History was made at Silverstone last weekend when Alex, at the age of 16, became the youngest driver on the Renault UK Clio Cup grid.
The Renault UK Clio Cup has been one of the main support races to the British Touring Car championship and Silverstone was the penultimate round of this year’s championship.
After a successful debut in the French F4 championship last month, Alex was offered the chance to try his hand in the very competitive championship by Team Cooksport, one of the championship’s top teams.
With no previous experience of racing a front-wheel drive race car like the Renault Clio, it would need Alex to use all his experience to master the 220 BHP Renault Clio car around the fast and demanding Silverstone circuit. It was also his first race in the UK since finishing in Ginetta Juniors last year.
The Silverstone round also would see the largest grid the championship has seen for over two years with drivers also coming from as far as Italy to compete. A total of twenty Renault Clio cars would contest the two races on Sunday in front of the thousands of fans and the TV cameras.
Alex had two forty minute practice sessions on Friday to get used to driving the car and to work on a suitable set-up with the Cooksport engineers and British Touring Car star driver, Josh Cook.
At the end of the two practice sessions, Alex had set some good times and was confident going into Saturday’s qualifying session.
“Getting to drive the car for the first time in a race situation on a fast track like Silverstone was amazing. The Renault Clio is a fantastic little race car, is very fast and so much fun to drive. Coming from driving an F4 single-seater where the car just turns, the Clio requires much more driver involvement and skill and made the experience so much more rewarding,” commented Alex.
“I felt really happy going into qualifying on Saturday, but also was well aware that all the other drivers had so much more experience of the car and circuit than I did; I was determined to get the best position I could for my sponsor Lockton MIS Motorsport and Team Cooksport,” said Alex.
With a new set of front slick tyres fitted for Saturday’s qualifying session, it was down to Alex to set the fastest time he could, and secure his start position on the grid for Sunday’s race.
An unbelievable drive saw him post the fifth fastest time just four tenths of a second off the pole position time, which was a new qualifying lap record.
Unfortunately, all the hard work in qualifying came to nothing as, on the warming up lap for the first race on Sunday, Alex’s car suffered a fuel pressure problem and he was unable to start the engine to start the formation lap.
With no outside assistance allowed, Alex had to shut down the car’s electrical system and reboot it on the grid, as the other drivers headed off on their warm-up lap.
Finally, with the engine running again he chased after the pack but was unable to catch them until they started to line up back on the grid. With no contact over the radio from race control he retook his original grid position, ready for the start of the first race.
As the lights went out, a good start saw Alex maintain his position into the first corner. As all the cars battled for position, Alex was informed by race control over his car radio that he had been given a drive through penalty for retaking his grid position.
Taking the penalty on the next lap, Alex dropped down to 15th position and even pushing as
hard as he could, he was unable to catch up the main field of cars and crossed the line in 15th place overall.
“It was disappointing to have an issue with the car on the warm up lap, from fifth on the grid I had a good chance of getting on the podium, but that is racing,” reflected Alex.
The roller-coaster weekend took another twist in race two when Alex, again, had an issue at the start when the engine stalled. This time, he was able to restart it straight away but was the last car away from the grid. Never one to give up, Alex drove the wheels off his Lockton MIS Motorsport supported Renault Clio and after, eighteen hard fought laps, he crossed the line in 12th place overall.
“What a weekend, I am disappointed as I think I could have done better but also really happy as well. Having the chance to race in the UK Clio Cup was worth all the ups and downs and, hopefully, I can find the budget to contest the final round next month at Brands Hatch. I have some unfinished business!” commented Alex.