Leicestershire’s famous, swooping circuit this weekend (Sat 16/Sun 17 April) hosts the latest rounds of the Renault UK Clio Cup as it again stars in front of an anticipated bumper trackside crowd alongside the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship.
While an intense battle for supremacy among the UK Clio Cup’s leading names is anticipated the event is extra special for the championship for it was at Donington 25 years ago that its very first race was held.
The date was 21 April 1991 and the winner was Steve Waudby in a Clio 1.6 18V – the first model of car used by Renault to fill its UK Clio Cup grid that has since produced so many stars of touring car, GT and sportscar competition, both in Britain and internationally.
And if the action in Brands Hatch’s opening rounds of the 2016 season eight days hinted at what lay in store, this year’s title race already looks set to be one of the most talked-about in UK Clio Cup history.
Finesse Motorsport’s Paul Streather and Team Cooksport’s Lee Pattison were the winners at Brands Hatch, both menaced throughout by former champions Paul Rivett and Mike Bushell whose WDE Motorsport and Team Pyro cars were near-inseparable at the Kent track.
Pattison-Streather-Rivett-Bushell is the order arriving at Donington, but perhaps the man they should all fear at Donington is JamSport’s Ant Whorton-Eales who at Brands salvaged remarkable eighth and sixth place results after being relegated to the back of the 23-car grid. He also set the fastest lap in both races and is the Donington lap record holder. Donington is very much his home circuit and, playing catch-up, he is truly a man on a mission.
Look, too, for the fascinating battle that is already brewing in the Entrants’ championship in which the combined scores of a team’s two highest-placed drivers count in each race. Team Pyro has dominated in recent years but currently it trails both WDE and Cooksport with all three squads boasting very exciting talents in addition to their more experienced ‘team leaders’.
Given their form at Brands Hatch or in recent testing, WDE’s Charles Ladell (Bury St Edmunds), Cooksport’s Rory Collingbourne (Newport, Gwent) and George Jackson (Bedford) plus Pyro’s Josh Price (Redbourn), David Dickenson (Wicklow) and Senna Proctor (Driffield) are all possible podium challengers at Donington. Proctor, along with Price and Bushell, is backed by BTCC team BMR.
BTCC squad Ciceley celebrated a successful maiden UK Clio Cup appearance at Brands with its youthful line-up of Max Coates (Scorton), Dan Zelos (Dereham) and Ollie Pidgley (Salisbury). Likewise fellow all-new team-driver ‘combos’ Team Ecomotive and Daniel Rowbottom (Kidderminster) – who sensationally qualified on pole position on pole for their very first race – and PP Motorsport and Anton Spires (Buckingham) who were quickly into the groove.
JamSport’s Luke Kidsley (Northampton) and Vanquish-WDE’s Paul Plant (Copthorne) are also capable of mixing it at the sharp end. And there is certain to be a big push at Donington from nearby Derby-based outfit 20Ten and drivers Tom Butler (himself from the city) and Sam Watkins (Swansea). Another local is Graham Field (Southwell) who, along with Darren Johnson (Kidderminster) – making his debut at Donington with Pyro – are eligible for the Masters Cup class for older drivers.
Significantly both UK Clio Cup races at Donington this weekend are on the Sunday with the event being broadcast live (10.30am-6.15pm) on ITV4. Adding to the event’s public appeal are free admission for children aged 13 and under, excellent views of the Donington track, an ‘open paddock’ policy allowing visitors to rub shoulders with the star drivers plus swift access by road from nearby cities such as Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Stoke.