Mike Epps endured an uphill battle at a cold and changeable Donington Park last weekend in Rounds 3 and 4 of the UK Clio Cup. Rolling into the weekend 3rd in the Championship for the new Matrix Motorsport squad, he planned on improving on results taken at Brands Hatch three weeks prior, but was up against it after a drying track in qualifying flipped things completely for a very mixed grid.
Great pace came of Epps in Free Practice sessions on Thursday before the meeting, the Hemel Hempstead driver just a few tenths from fastest in clear air without a slipstream around the track from a team mate or rival. He entered the weekend confident of some good results.
Rain came down hard on Saturday for the championships Qualifying session, but began to dry as as cars went out with wet tyres on. Midway through the session it became a race to change to slick (dry) tyres and get them up to temperature. Sadly Epps and the Matrix squad were a couple of laps too late, combined with his fastest lap being disallowed for track limits, leaving him down in 17th and 14th in the fastest and second fastest times to decide the grid for Race 1 and 2.
“It’s a shame about the lap being dropped for track limits, it wasn’t even decided by a camera system. A marshal decided I had done it and wrote it down, yet on my onboard video I can’t find one time I went off the track to gain an advantage, but what’s done is done.”
Epps set about coming back from his misfortune quickly in Race 1, battling through with Championship leader Coates (who started 11th) to reach 7th place by the finish. It wasn’t without it’s moments though, with the 26-year old being propped up on two wheels and nearly on his roof through the chicane on one lap after contact on the entry to the corner. “I did hold my breath for just a moment”, he commented after.
With a strong push through in Race 1, all aims were set on going further again in the second race of the day, which broadcasted live on ITV4 and ITV4HD as part of the support package for the British Touring Car Championship. A great first few laps saw Epps vault up to 6th place from 14th on the grid, but this was sadly as high as he would run as after some contact coming through his pace seemed to drop off. He fell back gradually to 9th.
“I’m not sure what it was but there was definitely some rubbing and banging in the early laps and the car just felt a bit off afterwards. Perhaps something a little bent, it was just missing something and as soon as you have to defend a position that’s pretty much it for going forward.”
With these results Epps slips from 3rd to 7th in the UK Clio Cup standings, 23 points behind leader Max Coates, but remains upbeat about the championship and his new team.
“If I have a good run at Thruxton we’ll be back at the forefront of the fight, if not then I guess it gets a little harder and we’ll have to really make a difference at Oulton Park and Croft. That’s how a close championship like this works though; it’ll no doubt go to the final rounds with this many people in contention for it. The boys at Matrix have made a great effort so far, with a few things learned for sure, and as long as that continues I think we can be in a strong place for the rest of the season.”
The next rounds of the UK Clio Cup Series take place at Thruxton (Andover) in three weeks time on 19th/20th May. In the meantime races will feature online via ITV Player soon.