VIDEO: 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup starts amid blaze of colour and glory
2016 Renault UK Clio Cup starts amid blaze of colour and glory
Four races in; four different winners. The 2016 Renault UK Clio Cup season is go and right from the off its spectacle has lived up to all the pre-season hype with a return to big grids plus plenty of drama and unpredictability.
Once more the action is forming part of the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship's high-profile events meaning it has all been played out in front of tens of thousands of trackside fans plus households up and down the UK watching ITV4's live coverage.
The famous Brands Hatch and Donington Park circuits in Kent and Leicestershire have hosted the opening four rounds (two apiece). Grids have hit the 24-mark - the biggest since 2013. Donington also marked the championship's 25th anniversary (it was there on 21st April 1991 that a grid full of Clios - all 1.8-litre 16V versions - first raced)!
The wins to date in 2016 have fallen to Paul Streather/Finesse Motorsport, Lee Pattison/Team Cooksport, Ant Whorton-Eales/JamSport and Paul Rivett/WDE Motorsport.
There have been a number of major yet welcome surprises with two qualifying sessions held so far headed by newcomers Daniel Rowbottom/Team Ecomotive and Max Coates/Ciceley Motorsport. By contrast Team Pyro - for many the benchmark team these past seven years - and its ace card, returning 2014 Champion Mike Bushell, have managed just one podium finish together in the first four races. It is proving THAT competitive...
Not short on podiums, however, is Rivett. At Donington the three-time Champion's win marked an amazing 100th podium result for him in the championship. He leads the standings heading to the next two rounds at Hampshire's super-fast Thruxton circuit (Sat 7/Sum 8 May).
Even Rivett, though, admits staying ahead there will be tough with Pattison expected to strike back on a circuit which he always excels - the Cooksport driver lost the championship lead at Donington in a tangle with Rivett's young team-mate Charles Ladell.
Rivett, who started racing in the UK Clio Cup in 2001 when it used the Clio RenaultSport 172 model, said: "This season is right up there with the best of them. The grid is full of quality in terms of teams and drivers and there have been some very exciting new names come in as well.
"I think Thruxton with so many evenly-matched cars and drivers and at those speeds is going to be really spectacular. Lee will definitely sense an opportunity to bounce back. He's always the man to beat around there..."
And he added: "It's really capturing people's imaginations. I can't recall the last time the UK Clio Cup's teams and drivers were proving so popular with so many people on a race weekend or on social media, for example. RenaultSport has done a fantastic job with the promotion."
Click here to watch short video highlights of Brands Hatch's racing.
Click here to book tickets to Thruxton's big BTCC/UK Clio Cup event.