Stars of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, European Le Mans Series and Blancpain Endurance Series teamed-up with Renault UK at Brands Hatch in Kent on Monday, 3rd November, to put the latest Renaultsport roadcar and racecar products through their paces.
Touring car race winners Mat Jackson and Aron Smith, both graduates of the Renault UK Clio Cup, were joined by newly crowned European Le Mans Series Champion Oli Webb, a former racer in Formula Renault UK and now part of Signatech-Alpine, 2009 Renault UK Clio Cup Champion Phil Glew and 2009 Renault UK Clio Cup ‘Winter Cup’ Champion Daniel Lloyd.
Conducting some special filming at the Kent track, which will form the basis of exciting video content to be utilised on Renault UK and Renaultsport UK’s various media and promotional channels in the coming weeks, each of the drivers took turns behind the wheel of the Renault UK Clio Cup race car, sister Clio Renaultsport 200 Turbo EDC roadcar and Mégane Renaultsport 275 Trophy roadcar.
Mat Jackson, one of the most successful drivers currently competing in the BTCC, cut his teeth in the Renault UK Clio Cup back in 2000 and says the latest fourth generation racing Clio, powered by a 1.6-litre turbo-charged engine, is closer than ever to touring cars.
“It was a great day, thoroughly enjoyable”, commented Jackson, , “The comparison between the road Clio and the race car was incredible, there’s a lot of stuff carried over in the DNA and both cars really are a lot of fun to drive and have very good performance.
“The race car has moved on massively since I was in Clios, it’s a huge step forward – especially the technology – and clearly produces great racing, the close action obviously replicates the sort of thing you find in touring cars. The Clio Cup is a fantastic package and it was undoubtedly a key stepping stone for me on the way to the BTCC, it’s even closer to touring cars now with the new car.”
Fellow ‘tin top’ ace Aron Smith, who debuted in the BTCC in 2011 before his first full season the following year, believes the Renault UK Clio Cup is the only championship an aspiring BTCC racer should consider on their way up the saloon car racing ladder.
He said: “We had such a laugh today, fantastic fun! The latest Clio is most definitely a step closer to the BTCC than the car I raced a few years ago, the paddle-shift gears, the turbo, everything is nearer to touring car and GT racing. The road car is surprisingly similar to the race car, you can definitely see and sense one has evolved from the other and they’re not two separate projects.
“The road Clio is a perfect trackday car and really is very similar to the race car, they’re both great to drive and really good fun. If you’ve got aspirations of being in the BTCC one day, for me the Clio Cup is the only championship to consider and to prepare you for that.”
ELMS Champion Webb ‘very impressed’ with Clio Cup test experience
While Oli Webb’s career path only briefly included ‘tin top’ racing early on, instead rising up the single-seater ranks before switching to sportscars and the upper echelons of prototype competition, the 2014 European Le Mans Series Champion is full of appreciation for the performance offered by the racing Renault Clio. He also says it can be a starting point for drivers aiming for sportscar careers.
“It’s been a great experience, there are some amazing comparisons between the road and race Clios which are both very impressive cars”, he reflected, “In a straight line they’re identical and it was great to be out there passing Ferraris and GT-Rs – all credit to Renault for producing a fantastic car.
“Clio Cup is definitely a route to go down whether a driver is looking at touring cars or sportscar racing and with the introduction of the new [Renaultsport] R.S.01 for next year in Europe, the path is there. Renault has one of the clearest routes through motorsport, whether in single-seaters or in touring cars and now GTs as well.”
Phil Glew, who graduated into the BTCC after winning the Renault UK Clio Cup crown in 2009 and now works as an instructor and colour commentator for ITV Sport’s Renault Clio coverage, is the most familiar of all of the drivers with the fourth generation car having conducted plenty of test miles already.
“Everything was spot on, even though the weather was pretty horrible!”, said Glew, “I obviously know the race car well already as I’ve done a lot of work on it with Renault, but the road car was superb as well. Both cars were faultless, so easy to drive and the other guys who hadn’t driven them before had a great time and really enjoyed it.
“It was a bit annoying it was so wet, but the conditions showed how good the cars are. The new Clio bridges the gap between the old car and touring cars and it’s much similar to BTCC now – the 1.6 turbo, it’s more economical, better brakes, everything has definitely moved in the right direction.”
Blancpain Endurance Series and Blancpain Sprint Series racer Daniel Lloyd thoroughly enjoyed being back in a front-wheel drive Clio for the first time since 2009 and says racing in such a competitive category is something all drivers need to do, in order to learn as much as possible before making the onward step to touring cars or GT racing.
“The new racing Clio is good fun to drive, compared to the one I raced five years ago it feels a lot more solid and there’s more grip, not as twitchy”, he commented, “The paddle-shift is really good too, there’s no delay whatsoever with the gear changes – it’s an impressive gearbox.
“As well as being a great car, the biggest thing about the Clio Cup is how competitive it is as a one-make championship. It’s so close and teaches you so much, you’re always looking for tenths and hundredths of a second and that helps you when you move on to touring cars or GTs. The race car and road car are really nice to drive, you can definitely see the link between them.”
The Courier Connections Renault UK Clio Cup is supported by ELF, Performance Friction, WP Racing and official tyre supplier Dunlop.