Belgium’s legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit provides the stage for the opening round of the Eurocup Clio’s second season. A 30-strong field of drivers will be battling to dethrone reigning champion Nicolas Milan, who now competes in the Eurocup Megane Trophy. Mike Verschuur (Equipe Verschuur), Marc Guillot (Milan Compétition) and Simone di Luca (Rangoni Motorsport) head the list of pretenders to Milan’s crown. But, in what is always a thrilling competition, the title race is sure to be as wide open as ever.
Last season, Nicolas Milan was crowned the inaugural champion of the Eurocup Clio. Milan now competes in the Eurocup Mégane Trophy, having taken advantage of the partnership between Renault Sport Technologies and Ellip6. But the Frenchman will still be keeping a close eye on the competition he won last year, as his team is entering four Clios this season.
The means that his title successor could well be a Milan Competition driver. Marc Guillot, current leader in the Clio Cup France and Clio Cup Spain, will be watched carefully by all his opponents. Jordi Palomeras, who finished third in the Clio Cup Spain and sixth in the Eurocup Clio last season, will be another strong championship contender, with Rafael Villanueva also likely to challenge.
The man everyone will want to beat, however, is Mike Verschuur (Equipe Verschuur). The Dutchman, who finished second overall and best Junior in the 2011 Eurocup Clio, and who won the Eurocup Megane Trophy title in 2009, will be gunning for victory on a Spa-Francorchamps circuit that he already masters. But, in a discipline where slipstreaming plays such an important role, Verschuur’s weakness could be his lack of supporting team-mates. Robert Van den Berg (Harders Plaza Racing), who was very quick in winter testing, finds himself in the same situation. The Dutch rivals, then, do at least share some common ground.
Composit Motorsport, by contrast, have no fewer than five cars entered in this year’s competition, with Cristian Ricciarini and Giancarlo Lenzotti the Italian team’s leading lights. They will be up against another Italian team with big ambitions in the shape of Rangoni Motorsport. Simone di Luca, who finished fourth in last season’s Eurocup Clio, will be hoping to deliver the goods together with team-mates Oscar Nogues and Salvatore Aracarese.
In the Juniors division, Ruud Steenmetz (Madeno Racing) and Thomas Fjordbach (Polar Seafood Racing) are sure to play a prominent role. Eric Tremoulet (Vic’Team) and Federico Gioia (Composit Motorsport) will mainly be looking to gain competition experience at this level, but they should also find themselves up among the leading pack before too long.
There will also be a real touch of feminine flair to this season’s Eurocup Clio. Indeed, all three of the World Series by Renault’s female drivers are competing in this year’s competition, with Colombia’s Manuela Vasquez (Rangoni Motorsport) set to cross swords with Marlène Broggi (FB Racing) and Margot Laffite (FB Racing). Broggi and Laffite shared driving duties in the 2009 Eurocup Megane Trophy, but this year the French pair line up as rivals. Broggi, who also competes in the Clio Cup France, is already familiar with the Clio Cup saloon, whereas Laffite will be competing in the discipline for the very first time. Laffite, who presents Dimanche F1 on Eurosport France, will be hoping to make an instant impression with her performances on the track.
Two races and a single qualifying session are scheduled for the Spa-Francorchamps meeting. The starting grid for Race 1 will be determined by each driver’s fastest time in qualifying, while the drivers’ second-fastest qualifying times will be used to decide the starting grid for Race 2.