The strategy of using junior racing to interest youngsters in automotive engineering careers gets a boost in Europe with Renault’s decision to launch a UK Clio Cup Junior Championship for 2017.
Drivers will be from 14 to 17 years of age and will be competing in race cars capable of running 160 km/h (100 mph).
The announcement closely follows Renault’s announcement of its 2017 model range, in which the road-going Clio gets two fresh powertrains, a 1.5-L dCi 110 turbodiesel 4-cyl. and 1.2-L TCe 120 gasoline 4-cyl., the latter driving through a 6-speed manual gearbox. The most powerful new Clio model is the turbocharged 1.6-L Trophy, making 217 hp that can accelerate the car from 0-100 km/h in 6.6 s and on to a top speed of 146 mph) (235 km/h).
Racing hoped to stoke interest in engineering
Scheduled to start next year, the UK Junior Clio Cup already has gained outline approval from the championship control panel of the Motor Sports Association (MSA),the UK motorsport governing body. The new junior series' spec race car is based on Renault's Clio Sport 220 Trophy.
Teams will use identical racing versions of the Sport 220 trophy, which also is used by adult drivers in Renault Clio Cup series that races in conjunction with the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship.
The junior-league drivers are expected to become familiar with all aspects of the cars they race. Turbocharged 1.6-L direct-injection engines employ Cosworth SQ7 Di –XAL electronic controls. The gearbox is a Sadev ST82-17 6-speed sequential automated manual—but with sixth gear blocked via an ECU modification. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters mirror the gearshift interface used by the Clio Cup racers.
A Sadev 23/90 self-locking limited slip differential is fitted and tires are Michelin Pilot Sport 3. Maximum power output is limited by MSA Junior regulations and with only a 5-speed gearbox to limit top speed to 160km/h.
Because the modifications for the juniors’ cars are described by Renault as being “simple” (i.e. mainly electronic) these can be adapted, so the same car may be used in both Clio Cup categories.
The junior racing cars also are fitted with a steel roll cage.
Will Fewkes, Renault Sport UK’s Motorsport Championship Manager, said: “We hope that a Junior entry-level championship, with backing from Renault UK and, centrally, Renault Sport Racing and all the associated expertise and professionalism, will appeal to smaller racing outfits and also to more female drivers. We feel this marks a real shift in the junior-racing marketplace.”
Renault UK Communications Manager Jeremy Townsend, added: “This marks the first time we have entered the junior racing marketplace. Extensive testing of the UK Clio Cup cars shows that it can easily complete a full season of both Clio Cup categories without need for engine rebuilds—the product really is that good in terms of engineering and reliability.”
Renault subtly links high performance with safety; shortly after it announced the Junior Clio Cup plan, it revealed that the 2017 Mégane-based Scénic has received a 5-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.
The award makes it the 20th Renault model to receive a top NCAP rating. The Scénic has active emergency braking with pedestrian protection as standard, claimed as a first in its segment. Euro NCAP gave it a 90% score for adult occupant protection, 82% for children and 67% for pedestrians. Parts of the car’s structure are described as “ultra-high elastic:” each square mm can resist up to 120 kg of pressure.