Hand narrowly missed out on 2015’s UK Clio Cup title when he was pipped to the crown by Team Pyro team-mate Ashley Sutton in a nail-biting final round. Notably he ended the season with an unrivalled number of wins, pole positions and fastest laps.
His track record in the UK Clio Cup has now led to him being snapped up by Oregon to help it go for a second successive Renault Sport Trophy title after it emerged victorious in last year’s debut season for the R.S. 01.
Hand begins his Renault Sport Trophy adventure in its opening rounds this coming weekend (Sat 16/Sun 17 April) at Spain’s Motorland circuit.
Hand commented: “After establishing such a strong relationship with Renault during my three years racing in the UK Clio Cup it was important to me to remain in the family and build a future with them. The benefits of having that kind of bond with such a major manufacturer at this formative stage of my development really cannot be underestimated. Looking long-term this is the first step on the path towards a career as a factory GT or sportscar driver, which is my ultimate objective.
“The Renault Sport Trophy had been my number one choice for 2016 ever since I first tested the R.S. 01, when it absolutely blew me away. It’s an unbelievable car – fast and furious. And although it takes a while to master with the sheer amount of power and grip available, once you do get the hang of that it’s tremendously rewarding.
“One aspect that will be completely new to me is the endurance element. UK Clio Cup races are flat-out blasts, whereas now I’ll need to adopt a slightly different technique with more of a focus on conserving the tyres and fuel and generally looking after the car, which will add another useful took to my toolkit.”
Meanwhile, also this weekend, Sutton will be competing in the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship at Leicestershire’s Donington Park circuit – straight from his 2015 UK Clio Cup success, he stunned on his BTCC debut at Brands Hatch earlier this month with two top six race results. In fact at Brands Hatch past UK Clio Cup drivers filled 18 out of a possible 30 top-ten placings in the BTCC’s three races there. Also in action this weekend and beginning the defence of his British GT title (at Brands Hatch) will be 2005 UK Clio Cup Champion Jonny Adam (pictured bottom left).
Will Fewkes, Renault Sport’s UK Motorsport Championship Manager, said: “Ashley and Ash are concrete proof of how success in the Renault UK Clio Cup really makes a young driver stand out for top team bosses at a higher level and helps open doors for them.
“Everyone at Renault Sport UK is absolutely delighted to see Ash continuing his racing career with Renault and at a very high level on the international scene with the Renault Sport Trophy.
“We’ve already seen Ashley make an immediate impact in the BTCC while other past UK Clio Cup greats such as Jonny Adam and Tom Onslow-Cole have of course gone on to big things in GT and sportscar competition. I am sure Ash will soon be enjoying similar levels of success and we wish him the very best.”