The 2010 Elf Renault Clio Cup has seen a entry list of just 13 cars announced ahead of the season opener at Thruxton this coming weekend, the 3rd and 4th April.

The 2010 season brings in a raft of changes being introduced into the championship, including a longer Saturday race: previously, the race on a Saturday would be limited to 30 minutes, this has been extended by 10 minutes to 40 minutes, and the qualifying session has been reduced by 10 minutes.

There are now another 2 classes within the Clio Cup this season, a Graduate cup class for drivers who are under the age of 23 on the 1st March 2010, and a new Masters Cup for entrants over 35 on the 1st March 2010.

Another change to the regulations will see incidents punished more harshly – for every penalty point a driver picks up, they will be dropped a place on the grid – so if a driver gets 3 penalty points after an incident in a race, they'll be dropped 3 places on the grid. The points will be doubled/trebled on a second/third offence, the grid drop isn't affected. In addition, the driver who shows the biggest amount of sportsmanship in a race weekend will be rewarded with a cheque for £200.

Drivers will also be able to enter as many overseas races as they like – so British drivers can enter the Belgium series, the Renault Clio Eurocup and the support race for the Nurburgring 24 hour support race.

The timed test at Snetterton saw 2 drivers dominate the day – Inverness based Dave Newsham and Loughborough University student Sam Tordoff dominate the timing sheets, with Newsham just having the upper hand over the 20 year old Tordoff.

Aron Smith, who was present at the test hasn't entered the series – meaning that the main competition to Tordoff and Newsham looks to come from 17 year old James Colburn.

Tordoff and Mike Robinson have both resigned with front runners Total Control Racing, while Newsham has joined Team Pyro alongside Jeff Smith (Wellingborough), David Dickinson (Keatingstown) and debutant Jack Goff (High Wycombe).

A reduced field and increased costs – will the on track action be affected? The fans will hope not, and hopefully more drivers will join during the season.

Number Driver Nationality Team Class
1 Jeff Smith GBR Team Pyro Masters
4 Dave Newsham GBR Team Pyro Masters
9 James Colburn GBR Westbourne Motorsport Graduate
10 Darren Wilson GBR 20Ten Racing Limited Masters
15 Matthew Munsen GBR Bluesquare Data/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering
18 Patrick Collins GBR Westbourne Motorsport Masters
22 Mike Robinson GBR Total Control Racing
33 Jack Goff GBR Team Pyro Graduate
44 Sam Tordoff GBR Total Control Racing Graduate
46 Robert Gaffney GBR Westbourne Motorsport Graduate
47 Jake Packun GBR Elite Motorsport Graduate
88 David Dickinson GBR Team Pyro
TBA Fulvio Mussi GBR YRC/JHR Developments

The 2010 Elf Renault Clio Cup starts its 20 race calendar this weekend at Thruxton, alongside the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship. The Clio Cup will support the BTCC at 9 out of the 10 race weekends, and will support the World Series by Renault for the other race weekend.

This weekend's action starts at 11.15am for the 20 minute qualifying session which decides both grids, with race 1 starting at 16.15, for the 16 lap race, with the 12 lap race due to start at 12.50 on the Sunday. This race will be live on ITV4, as part of the BTCC's live coverage.

Photo credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography