2013 was a season Ash Hand will remember for a long time. 2014 is one he hopes will be even more memorable.
The 19 year old burst onto the scene in the Renault UK Clio Cup last season. Despite joining the series with no previous car-racing experience, Hand was a top ten contender from the off with reigning champions Team Pyro.
Improving throughout the season, Hand excelled in the second half of the campaign, with five top six finishes in the final eight races, including a maiden podium finish at Rockingham. Those results gave him a top ten championship finish, and subsequently, a place on the KX Akademy for 2014.
Speaking to The Checkered Flag at the Autosport International Show, Ash reflected on his successful first Clio campaign.
“In practice before the first round we were 20th out of 24, which really hit home how quick the grid was. We got into the top ten in the first race though, so we knew we looked in good stead for the season,” he said.
“On the third weekend, we started battling at the front and got into the top five in qualifying for the first time. Knowing then that we had the pace made it so much easier to be confident racing. It got tricky at tracks I didn’t know, but with the podium at Rockingham, I don’t think I can be much happier with how the season went in terms of progression as a driver on and off track.”
Hand’s increasing presence at the front end of the field turned a few heads, and it appears that amongst those impressed by his performances were the judging panel for the KX Akademy.
The Nuneaton-based racer is one of three Renault UK Clio Cup drivers to be selected for the scheme this year, and is excited by the opportunity.
“The KX Akademy makes my career become more professional,” Hand enthused. “I need to take this chance now, and build my career around this opportunity I’ve been given. Jason Plato’s achieved a lot of the things I aspire to in my career, so to work with him gives me a massive boost, and I feel with KX’s backing, I can push myself to become a professional racing driver.”
The grid for the upcoming campaign is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent times, with Hand’s KX Akademy/SV Racing stable-mates Ant Whorton-Eales and Alex Morgan, as well as fellow front-runners Mike Bushell, Josh Cook and James Colburn all returning.
Despite the strong competition, Hand is confident he will be in the title mix come the end of the season.
“This year’s title has always been my goal since the beginning of 2013″ he concluded. “I knew last year would be a learning year, and I wanted to get on the podium which I did. I now look at this season as my season to shine, and to win the championship. As long as I work harder than any of the other drivers, it’s what I believe I can do.”