29/03/2018

Just over a week to go before new Renault UK Clio Cup season blasts off at Brands Hatch

After Mike Bushell romped to the crown in 2017 to land a seat in the British Touring Car Championship, all eyes are now on who will succeed him as Renault UK Clio Cup Champion in 2018 – beginning at Brands Hatch in just over a week’s time (Sat 7/Sun 8 April).
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Producing the future stars live on ITV4
As is now tradition, the new Clio Cup season kicks off alongside the opening rounds of the BTCC on Brands Hatch’s short but dramatic Indy circuit. In fact all 18 of its rounds in 2018 will take place at BTCC events – again guaranteeing that its drivers’ antics are broadcast live by ITV4.

Undeniably the Clio Cup is on a high with at least 14 drivers to have raced in it (or other Renault Sport categories) on the touring grid this year. They include of course Bushell but also Ashley Sutton – Clio Cup Champion in 2015 and now the reigning BTCC Champion. It’s quite a roll call...

The contenders
Picking out any clear favourite(s) is impossible with the quality of drivers among the finest in Clio Cup history. And that’s saying something!

Local team WDE Motorsport is surely set for its strongest season so far with an intriguing six-car line-up that includes Paul Rivett (Epsom Downs), Lee Pattison (Halifax), Dan Zelos (Dereham), the high profile Nic Hamilton (Welwyn Garden City), the rapid Sam Osborne (Worksop) and promising newcomer Nathan Edwards (Tunbridge Wells).

Significantly, Rivett is a three-time Clio Cup Champion, Pattison has been runner-up before and won last year’s opening round on the Brands Indy circuit and Zelos was twice on the podium in 2017's season finale, again at the Kent venue.

With just as much a focus on the Entrants Trophy as the drivers’ title, its rivalry with the thus-far all-conquering Team Pyro squad could be about to go into overdrive...

Pyro enters five cars. Joining it for 2018 are the experienced Max Coates (Scorton) and Daniel Rowbottom (Kidderminster) and one already senses an inter-team rivalry brewing between them. Staying with Pyro are exciting teen talents Bradley Burns (Farnham), Zak Fulk (Guildford) and Jack McCarthy (Bromley).

Meanwhile James Dorlin (Barnsley) – twice a winner in his debut season last year – and another former championship runner-up, James Colburn (Worthing), make a for an extremely strong pairing at Westbourne Motorsport.

There’s a new team on the block, too: Matrix Motorsport. It is fielding four immaculately turned out cars for Michael Epps (Hemel Hempstead), Andy Wilmot (Dartford), Aaron Thompson (Romford) and team boss Jeff Alden (Cheltenham). Epps and Wilmot have previously competed in the BTCC and Epps, most notably, started 2017’s final touring car round at Brands Hatch from pole position.

There’s a single car as well from the emerging MRM outfit, driven by another rapid Brands local Brett Lidsey (Northfleet).

When to watch
The Clio Cup’s teams and drivers will first be on track at Brands Hatch on Friday (6 Apr) for two officially timed free practice sessions. This is followed on the Saturday by timed qualifying (13:05-13:35) when each driver’s first and second fastest lap times will determine their starting grid positions for the two races. The first of those races – round one of the 2018 championship – takes place on Saturday afternoon, at 16:25. Round two, being broadcast live on ITV4, is at 13:30 on the Sunday.

Both races are 20 laps in distance. The Clio Cup’s current qualifying and race lap records around the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy circuit were both set in 2017 and are held by Mike Bushell and Shayne Deegan in times of 51.650 seconds and 52.223s respectively.