We recently tried to tell you that the Renault UK Clio Cup race series was great value, with its £40k car, £12.5k entry fee and the £80k or so you’ll need to pay a team to run the car for you. And, yes, in context it is good value, but we won’t pretend that it isn’t way out of reach for the vast majority of us. There is, however, hope: the Michelin Clio Cup Series.
Another Renault Clio Cup race series? I’m confused…
The Michelin Clio Cup sits one step below the Renault UK Clio Cup series, and actually makes a very logical case for itself: the Renault UK Clio Cup switches to the all-new, turbocharged Renaultsport Clio 200 for 2014, which could have left a grid full of naturally aspirated Clio 197/200 racers with nowhere to go. Instead they’re eligible to enter the Michelin Clio Cup.
Renault will also offer a conversion kit to transform existing road cars into racers. The kit costs from £3000 and includes a rollcage, seatbelts, fire system with extinguisher, plus suspension from the Clio rally car. You’ll pay £5k or so for a good donor car.
The converted road cars will run in the ‘Road’ class, and there’ll be an ‘Expert’ category for those with racing experience, while competition novices compete in ‘Sport’.
There’ll be eight races held over four weekends: Snetterton, Croft, Rockingham, Brands Hatch. You’ll pay £750 plus VAT to enter the series, plus £450 per race weekend, which includes two 20-minute qualifying sessions and two 20-minute races. The races really are restricted to weekends, too, so there’ll be no Friday practice to disrupt your working week and sap extra funds.
Really this is much like the Trackday Trophy, as pioneered by Motorsport Vision, a low-cost series targeted at keen track day fans looking to make the next step. The difference here is the largely equal machinery, and the fact that seasoned racers can join the grid alongside complete novices – all you need is a National B licence.
>> Click here for CAR's report on gaining a National B racing license
What’s a Clio Cup car like to drive?
The Clio 197/200 road cars are always great fun, and the racers just amplify those strengths: they’re stripped out and so lighter and more responsive, and the suspension is stiffer too, improving handling on track.
The old Clio racecars on the grid will be fitted with Sadev sequential gearboxes, shifts controlled with a push-for-downshifts/pull-for-upshifts gearstick, but we’re driving a converted road car and it retains the standard manual gearbox with its long wand of a gearstick, though the shifts are slick enough. The brakes are also standard, right down to the ABS system, while you’ll run on road tyres supplied by – you guessed it – Michelin. So while there’s less outright grip everywhere than there is in a Renault UK Clio Cup car, you’re particularly glad of the ABS comfort blanket under braking, where a lock-up in the budget racer is far more likely.
It all makes for a very different, more playful feel than the slick-shod Clio racer, a feeling that’ll be far more familiar to anyone who’s stepped out of a road car. Where you tend to be neater and more delicate with its big brother, you take the Michelin racer by the scruff of its neck, revving it sky-high, carrying momentum right up to corner entry and then lifting off the throttle and chucking the car at the apex, actively making the car drift through the corner to scrub speed and cancel any understeer.
Overall, the limits are lower and easier to play with than the slick-shod racer, so in a lot of ways it’s more fun, and certainly easier for the novice to master.
Motorsport is always expensive, but it rarely comes cheaper than this: for around £10k all in you can buy a car, prep it for competition and pay your entry for an eight-race championship that’s backed by Renault UK, the British Automobile Racing Club and Michelin.
The cars are easy to drive and robust and the racing should be close and competitive too. What’s more, Renault has been doing this kind of thing for years, so it’s highly unlikely that the series will disappear overnight.
If we were looking for an affordable path into motorsport, this would be one of our top choices.