Renault UK’s single-model racing categories, famed for their action-packed races, boast an unrivalled track record in producing touring car winners in the modern era. In 2015, courtesy of proactive tyre supplier Dunlop, the Clio Cup Champion will be rewarded with a prize test with leading BTCC team Motorbase and in Renaultsport’s sensational 500bhp R.S.0.1 ‘silhouette’ racing car.
All 18 races on this year’s Clio Cup calendar take place at British Touring Car events meaning huge trackside crowds and live TV coverage on ITV4 (this Sunday 10.30am-6.30pm).
“Our prize tests are something every driver on the grid will really be hungry for – on top of the kudos of winning them, both tests can really lead to big things for the eventual Champion,” explains Renault UK Clio Cup Championship manager Will Fewkes. “Given the depth in talent on our grid this year, picking a potential Champion is impossible which can only add to the unpredictability, drama occasional controversial moment that lies ahead – something that every sporting contest craves.
“It would not surprise me if when we return to Brands Hatch in October for the final two races of our season there are still at least six drivers in contention for the crown.”
And adds Renault UK’s Communications Director Jeremy Townsend: “We are all hugely excited about the forthcoming season – both the buzz and anticipation surrounding the championship have grown.
“The roster of star names to have come through Renault UK’s motor sport family always makes us immensely proud and I predict a number of drivers on this year’s UK Clio Cup grid are also set to join that illustrious hall of fame. The quality is outstanding and I am sure that is going to be translated into some terrific action on the track.”
Team Pyro has won six of the last seven titles with drivers such as Jack Goff, Dave Newsham and Mike Bushell who are all now in the BTCC. For 2015 it is pinning its hopes on Bishop Stortford’s Ashley Sutton (whose car is being run in conjunction with Colin Turkington and Jason Plato’s BTCC team BMR) and Wellingborough’s Brett Smith (son of BTCC racer Jeff), plus Ash Hand (Nuneaton), a front-runner in 2014 with SV Racing.
It was SVR’s Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield), another of last year’s top names, who set the pace in the Clio Cup’s recent official pre-season test with a time around Rockingham that was almost a second and a half under the race lap record. Much of that sudden leap in time is down to a new Dunlop tyre compound and it will be interesting to see if Josh Files’s and Paul Rivett’s respective qualifying and race lap records at Brands Indy can be beaten this weekend.
SVR, the reigning Teams Champion, has also signed Jack Mitchell – the 16-year-old from West Kingsdown won 2014’s Ginetta Junior title and becomes the Clio Cup’s youngest driver (he turns 17 next Tuesday)!
Jordan Stilp (Towcester) took three wins in 2014 as he and 20Ten Racing mounted a late title bid and it’s a driver-team partnership that can never be ruled out. Likewise three-time Champion Rivett (Epsom), always mighty at Brands and in a car prepared just a stone’s throw away in Ashford-based WDE Motorsport’s workshops. Bear in mind he has won 12 times in the past around the Brands Indy circuit and ended 2014 with a win in the final round on the venue’s larger Grand Prix track…
One name that will stand out on the entry is list is Freddie Hunt (Goodwood) – son of Britain’s 1976 Formula 1 World Champion James (who recalls his dad’s famous ‘win’ here in ’76 amid a near riot from the crowd)? Freddie joins new team BKR which is taking guidance from 2014 champ Mike Bushell whose arch rival of last year, Josh Cook and also now on the BTCC grid, has formed his own Clio Cup team, Cooksport. Similarly he is passing on many tips to drivers Rory Collingbourne (Newport) and Charles Ladell (Nacton).
Collingbourne and Ladell are just two of many exciting new talents: JamSport’s Dan Holland (the Dagenham driver impressive in Rockingham’s test), George Jackson (Bedford) and Thomas Grundy – flying to and from races from his home in Dubai! – are all ones to watch. Likewise WDE’s Rory Green, another local to Brands from Hildenborough…
Nottinghamshire duo Mark Howard and Graham Field (20Ten) and Yeovil’s Ben Seyfried (SVR) are eligible for the over-38s (Masters) Cup. So, too, is Farningham ex-para Paul Knapp, a late entry with Cooksport.