Michelin Clio Cup Road Series young driver test proves major success

Rising stars from the world of karting and junior level motorsport had the opportunity to get their first taste of the burgeoning Michelin Clio Cup Road Series on Thursday, 31st October, during a specially organised ‘sampler’ outing at Silverstone Stowe Circuit.

Henry Surtees Challenge prize winner Jacob Stilp (Northampton) made his testing debut in the Monster Sport Europe-prepared Michelin Clio Cup Road Series car he will pilot in the ‘Autumn Cup’ at Rockingham a fortnight from now, and the 17-year-old former kart racer was joined by several of his contemporaries who are all eyeing potential graduation into the category.

Ryan Harper-Ellam (Brackley), who currently competes in TKM Karting, was offered the chance to experience a race-converted Clio Renaultsport 197 along with a talented trio of female karters who won the opportunity to test through a British Women Racing Drivers Club (BWRDC) competition.

Jessica Hawkins (Farnham) and Essex-based twin sisters Molly and Daisy Hart, all of whom are keen to graduate into saloon car racing, made their respective test debuts. Additionally, Rob Cox – who raced to the Vice-Champion’s position in his first season in the Vortex Motorsport News Ford Fiesta Junior Championship this year – was also invited to take part as he evaluates his 2014 options.

Stilp, who will run under the Henry Surtees Foundation banner in the Autumn Cup, said: “I’ve really enjoyed my first test but I will be taking a cautious approach to the race weekend, I won’t be taking any risks but I am looking to do well. Before going to Rockingham I’m hoping to get some help and tips off my uncle Jordan [Stilp – Renault UK Clio Cup racer].”

Stilp Jnr’s father Daniel, who competed in the Renault UK Clio Cup back in 2002, rolled back the years with a run in the white MSE car and added: “I wasn’t expecting the Road Series car to handle as well as it did to be honest. I think it’s great value for money racing, I can see we could build a car ourselves and run it ourselves pretty cost effectively – I could even have a go myself!”

On hand throughout the day at the Northamptonshire track were experienced Protyre Formula Renault Championship racer Jack Dex (Daventry) and Michelin Clio Cup Road Series competitor Jake Honour (Melksham) to provide advice, insight and driver coaching for the newcomers.

Hawkins, who is determined to make the graduation from karts to cars, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to drive a Road Series car and has identified the category as a destination of choice for 2014. “I can't tell you enough how much I want to do this”, said the 18-year-old, “I am desperate to move up from karts – I would love to do some more running in the car, it felt great.”

Sisters Molly and Daisy Hart ran in different cars, Monster Sport Europe and SWB Motorsport fettled Clios respectively. Although Daisy’s run was unfortunately cut short after a brush with the pit wall, Molly – who had never experienced a manual gearbox before – had a trouble-free run.

“After the familiarisation laps with Jack [Dex], which were really helpful, it was easy to drive and I really enjoyed it”, said the 17-year-old, “I see the Michelin Clio Cup Road Series as a great stepping stone to go up into the main Renault UK Clio Cup and BTCC [British Touring Car Championship] which is where I ultimately want to be. The test was great, everyone has been so friendly and helpful.”

Cox, who is keen to make the step into Renault Clio racing after his maiden run in a Clio Renaultsport 197, said: “I was pleasantly surprised at the power of the Clio and the grip levels. The test has been a great opportunity and the Michelin Clio Cup Road Series is a very affordable championship from where I could start working my way up to the BTCC.”

Rockingham’s International Super Sportscar Circuit will host the Michelin Clio Cup Series Autumn Cup over the weekend 16th/17th November.

Along with headline sponsors Michelin and Protyre, the Clio Cup Series is additionally supported by Safety Devices, Mark Fish Motorsport and The Lubricant Consultancy.