Imagine that you had to place 30 FWD Renault Clio’s in a sardine tin. Now imagine that they all had to squirm around inside the tin without any accidents… Varano De Melegari hosted Round 4 of the Clio Euro Series, a tight and complex track with mu
ltiple chicanes and a high amount of tyre wear. It was a complete opposite to the fast airfield of Thruxton.
Qualifying 1 = Many drivers struggled to set their best laps on their only hotlap. This was first shown by Ryan Callan, the championship leader, who was first to storm out of the pitlane so he could get a lap time which would force his championship contenders to shiver in their boots. It didn’t work. Chris Butcher was the first driver to set a reasonable lap time; he wasn’t the last driver though as his teammate, William Levesque pipped to Pole Position. Only to be beaten by their team boss, Toby Davis who bagged a place in the lucrative first grid slot. Tom Eley who had teamed up with THR was 5th while Tomasz Demolin destroyed his brother to get 6th, ahead of Robert Wiesenmueller and Gary Lennon.
Race 1 = The noise of revving engines and screeching tyres could be heard for miles around the circuit as Toby Davis kept his lead with Chris Butcher slotting in behind. William Levesque was closely followed by his main championship rival, Ryan Callan. THR’s new signing, Tom Eley dropped out of the points after an incident with Robert Wiesenmueller at the 2nd chicane. Everybody else had a clean start, something that has rarely been heard in the Clio Euro Series.
Many people have been questioning Ryan Callan’s driving style recently, saying it is too aggressive. Aggression isn’t always a bad thing though as Ryan showed on Lap 2 with a relentless move on William at the same time as defending from the hard charging RPM Driver, Robert Wiesenmueller. Further back there was a 5 car train of T Demolin, Adgie, Tveit, Johnson and Vanian who had split from the pack behind. Tom Eley was able to make his way through the field smoothly, swiftly and safely. Meanwhile, Toby Davis was sending a radio transmission to William by dominating the race, showing him who was boss.
William replied with the fastest lap of the race and all was swell in the French-Canadian’s home until a certain championship rival Brit snatched the fastest lap away. Before the race, there were hush rumours that Toby Davis and Chris Butcher would do everything they could to stop Ryan taking command of the championship, even with Chris still being in the championship hunt and from what was seen in the race, it seemed that the rumours were completely true. The top 4 closed further in as each lap ticked by but unlike the previous 3 rounds, no contact was seen.
The top 4 might have been driving around in the countryside with roses and daffodils all around in the summer breeze, however the 2 groups behind were driving around in the deepest and darkest depths of hell. The recently signed RPM Driver, James Johnson, retired at the half-way mark due to an illness after his midfield battle. As the second half of the race started, the battle for the lead finally started, like an 80 year old couple who were getting younger and younger as time passed by. Chris Butcher took the lead of the race, whether it was planned or not is unknown but this started the pushing and pounding that the crowd was looking for.
This is what Ryan was looking for and he took full control of the situation, overtaking Toby with a somewhat assertive move. Toby knew his day was over in terms of the victory so he did the best for his team and let William ahead. Further back, the Demolin Boys had come together and they decided to work together to get back ahead of drivers such as Bradley Vanian and Ole Marius Myrvold.
Impatience is the “restless desire for change and excitement” and the “intolerance of or irritability with anything that impedes or delays”. Impatience sums up Ryan Callan’s race. The first incident was with Chris Butcher. Ryan dived down the inside of Turn 1 and Chris closed the door. Heavy contact was made and at Turn 2, Ryan closed the door back which pushed Chris down to 4th and with no hope of a victory, for now. At Poznan and Autumn Ring, THR had bullied Ryan Callan but was the TPS Racing Driver fighting back and stopping THR from stealing his dinner money? It sure looked like it as he did everything he could and a bit more to stop Levesque overtaking him.
In the midfield, Lukasz Demolin dispatched of Bradley Vanian who was having a problematic race due to some braking problems. He wasn’t the only one who couldn’t control his braking though as Callan braked too late into the hairpin after being passed by Levesque causing the young adult to go sideways. Chris Butcher had nowhere to go and also hit the back of the Red THR Machine which sent Will down to 3rd behind Chris who was nowhere to be seen 2 laps ago.
No-one would have expected what happened next, as Ryan Callan realised his mistake and let both Chris and Will through. His 2 rivals gained the advantage and were sitting in a morale boosting 1-2. Chris was looking for his first win since Poznan, he had the pace at all rounds but has been beaten by Will on too many occasions and this proved to be the same. Unlike Autumn Ring where Will had a slightly faster race pace, this was due to lapping traffic. Chris got to the back of Rui F. Martins at an unfortunate place on track which forced Chris to hit the back of Rui’s car and go to the grass. This allowed Will to take the lead and Ryan to close in and take 2nd.
All the chaos suddenly allowed the group behind to almost touch the back of Toby’s car but just as they were closing, they started fighting. Gary Lennon, Florian Strauss, Robert Wiesenmueller and Tom Eley were fighting in the final 4 laps for 5th place. Florian overtook Gary with style, a move which showed exactly why he is the current VV8S Champion and his car control at the next corner showed why he isn’t the CES Championship Leader.
But back to the front where it was another win for Levesque as he proves that race pace is what it’s all about. Callan was 2nd with Butcher, T Davis, Strauss, Eley, Wiesenmueller and Lennon capping off the Top 8.
Qualifying 2 = Just like many of the other Superpole sessions, the first big gun to set a lap would be Ryan Callan. Ryan produced a better lap than earlier on but it still was mediocre compared to the best laps in practice. Just moments later, his teammate spun on his outlap which might of been embarrassing, however it seemed to help the tyres heat up as Florian beat Ryan by just a hundredth of a second. Subsequently, Will popped up ahead of the TPS Racing Crew before Chris could take pole position to take full control of the race. Eley and Wiesenmueller were 5th and 6th. Toby Davis had a far from perfect lap which put him 7th, just ahead of the surprises of Christian Struys, Scott Sovik and Jonathan Motteram.
Race 2 = As the colourful range of Clio’s stormed into Turn 1, it looked certain that Butcher would keep the lead, but he was too cautious in the first chicane which first let his teammate through, then both TPS Racing Machines. Before the race, drivers expected some sort of mayhem on Lap 1 and they were more than correct. Many drivers outbraked themselves causing Clio’s to go on the grass, sideways, backwards and over kerbs. In other words, anything other than going forward on the track. Tom Eley was a big loser of the incident as he received a penalty for cutting the track in avoidance while Toby Davis also lost out after an incident with Christian Struys but Christian’s incidents didn’t stop there after contact with Bradley Vanian, dropping the RallySimBelgium driver to the back.
Ryan and Will had produced a gap from the trail of cars behind and RPM Driver, Robert Wiesenmueller was in a TPS Best 4th as Butcher lost time when attempting an overtake on Strauss. Further behind, Scott Sovik was battling away with Toby Davis after his exceptional qualification but it didn’t take too long for the THR Driver to pull away and close in on Optimum Motorsport driver, Bradley Vanian.
Right jab, left hook, duck, dodge and taunt. Ryan and Will’s fight for the lead was like a boxing match with each lap being a round and it was just a matter of time until one of them would throw in the towel, nonetheless each driver kept punching their way passed until William was sucker puncher into the clutches of Ryan’s teammate. Will knew he wasn’t knocked out just yet though and he started to close back in and deliver the punches back.
Rob Musgrove was consistent in Race 1 and picked up a good haul of points for the PCGC Racing Team and he looked in contention for the same amount of points in Race 2 as well, other good performances in the event were from Jay Adgie, Lukasz and Tomasz Demolin as well as 2 points finishes for newcomer, Mike Bell.
As the second half of the race started, one of the most coincidental and ironic moments of the race occurred. Both Ryan and his teammate Florian went wide at the same corner, allowing their rivals, Levesque and Butcher through respectively. Meanwhile, Erik Tveit had rocketed through the field in his Ice Cold Racing car and he had Bradley Vanian close behind, sadly for the Norwegian disaster struck as the 2 made contact and Erik was sent rocketing out of 9thand into the wall to end his race.
Ryan Callan had led all 8 of the races so far, but only won 2 of them and when being hounded by Chris Butcher, he had to take to the grass and lost the position. In the space of 3 laps, TPS Racing had been flushed away by THR. Gary Lennon was in a RPM Sandwich further behind and both DB Motorsports’ Cars had moved ahead of Bradley Vanian in the battle for 9th. Following that group was Tom Eley who was almost scaring other drivers off the road as everything seemed to fall into place like a 2 piece jigsaw, including when his recently signed teammate, Scott Sovik let him passed in a Ferrari-esque move.
The final 3 laps of the race saw a 4 car train for 11th position, led by Bradley Vanian who had heavily worn tyres with Tom Eley, Nikola Ilivanov and Ole “Pinky” Myrvold trying to get passed. Heavy contact ensued in the train which dropped Bradley and Nikola down to 14th and 15th and allowed PCGC Owner, Rob Musgrove into 13th.
The big story of the round was William Levesque’s double win. He won the second race with Chris rounding off a THR 1-2. TPS Racing were 3rd and 4th in a Noah’s Ark situation. Wiesenmueller finished 6th ahead of Lennon, Adgie, T Davis and then the Demolin Boys.
After the race, Will said the racing was “a bit rough” and that “temper gets the best of us sometimes”.
After all incidents and penalties were reviewed, Ryan leads the championship by 3 points from William. Chris is a further 24 points behind. Chris and Will are in a strong position in the team’s championship as well as THR sit 35 points ahead of TPS Racing. Go to http://results.touringproseries.com/league.php?leagueid=4&type=introduction&menu=season to check out the results for yourself.
Tune in to Round 5 of the Clio Euro Series at 7:45pm GMT on April 11th at Calder Park Raceway in Victoria. The fast and short track has been forcing some very close times in practice so make sure to tune in at http://www.touringproseries.com/broadcast/ to watch the race live with live commentary from the American and Canadian duo of Danny Asbury and Keith Barrick.