A huge field of 25 cars are set to line up at Brands Hatch this weekend for the start of what is sure to be a fascinating 2012 AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK.
The 2011 championship saw a dramatic four way title fight go down to the final weekend, with Paul Rivett emerging victorious, and 2012 is set to be another great campaign, with an exciting entry of series newcomers and experienced Clio stars set to battle it out over 16 rounds at the UK's best tracks.
Leading the entry for this season is reigning champion Paul Rivett. The three-time champion returns once again with Stancombe Vehicle Engineering and as well as racing, he will be coaching his new team-mate Adam Gould, a rally graduate who is making his circuit racing debut this year.
Looking to overthrow Rivett will be two of the title contenders from 2011, James Dixon and James Colburn. Dixon is having a change of scenery this year, switching from Total Control Racing to Scuderia Vittoria, a team who took race wins in their debut season last year. Dixon will be joined at the team by fellow returnee Luke Wright and three Clio Cup rookies, Vic Covery Jnr, Finlay Crocker and Ronnie Klos.
Colburn is sticking with the Westbourne Motorsport team this year after taking his maiden series win with them last year. The team is expanding to a three car outfit this year, with 2011 Saxmax runner up William Davison and 2011 Mini Challenge club class champion Ant Whorton-Eales joining Colburn. Whorton-Eales in particular will be one to watch after taking four competitive top eight finishes when joining the Clio Cup at Rockingham and Brands Hatch GP last season.
2008, 2009 and 2010 championship winning team Team Pyro are bringing a strong quintet of drivers to the grid this year as they look to regain their title. Leading them is a trio of returnees from last year, race-winner Jack Goff, Josh Files and Adam Bonham. Joining them is Swedish racer Kim Andersson, who impressed on his debut in the Winter Series last November, and Simon Belcher, who will be running his Karcher-backed car with Handy Motorsport with support from Pyro.
Another returning driver from 2011 hoping to make a real impact this season is Nicolas Hamilton, who will looking to build on his best result of ninth from last year with Total Control Racing. The former championship winners will also be running former club-level Formula Ford racer Rob Smith.
For 2012 the championship has attracted some new teams from its fellow BTCC support championships. From the Porsche Carrera Cup GB has come Juta Racing, the Lithuanian team bringing native drivers Tautvydas Barstys and Ignas Gelzinis, whilst Finnesse Motorsport join the series with Jake Giddings and Aaron Williamson from the Ginetta Juniors and Ginetta GT Supercup respectively. Williamson in particular will be one to watch after winning the end of season Clio Finals Series.
Rounding out the grid are 20Ten Racing, running reigning Masters Cup class winner Darren Wilson and Josh Cook, Silver Fox Racing with Mark Tilbury, and Mike Bushell in a self-titled entry.
With a trio of early championship favourites and a host of potential race winners, the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK is shaping up for another exciting years racing in 2012 and you can keep up to date with it throughout the year at TheCheckered Flag.co.uk, where we’ll be bringing you qualifying and race reports from every round, as well as exclusive interviews and blogs through the year.