Ash Hand leads a bumper Renault UK Clio Cup grid into Silverstone this weekend for the penultimate rounds of the season knowing a strong meeting can put him right on course to taking the illustrious tin-top title.
Hand missed out on a race victory last time out at Rockingham, the first meeting he’s failed to take a win at since the Brands Hatch season opener, but a pair of podium finishes that make it ten in a row for the Team Pyro ace means he still holds a healthy 31 point ‘drop score’ lead in the standings.
Ant Whorton-Eales and Ashley Sutton shared the Rockingham victories to keep themselves right in contention for the title. For Whorton-Eales, it marked a long-awaited return the top step for the first time since Donington Park in April, while Sutton took a third victory of his impressive maiden season.
Paul Rivett remains an outside contender for the title, but the WDE Motorsport ace will need to add to his Silverstone Clio Cup race wins in 2002 and 2010 to keep his championship hopes alive heading into the Brands Hatch GP season finale on October 10/11.
With the recent departures of Jordan Stilp and Jack Mitchell from the series, Rivett’s team-mate Charlie Ladell is set for an almost unopposed run to fifth in the standings, meaning he can focus solely on securing a first top four finish of the season this time out.
That was a feat Team Cooksport duo Rory Collingbourne and George Jackson both achieved at Rockingham, taking a seasons best fourth place apiece, as they continue a close fought battle for what may well become the final place in the championship six.
Rory Green also carded a best ever result of fifth in Corby for WDE, while JamSport’s Tom Grundy produced a seasons best qualifying outing – impressive performances they’ll both be hoping to build on during the visit to the ‘Home of British Motorsport’.
Also making an impact on their debuts in Clio Cup were Luke Kidsley and Josh Price with JamSport and Pyro respectively. Both immediately appeared at home in the series taking a seventh place finish apiece, results they’ll be keen to replicate this time out.
One to watch meanwhile will be Dan Holland, who switches from JamSport to WDE as he returns to the grid after missing Rockingham. Having previously qualified in the top six at Thruxton and Knockhill, he’ll hope the change of team can be the missing link to a maiden top six race result.
No less than six new drivers will join the grid this weekend meanwhile, including 2013 Ginetta Junior Scholarship winner Alex Sedgwick and former British Rallycross Junior and BRSCC Fiesta Junior champion James ‘JJ’ Ross with Cooksport.
Tom Butler and Sam Watkins, graduates from the Clio Cup Series and Fiesta Jnr Championship respectively, enter the fray with 20Ten Racing, while European Clio powerhouses Rangoni Corse are running two cars for Clio Cup Italia ace Michele Puccetti and another Clio Series graduate Ben Davis.
Mark Howard heads to Silverstone with one hand on the Masters Cup crown meanwhile and should seal the class title this weekend, with 20Ten duo Graham Field and Peter Felix providing his competition, the latter having taken three class wins in his four races this season.
The championship’s return to Silverstone for the first time since 2012 is sure to produce some close-fought racing around the 1.64 mile National circuit, with the season-high 20+ car grid meaning Saturday’s sole qualifying session at 11:25 will be crucial.
The weekend’s two races will then follow on Sunday and are both likely to be televised live on ITV4, with Round 15 coming at 12:35 and Round 16 at 16:30.
Full championship standings ahead of the Silverstone action can be found here.