This year's Renault UK Clio Cup is set to be one of the hardest fought in history with a wealth of exciting young talent having signed to contest the championship under the watchful eye of British Touring Car teams.
The list of entries (below) was unveiled at the Clio Cup's pre-season launch at the Rockingham circuit. There are now just ten days before the season gets under way with the first two of the championship's 18 races at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent (Sat 4th/Sun 5th April).
All 18 Clio Cup races in 2015 will take place at British Touring Car events meaning huge trackside crowds and live TV coverage on ITV4.
The eventual Champion will win high-profile tests in both Renaultsport's sensational 500bhp R.S.0.1 silhouette car that races in Europe and, courtesy of the Clio Cup's tyre supplier Dunlop, a British Touring Car with the Motorbase team.
Of 2015's entry, Jordan Stilp (20Ten) and Paul Rivett (WDE) are proven race winners in the Clio Cup – Stilp came close to winning 2014's crown and Rivett won the title in 2002, 2004 and 2011. Nine drivers are new to the championship including two with proven track records in the Clio Cup's sister British Touring Car supporting categories – Jack Mitchell won 2014's Ginetta Junior title and Ashley Sutton was one of the leading names in the MSA Formula (Ford) championship and later a finalist of the prestigious McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year Award.
Mitchell, born 7 April 1998 and who will therefore not turn 17 until after Brands Hatch's races, will become the youngest driver on the grid in 2015 – beating 17-year-olds Thomas Grundy (born 2 Sept 1997) and Rory Collingbourne (9 Sept 1997)! Notably Grundy, who originates from Leeds, will fly to and from each race from his home in Dubai…
Elsewhere Team Pyro is looking to add a seventh drivers' title in eight years while SV Racing heads into the new season as the reigning Teams Champion. Contesting their first full seasons in the Clio Cup are both the JamSport and BKR squads – the latter having signed Freddie Hunt, son of Britain's 1976 Formula 1 World Champion James Hunt.
Furthermore the obvious links between the Clio Cup and British Touring Car Championship grid continue to increase: top BTCC team BMR has entered Sutton's car in partnership with Pyro; Brett Smith is the son of BTCC racer Jeff Smith; Ash Hand is receiving tutelage from BTCC star and three-times World Touring Car champ Andy Priaulx; advising BKR is 2014 Clio Cup Champion and now BTCC racer Mike Bushell; Cooksport is run by Josh Cook, 2014 Clio Cup Vice-Champion and who himself has now followed Bushell into the BTCC.
Close to half the current BTCC grid – including the majority of the leading names – have all competed in or won the Clio Cup or come from another of Renault UK's single-model racing categories.
Clio Cup Championship Manager Will Fewkes commented: “I am delighted with how our 2015 grid is taking shape and I know there are some more very nice announcements still to come… The quality of the teams and drivers is fantastic – it would not surprise me to see six or more names all still in with a chance of winning the title when we get to Brands Hatch's final two rounds in October.
“Professionalism, quality of the product and giving the teams, drivers and their sponsors real credibility when they reflect on their achievements are top priorities for Renault UK when putting the Clio Cup together. There are also of course the highly prized Renaultsport and Motorbase BTCC tests for our eventual and very worthy Champion – their name will add to those from the Clio Cup's past who have gone on to success in the BTCC and international GT and sportscar competition.
“Above all it is very encouraging to see even in a relatively short amount of time that a number of changes we have put in place behind the scenes are starting to have such a positive effect. The Renault UK Clio Cup feels re-energised – it's got its bounce back – and I am sure the fans both trackside and watching on ITV4, the media, marshals, circuits and officials are in for a real treat when our season gets under way at Brands Hatch in just over a week's time.”
Renault UK Communications Director Jeremy Townsend added: “2015 will mark the 16th consecutive year that our Clio Cup has run and it looks like being one of the very best in terms of competition and excitement. The talent on the grid is exceptional and it is terrific to see the connections between the Clio Cup's teams and drivers and the BTCC keep growing.
“Looking at the list of drivers who have progressed from the 'Renault family' and done so well in touring cars, GTs, sportscars and single-seaters right up to Formula 1 makes everyone at Renault UK and Renaultsport very proud. We look forward to seeing who from 2015's Clio Cup will join that very illustrious hall of fame…”