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Daniel Rowbottom (Kidderminster) and first-time winner Jack McCarthy (Bromley) shared the victories in two pulsating Renault UK Clio Cup rounds at Rockingham over the weekend, but it is Max Coates (Scorton) who leaves the Northamptonshire circuit still ahead in the title race, albeit by the reduced margin of just seven points.

Team Pyro’s McCarthy had celebrated his 18th birthday by qualifying on pole position for the first of the two races, held on Saturday. He held the lead early on, too, but was soon passed by Rowbottom who, having come through from sixth on the grid, went on to achieve his and his small DRM team’s second win in three races.

WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Epsom Downs) also got past McCarthy to finish second as the teenager took third. However a retirement for Coates meant his three main title rivals – Rivett, Westbourne Motorsport’s James Dorlin (Barnsley) and Rowbottom – had closed on him dramatically at the top of the table, his lead over nearest challenger Rivett now down to just five points…

Sunday’s race, round 14 of the 18-round season, took place in tricky, damp conditions but McCarthy was unfazed. Live on ITV4, he led all the way and set the fastest lap to become the fifth different winner in 2018.

He was followed across the line by Michael Epps (Hemel Hempstead) – second place his and the Matrix Motorsport team’s best result to date – while Coates put the disappointment of Saturday’s race behind him with a strong third position.

With Rivett, Dorlin and Rowbottom finishing behind him in fourth, 12th and 15th positions it means Coates will take a seven-point championship lead over Rivett into the penultimate 15th and 16th rounds of the season at Silverstone, Northants (Sat 15/Sun 16 September). Dorlin and Rowbottom, 30 and 61 points adrift, are Coates’s other most likely challengers although the maths say that eight drivers in all can still be crowned Champion.

Elsewhere there were several other stand-out performances at Rockingham. Seventeen-year-old Burns had qualified second fastest to McCarthy for the opening race of the weekend – their combined age of 35 making for the youngest front row of a grid in Clio Cup history – and had then also been on pole for race two.

Matrix’s Aaron Thompson (Romford) celebrated his best result of the season so far – a tenth place – in race one. Luke Warr (Sudbury) and the small BLG team also made great strides and, in terms of pace, were suddenly much closer to many of their more experienced rivals.

Meanwhile Pyro can clinch the Entrants Trophy title for teams at Silverstone next month as can Burns the Entrants Trophy for young drivers in their first full Clio Cup season.

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