Simon Belcher has set his sights on a consistently strong start to the new Renault UK Clio Cup season when it gets underway at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit this coming weekend, 30th/31st March – and the Handy Motorsport driver says he won’t be satisfied with anything less than a pair of top 10 finishes.
Returning to the prestigious Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship support class to defend the Masters Cup title he won comfortably during his maiden campaign in 2012, the 39-year-old from Swindon is ideally targeting the overall top six as he aims to build on the experience gained last year.
Having largely dominated the ‘Masters’ division in his debut season, Belcher will undoubtedly be a marked man for many during the 2013 season and he is determined to retain that crown. Having said that, his greater aspiration is to become a regular fixture among the overall front-runners and, off the back of some impressive times in winter testing, he’s confident of achieving that goal.
Acknowledging the impact the arctic weather and freezing temperatures have had on the pre-season testing schedules during recent months, Belcher says a continuation of the current cold spell into the coming weekend could ensure a few surprises during the opening two rounds.
“We had a good schedule in place for pre-season testing but the weather has been totally against us, out of the 10 tests we’ve done we only had two dry days”, explained the KÄRCHER and No Fear Energy-backed racer, “Even when it was dry it was only a few degrees, so it limits what you’re able to do as it’s so hard getting heat into the tyres.
“If the cold weather stays as it has been for the weekend, I think it’s going to be a tough first round and I think there could be some shocks. The conditions could have a big outcome on qualifying but I’m targeting the top six, top eight, something like that. Last year we aimed for the top 10 and the best we qualified was 11th, we need to be moving forward from that this year and I’m sure we can.”
Using the likes of Team Pyro’s title contender Josh Files as a benchmark, Belcher has been highly encouraged by the times he has delivered during the pre-season and reports he is “considerably closer” to the outright pace than during his first year in Clios.
“Testing has been pretty good in the main”, he added, “Unfortunately we did have some big damage at Thruxton, when I ended up in the wall, and at Croft last week something failed on the front-left of the car when I was approaching Tower – as soon as I hit the brakes I got fired into the barrier.
“None of that has been too helpful to our preparations but the rest of testing has been good and we’re a lot closer to the likes of Josh [Files], in fact I’d say considerably closer than we were last year. At Brands Hatch for the first round in 2012 we qualified 15th so I’m certainly looking for much more than that this year. If we can get close to the top eight and be consistent, I’ll be happy with that.”
Pre-event practice for the season-opening Renault UK Clio Cup race meeting, at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent, will take place on Good Friday, 29th March, with qualifying following on Saturday, 30th March. Round one is scheduled for 10.20 on Easter Sunday, 31st March, while round two – which will be broadcast live on ITV4 and ITV4 HD – will take place at 15.35.
Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.