bark and DeGraaf, then Wright, Williams and Ward close behind.
In a reverse to race one results, Scott Sharp just had the better of brother and Club newcomer Arron for ninth and tenth places, and there was little to separate Richard Thirbin and Terry Roughton across the line for 11th and 12th.
Original content from 750 Motor Club