With three weeks to go before the season opener at Brands Hatch, Renault UK Clio Cup championship manager Will Fewkes believes the tin-top series will produce one of the “strongest and most spectacular” seasons in its history this year.
Following a landmark 2016 season in which the championship celebrated its 25th birthday and featured a thrilling championship duel between Ant Whorton-Eales and Mike Bushell, the Clio Cup could be set to reach new heights in its 22nd season according to Fewkes.
“I don’t think that I’ve ever been this excited about a new season. I’m immensely proud of what Renault Sport UK is currently achieving with the Renault UK Clio Cup,” he told TCF.
“I’ve been involved with this set-up for a very long time and seen some very strong grids emerge over the years. With a great amount of exciting announcements still to make before the start of the season, I think that we may well be about to witness what could be the strongest and most spectacular season in Renault UK Clio Cup history.”
Fewkes took over the reigns as championship manager at the beginning of 2015 as part of a number of changes to the key personnel involved in the running of the series, and he feels the current resurgence is testament to the hard work of his team and the commitment of Renault Sport.
“Everything in Motorsport takes time, and I’ll never sugar coat the fact that I had a challenge on my hands when I took over the series in October 2014. To go from an average grid of 11 cars in 2014, to start 2017 with at least 26, is a pretty satisfying achievement,” he reflected.
“I’m not too sure that many other people would have stepped up to the table and accepted that challenge, the time and effort that has gone into this is phenomenal and the support of Renault UK has been second to none.
“Renault Sport are market leaders in British Motorsport and have always provided superb value for money, one-make racing cars that develop and define racing talent. That paired with a passionate organisational team, is proving to be a real winning combination right now.”
As well as enticing back the majority of the front-runners from the 2016 Clio Cup, with five of the seven race-winners from last year already confirmed for 2017, the championship has also impressively attracted some talented new drivers to the grid.
A number of those rookie drivers have been attracted from other tin-top series including the MINI Challenge, SEAT Leon Eurocup, Michelin Clio Cup Series and Ford Fiesta Championship, with Fewkes feeling it further highlights the Clio Cup’s strong position in the British motorsport scene.
“I think that the effort that Renault Sport UK has put in to this motorsport programme is paying dividends right now,” he enthused.
“Drivers know that the competition is fair, the following is huge from a marketing perspective for corporate partners, and if they emerge as the champion, they have done so against some of the very best driver’s in the country.
“Strong results in the UK Clio Cup give any driver real credibility when they are looking to further their careers. I don’t think that we’re in any danger of losing our title of Britain’s premier one-make salon car championship any time soon. In fact, I expect to build on these foundations and keep moving forward.”
Fewkes’ eyes won’t be solely on the Clio Cup during the TOCA race weekends though as he casts an eye on how the band of Clio Cup alumni get on in the British Touring Car Championship, with 2016 champion Whorton-Eales amongst thirteen former talents on the grid.
“What Ant [Whorton-Eales] achieved in his time with the championship proved that he has what it takes to mix it with the very best; he was very deserving of his 2016 title,” Fewkes concluded.
“He’s probably the most exciting talent to go into the BTCC since… Ashley Sutton, our 2015 Champion! Not only that, I’m looking forward to seeing what Senna Proctor can do too. It’s very satisfying to see so many Renault UK Clio Cup alumni doing big things in the BTCC.”