Mark Howard, the 1993 Renault 5 ELF Turbo UK Cup Champion, will rekindle his association with the Renault brand this season – some 21 years since winning the title – having purchased a new fourth generation Clio Cup car for participation in the 2014 Renault UK Clio Cup.
Acquiring the 1.6-litre turbo powered Clio from Daniel Rowbottom, 49-year-old Howard will contest his maiden season in Renault UK’s flagship contemporary saloon car championship with the former’s Kidderminster based DRM Motorsport Solutions squad.
After winning the Renault 5 title with Mark Fish Motorsport, Howard – a property developer from Westborough in Nottinghamshire – departed the racing scene to focus on family and business commitments but made a long overdue return to action in 2011 in the Volkswagen Racing Cup.
Making a handful of appearances in Radicals the following year, added to a few more VW outings, he returned to the sidelines once again in 2013 but is now ready to mount a full-time campaign in the prestigious Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship-supporting Renault UK Clio Cup.
“Twenty one years after winning the [Renault 5 Turbo] championship, I’m back with Renault to race people who weren’t even born when I had my previous success!”, said Howard, “I’m firmly in the Masters Cup class now and it’s going to be an interesting time seeing if I still have the reactions and speed to match my competitiveness.
“I can’t wait to get out there in the car and I’m looking forward to working with Daniel [Rowbottom] and his team. It’s a big challenge, one I really am relishing, but I’m not taking anything for granted as it’s a very long time since I won in the Renault 5 Turbo UK Cup!”
Team principal Rowbottom, who had initially intended to compete himself in the Clio Cup this year until the loss of a couple of sponsors led to a change of plan, is looking forward to being part of the BTCC weekends again – five years since he last raced in the now defunct SEAT Cupra Championship.
“We bought one of the new Clios back when they first became available last year, unfortunately though a couple of sponsors pulled out of the programme and it’s just been too late to try and save the situation for me to get back out there racing”, he commented, “So we put the car up for sale and Mark [Howard] got in touch, he bought it and now we’re going to run him.
“Originally I planned to race in Clios as a one year programme with a view to then moving into the BTCC next year, but with the sponsorship problems that’s all a bit academic now. We’re looking forward to running Mark this year and if we can have a successful season, I wouldn’t rule out running cars in the Clio Cup in 2015. Equally, we’d be happy to run any owner-drivers this year too.”
Rowbottom added: “Although my business, and my dad’s business, is automotive based rather than racing based like most teams in the championship, I’m confident we have the best kit of any team outside touring cars. Winning happens at the workshop as much as it does at the race track.”
Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent will host the opening two rounds of the 2014 Renault UK Clio Cup on 29th/30th March.
Renault UK Clio Cup is supported by ELF, Performance Friction, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.