Half the current BTCC grid consists of drivers to have come up through the Renaultsport ranks including champions Jason Plato and Andrew Jordan as well as winner in Oulton Park’s touring car event three weeks ago, Yorkshire’s Sam Tordoff. Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton’s brother Nicolas – who is set to make his BTCC debut at Croft this weekend – is another ex-Clio Cup racer.
A bumper crowd is expected during Croft’s headline fixture and leading the 2015 Clio Cup standings arriving there is SV Racing’s Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) but, with three wins from the last four races, Team Pyro rival Ash Hand (Nuneaton) is putting him under pressure.
The pair clashed on track fighting for race victory at Oulton so expect fireworks at Croft with each knowing this is a chance to psychologically put one over on the other before the championship’s mid-season break.
Both could easily find themselves being upstaged, however. Hand’s team-mate, BMR Restart-backed Ashley Sutton (Bishops Stortford), has also won this year and is a menacing third in the standings – eager to make up ground and for the disappointment of a retirement at Oulton. WDE Motorsport’s Paul Rivett (Epsom) opened his victory account at Oulton while next up is 20Ten Racing’s Jordan Stilp (Towcester) who won both races at Croft 12 months ago. Both will surely sense this is the moment to begin clawing back points on the top three…
Loitering not too far behind in the table are SVR’s Jack Mitchell (West Kingsdown), Charles Ladell (Ipswich), Rory Collingbourne (Newport, South Wales) and George Jackson (Bedford) – the last three named all racing for BTCC ace Josh Cook’s Team Cooksport squad – and Pyro’s Brett Smith (Wellingborough), the son of touring car racer Jeff Smith. Notably Mitchell and Ladell are tied on points for sixth overall.
After some misfortune, JamSport’s Dan Holland (Dagenham) is looking to finally begin scoring big points on a regular basis, while his young team-mate Tom Grundy (Dubai) and WDE’s Rory Green (Hildenborough) are also ones to watch. Likewise Pyro’s Mark Howard (Oakham) and 20Ten’s Graham Field (Nottingham) who both qualify for the Masters Cup class for older drivers.
The Clio Cup grid this weekend will also have a local driver for the Croft crowd to cheer on with Bishop Auckland’s Paul Donkin, currently a front-runner in club-level sportscars, having agreed to race a third SVR car.
The Clio Cup grid will be first on track at Croft this Friday with two test sessions as the drivers fine-tune their cars’ behaviour to the track’s characteristics which include a mixture of low, medium and high-speed bends. On Saturday follows the half-hour timed qualifying session (11.20am) to determine the starting grids for both races – the first of which is later that afternoon at 4.25pm. That leaves race two, on Sunday and live on ITV4, at 1.50pm.