With eight of last year’s championship top ten returning to the grid this year alongside some exciting new talents, the Renault UK Clio Cup is looking set to serve up another thrilling season of close-fought, wheel-to-wheel racing on the TOCA package this season.
While reigning champion Mike Bushell has earnt a deserved return to the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship this year, it doesn’t look like the series will be weaker for his loss as it prepares for what it seems will be a truly wide open and ultra-competitive campaign.
The highest-placed returning drivers from 2017 are the elder statesmen of the paddock Paul Rivett and Lee Pattison, who will lead the challenge for WDE Motorsport after finishing in the top three of the championship last season.
It was Rivett who took the runners-up spot during a landmark campaign, with the three-time champion having taken a fairytale victory during his 200th race in the series. With 47 wins under his belt, he hopes all his experience can guide him to an historic fourth title.
Pattison meanwhile has his sights on a maiden championship success, with last season having marked his best Clio campaign since finishing a vice-champion in 2010. Three victories were the highlights, with just a late retirement costing him second overall once again.
To win the crown, those two will have to overcome a formidable looking line-up from Team Pyro as they look to secure their seventh drivers’ title in the last nine seasons, with three of last year’s top seven signed up – Max Coates, Daniel Rowbottom and Jack McCarthy.
After impressively finishing third and fourth in the final standings in his first two campaigns in the championship, Coates heads into the new season determined to build upon his three victories and ten other podium finishers so far and mount a title challenge.
Rowbottom will join his new team-mate in holding championship aspirations after a hugely impressive 2017 campaign. With only one half-season under his belt previously, he took a best finish of third on five occasions to end the year with a top five overall finish.
McCarthy meanwhile enjoyed an impressive rookie campaign, bursting onto the scene with five top three qualifying results for the first eight races. While he would have to wait a while to replicate that in the races, two podium finishes late in the year gives him plenty of momentum.
Gunning for their first title meanwhile are series stalwarts Westbourne Motorsport, with eight time race-winner James Colburn entering his eighth full Clio campaign hoping to get himself back in the title mix, having finished in the top six of the championship for the fifth time last year.
Colburn will once again run alongside rising star James Dorlin, who returns off the back of a hugely successful debut campaign. After taking victory at Thruxton in only his sixth race, the teenager added a masterful success in the wet at Silverstone to cement his huge potential.
Dan Zelos is another driver to have shown potential in his Clio career so far and he entered the winter with plenty of momentum after securing a breakthrough pair of podium finishes during the 2017 finale, which will have fired him up for more success this year with WDE.
Alongside all the returning faces, a potential wildcard in the fight at the front could be Michael Epps, who moves to the Clio Cup for the first time following two campaigns in the BTCC, in which he was a regular top ten finisher with Team HARD.
After seeing his chance of a BTCC return fade over the winter, Epps signed up to spearhead the challenge of new team Matrix Motorsport, and joins the Clios with some pedigree in one-make tin-top racing, having won five of the last eight races in the 2015 VW Cup.
Epps is part of a four car entry from the ambitious Matrix outfit, with the driver line-up also including another ex-BTCC racer in Andy Wilmot. His first Clio entry since a one-off debut in 2012, Wilmot joins the grid with experience in the VW Cup, MINI Challenge and Ford Fiestas.
Aaron Thompson has joined the team for his second Clio campaign after breaking into the top ten on two occasions in his first year, while team boss Jeff Alden will also be behind the wheel with previous experience in Time Attack competition.
An exciting young talent to watch this season will be Pyro’s Bradley Burns, who burst onto the scene during the final three events of 2017 with a fastest lap and a pair of front row starts, performances that has earnt him the support of reigning BTCC champions Team BMR for his first full campaign.
Replicating the path of Burns will be fellow teenage talent and Pyro team-mate Zak Fulk, who also broke into the top ten during a partial campaign last season, while another driver who reached that milestone in a partial campaign last year is the returning Brett Lidsey with MRM.
A six car entry from WDE will also include championship returnees Sam Osborne and Nicolas Hamilton, the former being one to watch after taking a best of fifth in 2017, as well as series debutant and ex-Ford Fiesta racer Nathan Edwards.
The 2018 Renault UK Clio Cup will be contested over eighteen races in support of the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship, with the championship contesting nine of the ten meetings as it misses the trip to Knockhill once again.