The Renault UK Clio Cup is regarded by many as the premier single-make/model saloon car racing championship in Europe and dates back more than 25 years.
Today its teams and drivers use identical racing versions of the potent Clio Renault Sport 220 Trophy model.
While the cars retain the turbocharged 1.6 litre engine, inside and underneath there are some significant changes to make them race ready – these include latest-spec roll cage, racing suspension and brakes, sticky ‘slick’ Michelin race tyres and a six-speed racing Sadev gearbox, operated (like the road car) via a steering wheel mounted paddle shift.
The category is renowned for its exceptionally close racing on track and it also enjoys huge levels of exposure – all its races are held at the British Touring Car Championship’s high-profile events which guarantee not only mammoth trackside crowds (38,500 people on average) but also live coverage on ITV4.
The UK Clio Cup is also acknowledged as the ultimate proving ground for young drivers aiming to progress into touring car competition. Indeed around half the modern-day BTCC grid – the majority of them right towards the front – consists of drivers to have either won UK Clio Cup races or titles. Take Ashley Sutton, for example – he starts 2018 as the reigning BTCC Champion, just two years after he won the UK Clio Cup crown.
It’s not just the BTCC where past UK Clio Cup drivers go on to shine: Josh Files, Robert Huff and Jonny Adam are proof of that having, in 2017, achieved the German and Middle East TCR touring car titles, a record nine wins in the World Touring Car Championship at the legendary Macau GP event and victory in the GTE class at the world famous Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race respectively.
The UK Clio Cup’s roots date back to 1992 when Renault launched it to promote its then new Clio model. The version used was the sportiest available, the 1.8 16V (nicknamed ‘Gen 1’, or Generation 1 of the Clio). The category, which ran for four years, continued Renault’s long line of single-model racing categories that had been held in the UK since the mid-Seventies (they started with grids of leaning, squealing 5 TLs and TSs which were themselves then replaced by the much-loved 5 GT Turbos)!
The UK Clio Cup then skipped four seasons from 1996-99 as Renault opted instead to replace it with the open-topped Spider sportscar. But for 2000 it was back and has continued ever since.
The 2000-2006 seasons used the ‘Gen 2’ Clio Renault Sport, starting out with 172 which then morphed into the 182. From 2007-2013 along came ‘Gen 3’, as the newer shape 197 and then 200s came to play. From 2014 onwards however it’s been ‘Gen 4’ all the way, this starting with the 200 Turbo EDC before the favoured 220 Trophy took over in 2015.
Like each of its predecessors, one of the UK Clio Cup’s greatest success stories is its ability to attract and nurture the very best emerging talent. Some regard 2017’s season as the finest yet in terms of quality of driver on the grid and, as one senior commentator put it recently, Renault, a French manufacturer, has quite possibly done more to support British motor sport than any other make.