On a grid filled with exciting new talents, it’s a trio of familiar names in Mike Bushell, Lee Pattison and Paul Rivett who lead the Renault UK Clio Cup field into the second meeting of the season at Donington Park this weekend.
Pattison and Bushell are joint standings leaders are each taking a win and a second place during the Brands Hatch season opener, though Bushell will have wanted more having secured a double pole position in qualifying – meaning he has taken 14 of the last 16 poles on offer in the series.
For Pattison, it marks a second consecutive season that he heads to Donington atop the standings, though he will be looking to ensure there isn’t a repeat of 2016, when a podium finish in the opening Donington encounter would lead into a thirteen race barren spell.
Rivett meanwhile started his eleventh full Clio Cup campaign with a pair of third place finishes in Kent, and the 2002, 2004 and 2011 champion will now be aiming to push for race wins at Donington, a circuit he took a double podium finish at last year.
It wasn’t all about the experienced names at Brands Hatch though, with a pair of young guns thrusting themselves into the spotlight with impressive debut performances; reigning Michelin Clio Cup Series champion James Dorlin and karting sensation Jack McCarthy.
In wet conditions in the opening race, Dorlin excelled to climb from sixteenth on the grid to fourth positon in just two laps before holding it to the flag, while McCarthy was challenging for the lead in race two before slipping to fourth – both head to Donington with genuine podium aspirations.
One driver who enjoyed his breakthrough performance at Donington last year was Max Coates, with the Yorkshireman storming to his maiden pole position. This time around, Coates is aiming to confirm his title credentials after starting his campaign with a pair of top six finishes.
Always a threat for the podium will be the ultra-experienced James Colburn, who has never previously taken a top three at Donington, while after a relatively subdued return to the series at Brands, 2015 title contender Ash Hand will be aiming for the front of the grid this weekend.
Returning to the scene of a dramatic roll twelve months ago, Dan Zelos will join Ollie Pidgley, Daniel Rowbottom, Luke Reade and Shayne Deegan in harbouring top six ambitions after finishing in the top ten at Brands – Deegan having also come away with the new series lap record.
One to watch this weekend if he is medically cleared to drive will be Paul Streather, who endured a nightmare season opener after a huge accident in Friday testing ruled him out of the weekend’s action around a circuit he had taken his maiden win at a year previous.
With Nathan Harrison, Sam Osborne, Lucas Orrock, Jade Edwards, Aaron Thompson, Kyle Hornby and Myles Collins all keen to push forwards after making their series debuts at Brands, this weekend could be the most competitive meeting in recent series memory.
On top of that, the addition to the field of debutant Shawn Taylor alongside the returning Oscar Rovelliand Ambrogio Perfetti, a 25 car grid could be set to tackle the two races in Leicestershire, the largest to date since the introduction of the fourth-generation Clio in 2014.