The AirAsia Renault Clio Cup heads to the 1.94 mile Rockingham circuit in Northamptonshire this weekend for rounds 13&14 of what has been an incredible season so far, leaving the top four drivers in the championship currently separated by just 17 points.
Double Clio Cup Champion Lumison BlueSquare Data/Stancombe Vehicle Engineering’s Paul Rivett, currently enters the weekend with an 11-point lead after what was a quiet weekend in the office four weeks ago at Snetterton.
The close and unpredictable action of Britain’s premier one-make saloon car championship and main feeder to the British Touring Car Championship meant that he extended his lead by eight points over Team Pyro’s Aron Smith.
Looking ahead to the weekend Rivett seems ready to stamp his mark on the championship and make it his own, “I always love Rockingham as I do with all of the circuits,” explains Rivett. “The infield section is absolutely brilliant and there is a great combination of corners.
“Were going to do our best now to set the pace for the rest of the year and were going to be on that front row and stay out of trouble, I’m very feeling very confident thinking about the title.”
Total Control Racing’s James Dixon and Team Pyro’s Aron Smith have proved that they are forces to be reckoned with as heading to the weekend they carry four and three 2011 race wins to their names respectively. Smith failed to finish Snetterton’s first race, but stood on the top step of the second. Dixon won the first, but failed to finish the second…
“I’m looking forward to going back to Rockingham as we were quick there earlier on in the year”, says Dixon, who currently trails Rivett by 15 points. “I’m feeling very confident but would really like to take away a good couple of wins from there to boost my hopes of winning the championship at the last round at Brands Hatch.”
“I’m very pleased to be in the title hunt,” said Smith. “Heading to Rockingham I would really like to leave the weekend with a few wins under my belt. I have raced there previously in the Winter Series a few years back and got a brace of second place finishes. I think with the track knowledge that I have of the circuit, I am very capable of achieving good things this weekend.”
Rounding out the battle is Westbourne Motorsport’s James Colburn who sits in fourth position in the standings, 17 points adrift of Rivett. Colburn, in his second season of the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup, has showed that he has what it takes this season by being ever consistent despite still seeking his first ever win.
“Rockingham has some good memories for me as I gained my first ever Clio Cup podium there last year,” says Colburn. “I think that we are going to be very strong there this weekend. It’s going to be quite tight at the sharp end as all of the title contenders have raced here in a Clio Cup car previously.”
After making a decision to embark on his first ever season in racing just weeks before the start of the season, Total Control Racing’s Nick Hamilton gained a hard earned 14th and 13th respectively last time out. Looking ahead to Rockingham the brother of 2008 Formula One World Champion, Lewis, is in good spirits.
“I’m looking forward to returning Rockingham this weekend as this is the first track that I drove on at the Media day test back in March,” says Hamilton. “Rockingham is a good track to learn as there are so many variations, it really helped me improve as a driver and shake off some bad habits that I had. Last time out at Snetterton was our best weekend to date so I really feel that the top ten is a realistic aim as I am more experienced now compared to back in March.”
As part of Rockingham’s 10th anniversary celebrations, Mark Gibbons, a fan of the AirAsia Renault Clio Cup, will also line up on the grid for the race weekend as a team-mate to Rivett at Stancombe Vehicle Engineering, as a prize run by the circuit.
Gibbons, who is no stranger to the series having previously contested a number of rounds back in 1994, will be looking to thrive on the opportunity of racing against some of Britain’s most promising talents.
Ten people were selected to attend an assessment day, which featured a high profile judging panel consisting of double British Touring Car Champion Chris Hodgetts, Former British Touring Car Racer and Renault Clio Cup Champion Danny Buxton, Darren Burke and Stefan Hodgetts.
AirAsia Renault Clio Cup UK action gets underway on Saturday September 17th with qualifying at 11:20 and race 1 at 16:15. Race 2 takes place on Sunday at 14:40.