Reigning Renault UK Clio Cup champion entrant Team Pyro has today, Monday, 18th February, officially confirmed a five driver line-up for the 2013 season as it seeks to retain its place as the standard-setting squad in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship support category.
Alongside the returning Josh Files (Norwich) and 2012 Masters Cup Champion Simon Belcher (Swindon), the multiple championship winning team – which steered BTCC graduate Jack Goff to the Clio Cup drivers’ crown last year – has signed deals with former single-seater racers Alex Morgan (Reading) and James Nutbrown (Oxford), as well as karting graduate Ash Hand (Nuneaton).
“With this line-up, and having seen what they’ve all done in testing so far, I’m really confident we’ll have a strong team this year”, said Team Pyro principal Mark Hunt, “We’ve certainly got three or four lads who will be front-runners and if they all work together well, which we’re expecting, we’ve got a great chance of staying on top.
“I’m really pleased with the guys we’ve got, there’s a good new influx into the team with Alex, James and Ash joining Josh and Simon. We want to try and hold on to our championships, you always want to win – that’s why you put all the effort in. We’ve got a good test plan in place between now and the start of the season, we’re really looking forward to it and it should be a great year.”
Files, of course, was a true front-runner in Renault UK Clio Cup last year and ended a successful second season in the category sixth overall in the driver standings with four podiums to his credit and four pole positions. The 22-year-old, who was the best rookie in the series in 2011, will undoubtedly begin the new season as a very real threat for title success.
Belcher, who runs under the Handy Motorsport banner with assistance from Barwell-based Team Pyro, took 11 class victories on his way to the Masters Cup title in 2012 and is focused on retaining the crown in his second year of Clio action. Beginning his sports career in the realms of Jet-Ski racing, the 39-year-old was a multiple title winner on water before making the switch to cars.
Single-seater converts Morgan and Nutbrown are both expected to make a smooth transition to the world of front-wheel drive saloon car racing. For the former, this season will mark a return to active competition for the first time since 2008 – the 25-year-old has spent the last four years studying and training to become a qualified solicitor.
Starting out in karting, Morgan graduated into the Protyre Formula Renault Championship in 2005 where he won on his debut. Moving into Formula Renault UK for that year’s Winter Series, he then remained in the category for the next two seasons before stepping-up into Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 2.0 NEC in 2008 where he achieved podium success.
Nutbrown actually began his racing career in ‘tin tops’ in 2007 in the T-Car Championship but, when the series was shelved, he switched to ‘slicks and wings’ competition in the Autosport Young Guns category – which subsequently became the InterSteps Championship. Establishing himself as a true front-runner there, the 19-year-old is now focused on carving out a successful career in saloons.
Teenage racer Hand is the least experienced of the Team Pyro quintet, the 18-year-old making the move up into cars for the first time this year after a stellar karting career. Winning the Rotax Junior MSA Kartmasters Grand Prix in 2009, the following year Hand secured the Formula Kart Stars Junior Max title and was runner-up in the Kartmasters GP before graduating into Senior Rotax.
As well as competing for the coveted Renault UK Clio Cup title this year, the eventual champion will also win a prize test drive in one of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s NGTC cars in addition to the loan, for one year, of a brand new road-going Clio Renaultsport 200.
Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent will host the opening two rounds of the 2013 Renault UK Clio Cup season over Easter weekend, 30th/31st March.