Biggest Clio Cup grid of year set for penultimate rounds at Rockingham

Rockingham International Super Sportscar Circuit welcomes the always spectacular Renault UK Clio Cup this coming weekend, 14th/15th September, for the penultimate two rounds of the season – an event which will feature the biggest entry of the year with no fewer than 26 cars on the grid.

All eyes, of course, will be on the outstanding title battle between championship leader Josh Files (Norwich) and chief rival Paul Rivett (Banstead). Team Pyro’s Files will arrive in Northamptonshire with a 13-point lead on total scores, but with the category’s single ‘drop score’ ruling applied his advantage over three-time champion Rivett is cut to just six points.

While the Names.co.uk/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering driver has the greater number of victories this year, four to Files’ two successes, both competitors have been very evenly matched in terms of pace and consistency as a whole across the 12 races contested so far.

That said, over the past two race meetings Files has accrued a greater haul of points and since taking his maiden Renault UK Clio Cup race win during round nine at Croft, the 22-year-old’s campaign has really turned a corner. In qualifying of late Files has also been the driver to beat and he will begin the Rockingham weekend off the back of a run of four straight pole position starts.

With only two events now remaining of what has been a classic year of door handle-to-door handle action from the long-standing Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship support category, the brace of Rockingham encounters will certainly play a crucial role in the destiny of the 2013 title.

Should the main protagonists slip up at Rockingham, Alex Morgan (Reading) is well placed to take advantage. As a real stand-out performer in his maiden year of saloon car racing, the ex-Formula Renault single-seater campaigner goes into rounds 13 and 14 third in the championship and within 41 points of team-mate Files on drop-scores. Notably, he has already claimed a victory this year.

In total, there are still a possible 136 points on offer to any one driver which means, in terms of the mathematics, the top seven are still theoretically able to win the title. Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn (Worthing), KX Racing with Scuderia Vittoria’s Stefan Hodgetts (Redditch) and JHR Developments pairing Josh Cook (Bristol) and Lee Pattison (Liversedge) all have an outside chance.

Clio Series race winners Herbert & Felix graduate to Renault UK Clio Cup
Adding to the mix at Rockingham will be Michelin Clio Cup Series with Protyre regulars Luke Herbert (Chichester) and Peter Felix (Allestree, Derby), boosting the Renault UK Clio Cup grid to a fantastic 26 cars – rivalling that of the BTCC itself.

Herbert, who has set the standard in the inaugural Clio Series this year with five wins from six races, will make his debut in the flagship Clio Cup category and will compete under the SRC Recycling Ltd banner in deference to his chief sponsor.

“Originally we were set to do Renault UK Clio Cup this year”, said the 23-year-old, “The back-up plan was to race in the Michelin series and we’ve had a good year there, now my sponsor SRC has helped us find the budget to do Rockingham so it’ll be good to see how we compare. I’ve never run Dunlop tyres in my life so it’ll be interesting to see how much difference there is.

“I’ve no idea what to expect. At the minute the forecast for the weekend is for rain, so if it rains in testing on Friday I’ll be going into qualifying clueless! It’ll take a few laps to learn the Dunlops but I’m sure we’ll be up to pace pretty quickly. We’ve gone from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive this year without any trouble, so hopefully we can be fairly competitive.”

Felix, who will race with the same 20Ten Racing squad which fields his car in the Clio Series, makes a welcome return to the Renault UK Clio Cup for the first time since 2008. As the only driver other than Herbert to have won in the sister series, Felix – who will be eligible for the Masters Cup – will be aiming to match his younger rival.

“I’m under no illusions at all”, commented the 43-year-old, “It’s going to be great being back in the championship, we’ve had a pretty good run in the Clio Series this year and it’ll be another car on the grid for 20Ten which is obviously good.

“I have had a run on the Dunlop tyres and they’re a little different to say the least! I just want to enjoy it and try and stay with the other Masters guys like Simon [Belcher] and Ronnie [Klos]. It’s great Luke [Herbert] is doing Rockingham as well, I rate him very highly and I think it’s great for the Clio Series to have two of us racing in the main Clio Cup.”

Aside from the arrival of Herbert and Felix, one other change to the running order at Rockingham will be Mike Bushell (Tunbridge Wells) returning to race with his family’s MBR squad. Bushell, who made his BTCC debut at Knockhill two weeks ago during the break in the Clio Cup calendar, raced at Oulton Park, Croft and Snetterton with the KX Racing squad as part of a three-event deal.

Officially timed Renault UK Clio Cup testing at Rockingham will take place on Friday, 13th September, with the qualifying session for rounds 13 and 14 of the season scheduled to get underway at 10.50 on Saturday, 14th September, ahead of the first race of the weekend at 16.20.

On Sunday, 15th September, round 14 is scheduled to commence at approximately 14.40 and will be screened live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD – with the addition of live online streaming at www.itv.com/btcc

Renault UK Clio Cup is sponsored by www.buyoils.co.uk with support from ELF, NGK Spark Plugs, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup Driver Standings (after Rd12 inc. drop scores):
1st Josh Files, 287pts; 2nd Paul Rivett, 281pts; 3rd Alex Morgan, 246pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup WP Racing Clio Cup Team Trophy Standings (after Rd12):
1st Team Pyro, 552pts; 2nd Scuderia Vittoria, 445pts; 3rd JHR Developments, 403pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Graduate Cup’ Standings (after Rd12 – inc. drop scores):
1st Josh Files, 323pts; 2nd James Colburn, 276pts; 3rd Josh Cook, 268pts

Provisional 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Masters Cup’ Standings (after Rd12 – inc. drop scores):
1st Simon Belcher, 307pts; 2nd Graham Field, 263pts; 3rd Lee Pattison, 256pts