Hard time for IWI Watches Fastest Lap winner Cliffe
A tough round seven for Tristan Cliffe ended on a relative high at Snetterton’s when he collected his fifth IWI Watches Fastest Lap Award in a row.
A tough round seven for Tristan Cliffe ended on a relative high at Snetterton when he collected his fifth IWI Watches Fastest Lap Award in a row. The championship contender had a nightmare weekend, fastest lap of the weekend and pole aside, but he admits he can take some solace from his pace.
"It's nice to be racking up some trophies, I must confess the winner's trophy is the one I covet the most. But, being quickest is half the battle so taking home the IWI again is a good thing even if we didn't get the result that we wanted. This is the fifth meeting in a row so that's pretty nice and I think that means I've had nine poles in a row.
"I think the fastest lap was three-quarters of a second or something faster than Alice's, we got the class lap record but we didn't quite beat Linton [Stutely's time from last year]. It seems to be raining on Friday at these weekends [at Snetterton] and it cleans the track but we weren't a million miles off. It wasn't the high grip circuit I was expecting so to take fastest lap and a lap record is comfort I suppose."
The weekend's fastest lap time was posted just a couple of laps before Cliffe and Championship leader Alice Powell came together at Riches and careered into the barrier. The clean-up operation is still ongoing but Cliffe and Omicron Motorsport have been aided by the many helping hands that have thrust their way, including from Mark Bailey Racing in the shape of gearbox casing.
"The community spirit has been incredible and it's not just limited to F3 Cup. It's people on the sidelines that aren't anything to do with it but have some involvement in other ways like John Miller from West-Tec. We bought last year's car off West-Tec and he was instrumental in drafting the rules that allowed the Piedrafita in, he's come up with an airbox; [Kevan] McLurg, who narrowly missed out on the Mono championship, he's come up with mirror glass, wing endplates and throttle body parts.
"We're kind of overwhelmed by the level of support and help and assistance from not just the paddock but one step away from the paddock."
Cliffe admits the turnaround between Snetterton and round eight at Donington isn't making the job any easier and is expecting long nights. It "will be touch and go" whether the car makes it out and testing may be required if time permits, but he hasn't ruled out using the car that took him to the Cup class and Teams' titles in 2012 to continue his bid to retain that title.
"It's still an option and if with two or three days to go it's not looking like it's going to get there then that's an option. People have even suggested taking the Mugen engine out and putting it in the red car but that's a big job. If it is the red car it will be out as it is.
"Times weren't too bad at the beginning of the year  but we faded. Partially that's [because] we went the wrong way on set-up and I was overdriving it. Plus everybody else got a bit quicker as well. Those cars are good in the wet, if we would have had a wet race at Snetterton I think Alice would have been pretty difficult to beat. The only reason I beat her at Brands GP was because she was stuck behind me and Louis. If it rains at Donington the red car would probably actually be the best thing to do but we're not going to go down that route just yet."
The Leicestershire circuit is similar in terms of set-up according to Cliffe meaning he can effectively revert to the car he had prior to Snetterton with some small tweaks. He's still eyeing the title, and with two rounds of two races left to race there are still 126 points to be won.
"If I don't test it's going to be a fairly interesting few laps in qualifying to find out what I've got underneath me. I'm not really worried about qualifying and that session I just want to end up there and get to the assembly area.
"I think [the gap] is 20 points after dropped scores, five points on average each race. If I took every win, every pole and fastest lap with Alice second I'll end up four short at the end of it. I need to win everything and be quick and need her to finish third, fourth or DNF. It's a really, really long shot now. I think I want to win it more than ever."
Photo credit Jonathan Hatfield