Renault Sport UK has announced a set of changes for the Renault Clio Cup, aiming to make the series more rewarding for drivers and more cost effective for teams, promoter Simon North explaining “After listening to feedback from all our existing teams we felt the timing was right to make significant changes in some key areas to the championship which will not only make the series more attractive but also help reduce costs. We've focused a lot of our attention on improving driving standards next season but also on the drivers themselves.”

Arguably the most important change will see the race weekends will see the Saturday race increased from 30 to 40 minutes, though the events at Croft, Oulton Park and Rockingham will only be 35 minutes due to the circuit restrictions. Conversely the qualifying session will be reduced by ten minutes to a 20 minutes session. The Sunday race will remain a 30 minutes.

Drivers will also enjoy “full access” to the overseas Clio races, including the Eurocup and Belgian national series as well as the support race for the Nurburgring 24 Hours.

The UK races will also see the introduction of two new championship prizes within the series, focussing on the range of racers that take part in the Clio Cup. Racers under 23-years-old will be eligible of the 'Graduate Cup', while those over 35 will also compete for the 'Masters Cup'. The winners of both will be awarded a trophy and will publically appear on the race podium beside the top three finishers.

Every driver, regardless of age, will be able to sign up for a fitness and nutrition programme, including pre- and post-season fitness assessments, access to state-of-the-art equipment and expert tuition. This is a programme that doubtless aims to improve the level of competition on the track, and perhaps give the younger drivers a appreciation for the levels of fitness needed if they are to progress up the racing ladder.

More definitely aiming to improve the racing is the announcement of a “tougher stance” on driving standards, which will see any driver given penalty points given an equal grid penalty for the next race – so a driver with two penalty points will be put back two places. As a carrot to that stick a £200 award, the ELF/Atol Driver of the Meeting award, will be introduced for competitors who exhibit sportsmanlike behaviour and clean racing over the course of the weekend.

The second strand of changes aims to cut the costs for the teams. Firstly the series will allow teams to run either the 2009 or 2010 spec engine without penalty, though the 2010 engined team will enjoy a 5hp boost. Tyre changes will also be limited during the season, with teams only allowed to change front tyres during the qualifying session while a new rule will allow teams to 'turn' their tyres to extend their lifespan. Michelin, the series' tyre supplier will also award two tyres to the winner of a draw at each of the ten UK rounds.

Clio Cup changes at a glance:

  • Saturday races extended to 40 minutes (35 at Rockingham Oulton Park and Croft), qualifying shortened to 20 minutes.
  • Drivers given full access to overseas races including Nurburgring 24 Hours support race, Eurocup and rounds of the Belgian championship.
  • Introduction of Graduate and Masters Cups, with winners being presented with their trophy on the race podium.
  • Availability of subsidised fitness and nutrition scheme for all drivers.
  • To increase driving standards drivers given penalty points will drop the same number of grid positions for the next race.
  • Introduction of ELF/Atol Driver of the Meeting award with £200 at each race weekend for the driver showing the most sportsmanlike ethics.
  • Teams will be able to run either the 2009 or the 2010 spec engine, without restriction.
  • Teams will only be allowed to change front tyres during qualifying, but will be permitted to 'turn' tyres.
  • All drivers will be entered into a draw with the winner being given two “bonus” tyres. Any driver will only be able to win once during the year.

Photo credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography