After a successful eight-race taster in 2013, the Michelin Clio Cup Series returns for 2014 as a fully-fledged, twelve race championship that will feature an initial grid of seventeen cars across its two classes.
The ‘racecar’ class uses the third-generation Renault Clio racers that were utilised in the main Renault UK Clio Cup between 2007 and 2013, while the ‘roadcar’ class incorporates race-readied Clio Renaultsport 197 road cars.
The championship kicks off at Rockingham this weekend (5/6 April) with the first two races, and will largely run alongside the Protyre Formula Renault Championship as it visits Oulton Park, Donington Park, Brands Hatch, Snetterton and Croft across the year.
Leading a great mix of experienced Clio drivers and talented category newcomers is the star of the 2013 series, Luke Herbert. The Chichester-based racer was the dominant force last year, taking five wins from six starts, and he returns for a title bid at the wheel of his self-run SRC Recycling-backed Clio.
Herbert will race competition from a number of big name teams from the UK Clio Cup, including Total Control Racing. Mike Robinson, a past regular in the Clio Cup, returns to Clio action after competing in Ginetta’s and Britcar since, and is sure to be a front-runner after topping the timesheets during the official test day at Rockingham recently.
Robinson will be joined in the TCR awning by returning driver Andy Jordan. Not to be confused with the reigning BTCC champion, Jordan won the final two races in the Series last year, and hopes to be a leading contender once again this time out.
Team Pyro, the champion team in the UK Clio Cup for six of the last seven years, will field three cars in the Series this year. David Dickenson maintains a long association with them, and will be a front-runner for sure with his past experience from the UK, Italian, Bohemia and Eurocup Clio championships.
Ollie Pidgley will be aiming to impress once again, having sensationally secured a podium finish in only his second ever car race in the category, while completed Pyro’s line-up is trackday enthusiast Andy Wilkins, who will be embarking on his first full season of racing.
Clio Cup front-runners SV Racing will continue in the Series this year with Sam Randon and Tommy Ostgaard. Both graduate to the main class after an impressive 2013 in the ‘roadcar’ class with SWB Motorsport, Ostgaard having taken the first six class wins before Randon grabbed the final two.
Three more experience Clio teams will be on the grid this year, with Westbourne Motorsport, 20Ten Racing and Finesse Motorsport. Westbourne will run Jacques Mizzi, who took a best finish of eleventh in last season’s Clio Cup, while 20Ten fields Brett Lidsey, the former privateer making a late decision to join an established team, having taken podium finishes last year.
Finesse meanwhile will enter Pete Bennett, who’s set for his full season of competition after making a huge impression on his motor-racing debut last year with a podium at Brands Hatch.
Completing the entry for the ‘racecar’ class is privateer Paul Streather, who joins the series with championship-winning experience after winning the MG Trophy in 2010 in his first season of car-racing.
The ‘roadcar’ class meanwhile features a five car entry, which currently doesn’t feature the class leaders from 2013, SWB Motorsport.
In their absence, the top returnee from last season is Jake Honour. The privateer improved markedly over the course of his first season of racing in 2013, and he returns this season hoping to add to the wins he secured in the end-of-season Autumn Cup event.
He main challenge looks set to come from former single-seater racer Anton Spires, who returns to his saloon car roots with Westbourne Motorsport having competed with them in Saxmax in 2008 and 2009.
Two drivers are joining the class from rather varied racing disciplines. Former Silverstone Tyres Stars 1400 Rally champion Luke Pinder will make his circuit racing bow with a family-run car, while ex-Motorcross rider Nic Harrison makes his series debut under the CGHimports.com banner.
Completing the line-up is lady racer Sarah Frankin, who joins the category as a former champion in the Production Touring Car Trophy.
*The Checkered Flag will be covering the Michelin Clio Cup Series throughout 2014, so keep an eye on the website for race reports, features and interviews*