At least eighteen drivers are set to take to the grid at Brands Hatch this weekend for the opening rounds of the 2015 Renault UK Clio Cup, the entry list featuring a number of fast returning drivers alongside some talented Clio newcomers.
2015 marks the second season for the fourth-generation Clio Cup racer in the UK, following a successful debut last year with six different race-winners and ten podium finishers, while the series has no title sponsor this campaign after a solitary season with Courier Connections.
Team Pyro and SV Racing were the teams to beat last season: Pyro’s Mike Bushell pipped SV’s Josh Cook to the title for his team’s sixth drivers success in seven years, whilst SV had four drivers in the championship top eight with a total of eight race wins and 26 podium finishes across the season.
This year though, two of the smaller outfits on the Clio Cup grid have the goal of dethroning them, 20Ten Racing and WDE Motorsport with Jordan Stilp and Paul Rivett respectively.
With Bushell and Cook stepping up to the BTCC this year, Stilp returns for his third Clio campaign as the highest placed returning driver from 2014. The 20 year old finished third last year thanks to three wins, and is now firmly targeting a full title charge this campaign.
Rivett meanwhile has his sights on an unprecedented fourth Clio title after a positive learning year in his driver/team manager role with WDE last year. Following four second place finishes, Rivett finally took a race win in the final race of the season, a real confidence booster for the new campaign.
Don’t rule Pyro and SV out by any means though, with Pyro putting together a strong line-up for their latest title defence. Ash Hand is their standout bet for a championship challenge as he returns to the team after a season away at SV Racing, with five podium finishes coming his way last year.
Brett Smith joins the grid having won on his Michelin Clio Cup Series debut at Donington Park last year, and the son of BTCC racer Jeff is targeting the title in his maiden year. So is his team-mate Ashley Sutton, who enters Clios after a superb Formula Ford GB campaign last year with backing from BTCC outfit Team BMR.
SV Racing’s charge meanwhile will be headed by Ant Whorton-Eales as he gets set to embark on his fourth season in the series. A race-winner late in 2013, the 20 year old couldn’t add any victories last year, but consistent top six results gave him fourth in the points.
Whorton-Eales is joined by the reigning Ginetta Junior champion Jack Mitchell, who will be hoping to be a front-runner from the off after showing impressive pace in testing, and experienced club racer Ben Seyfried, a three-time Super Mighty Mini champion and former Fun Cup vice-champion.
A host of young chargers are hoping to join them in the front end of the field, led by two drivers running under the wing of reigning vice-champion Josh Cook at new outfit Team Cooksport, top four race finisher from last season Charlie Ladell and Rory Collingbourne, who moves into Clios from Ford Fiesta racing.
Three other Fiesta graduates are teaming up at JamSport, Tom Grundy, George Jackson and Dan Holland, the latter having joined the Clio Cup for the final two weekends last year and taken a fourth place finish, while another former Fiesta racer Rory Green joins the grid with WDE Motorsport.
Taking on the youngsters will be the entrants in the Masters Cup, a class Rivett won last year but has elected not to defend. That leaves four contenders for the class at present, the aforementioned Seyfried, 20Ten pairing Mark Howard and Graham Field, and the returning Paul Knapp, who is entering the opening rounds of the season with Cooksport.
Collingbourne, Sutton, Mitchell, Jackson, Ladell, Smith, Grundy and Stilp meanwhile will be eligible for the Graduate Cup class, which Stilp won last year.
One driver to watch meanwhile will be Freddie Hunt, the son of 1976 Formula 1 world champion James Hunt. The 27 year old makes his Clio debut with new outfit Team BKR, who will receive support from reigning champion Bushell in the car he took to the last year’s title.
[table id=38 /]