Mike Bushell says he does not view his return to the Renault UK Clio Cup as a backwards step in his career and is looking forward to the challenge of battling for a second title in the tin-top championship this season.
It was confirmed yesterday (27th January) that the 2014 champion would return to the Clio Cup this year with the team that took him to the title Team Pyro, following a tough induction to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship last season.
The Kent-based racer picked up eight overall points finishes and five Jack Sears Trophy class victories across the campaign, but also endured a huge accident in qualifying at Thruxton in May that caused both financial and physical strain for the rest of the year.
Speaking to TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk, Bushell explained that he was in talks with various parties about another year in the BTCC, but decided a return to the Clio Cup was the best option for the season ahead.
“BTCC is like an addictive drug. You can’t beat it for its size, its exposure and the thrill of it, it’s something you want to stay in and it’s easy to get drawn into,” explained the 26 year old.
“We had an okay season with AMD last year. We had some flashes of brilliance, but I’d have liked to have been more competitive generally and it wasn’t really anything to write home about.
“At the start of the winter we talked to some people and looked at what it would take to come back, but it got a little bit silly trying to chase it. Money is hard earned for us and we didn’t want to rush into anything this season.
“We had to do touring cars last season as the Clio champion, it’s the natural step and I can say that yes I’ve done it, but we had to think about what we enjoy doing. We loved our time in the Clios, it is an incredibly good championship and it was an easy decision to go back really.”
While Bushell acknowledges that some will view his move as a backward step as he leaves the main stage to return to the support package, he says he has no regrets about heading back to the Clio Cup, in which he previously competed between 2012 and 2014.
“Looking at it as a backward step is just an ego thing really. People have said to me ‘why do you want to go back, you can only achieve what you already did in 2014’, but I’d be delighted with that. I’d love to come away with another championship,” he reflected.
“I never set my ambitions to be in touring cars. I’ve done it, it’s great and it’s manic, but I’m just interested in going racing at the weekend and winning races. It’s why we started in the first place.
“At the moment, I haven’t got the right opportunity in front of me to do that in the BTCC and it costs a lot of money to get the chance to be a winner. So why not have another crack at winning the Clio championship again and then have a think about the future beyond that?”
Reunited with reigning champions Pyro, who have won seven of the last eight drivers titles, Bushell is looking forward to coming up against some of his former rivals on the Clio Cup grid, as well as racing the fourth-generation Clio again.
“The grid is looking strong this season already and I’m looking forward to battling with the likes of Ant [Whorton-Eales] and Paul [Rivett] again, as we were in plenty of wars together over my last three years in the Clios,” commented the four-time Clio race-winner.
“I’m looking forward to racing the car again too. I helped Ciceley Motorsport shakedown their new car at Donington Park in December and that’s probably what swayed me to want to do Clios again. It is such a pleasure to drive.
“The NGTC touring car with the GPRM suspension, it can be like driving a bus that’s got the steering at the back and sausages for front tyres. It’s a really tricky car to drive at times, so it was really nice to get back into a Clio.”
Bushell’s title-winning campaign saw him bounce back from a relatively slow start to the season, one win in the first twelve races, to win three of the next four including a Rockingham double to overhaul long-time leader Josh Cook and secure the title at the Brands Hatch season finale.
Despite that success, Bushell says he returns to the Clio Cup with “unfinished business” and while he appreciates the level of competition is as high as ever, he is focused on putting his name in the history books as only the second driver ever to win more than one UK Clio Cup title.
“I was never fully satisfied with how I won the championship. It was more of a relief than a great success winning it, we scraped over the line. I’d like to iron out any inconsistencies I have as a driver and be more regular at the front of the field,” he concluded.
“Being with Pyro again, I know that they’re going to do a fantastic job all the time, and we will want to be at the front of the grid from race one. Just because I’ve won it though, that doesn’t guarantee anything.
“I’m more determined to be successful this time around. There’s going to be a few young drivers who will want to thrash the former champion, so it’s definitely not going to be easy and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
“Also, I started last year quite a nasty heart problem, which put everything in doubt for racing in the future. So I’m just looking forward to starting a season healthy and doing what I love.”