Matrix Motorsport’s Mike Epps put in another set of consistent results in what he referred to as a weekend with “a lot learned” as the UK Clio Cup headed up to North Yorkshire for rounds 9 & 10 at Croft Circuit.
The Matrix team has made steady progress from the beginning of the year starting completely new to the Clio Gen 4 race car and indeed the Clio Cup Championship. Epps and his engineer Ryan Brock have played a huge part in the team’s setup progression to the half-way point of the season and this has shown in the consistency of his pace. A number of changes were made during the Free Practice sessions to deal with tyre degradation and overall balance on a fast lap, with Epps sitting very near the top of the time sheets during both sessions.
His rivals all brought their A-game to Qualifying on Saturday morning though, with Epps managing an overall 7th and 6th place in his first and second-best lap times during the session, but remained confident the car’s pace was there, just three tenths of a second away from pole position around a minute and a half long lap.
“There is just a smidge in it”, said Epps after the session. “But honestly, I was completely on my own out there, I drove two almost perfect laps and with a small tow around the track from a fast team mate I’m sure that car could be parked on the front row. Sadly that’s just not always an option for me out there at present and every tiny little advantage you can get counts in this championship.”
With a fairly torrid first lap in Race 1, Epps fell back to 9th getting boxed in around the complex and losing places while other cars cut the chicane, but with cars ahead making contact and jostling for position, he scythed through to 7th immediately, 6th the lap after and 5th the lap after that. Setting his eyes on closing in on the top four who were battling up front, he was able to put a late move on Dan Zelos for 4th place in the final laps to cross the line in that position.
Race 2 took place on Sunday at the hottest point of the day in front of the ITV4 live cameras and a crowds of thousands flooding the grass banks around the circuit. Damaged sustained on the first lap meant Epps would struggle to move forward from 6th position throughout, the track temperature incredibly high, tyre degradation was a problem and with his tracking bent out of place he began to suffer early on. It became a race to hold position rather than fight forward and he held off Bradley Burns to cross the line 6th, just a few seconds behind the race winner.
“It’s incredibly close out there and we seem to struggle a little more when the sun is out and temperatures up. That and a slight knock to the rear left meant our tracking was out and we struggled around right handers, which is most of the circuit, but hey, that’s racing... That’s how it goes. We definitely learnt a few things here which we will take into summer testing to return for Snetterton in a few weeks time. The championship leader, who’s been unbeatable recently, didn’t have pace to run in the top 5 like us this weekend so that shows how things can swing from circuit to circuit, and if we can return to the second half of the season with even better form we’ll be in for a nice push to the end of the year I think. I’m proud of what we’ve managed on our own so far.”
Epps moves up to 5th place in the UK Clio Cup Championship standings with a long five-week break before the next encounter at Snetterton in Norfolk.