The Renault UK Clio Cup’s reputation as a production line for future top touring car talent was further underlined as 2016 Champion Ant Whorton-Eales (Lichfield) excelled in a test with leading British Touring Car Championship squad Motorbase.

Whorton-Eales sampled Motorbase’s 300bhp Ford Focus in mixed conditions late last week at Snetterton circuit in Norfolk – his prize for winning the UK Clio Cup courtesy of BTCC title sponsor and race tyre supplier Dunlop. The Motorbase car won seven times in 2016’s BTCC in the hands of Mat Jackson and Andrew Jordan, themselves past UK Clio Cup racers…

After the test Dunlop’s UK Motorsport Manager Mickey Butler commented: “We’ve been super impressed by Ant. He’s a very controlled driver who’s not got fazed by the experience and he’s listened really well to what our technicians have been saying. In my eyes he could easily step up to the next level and today makes a great story as it delivers a really important opportunity for a young driver on their way to that next level.”

Motorbase Team Principal David Bartrum said: “Being totally honest, he’s the real deal. We came close to testing him with Dunlop at the end of last year’s Clio Cup but he just missed out on it so I’m glad we got him this time. He’s very definitely at the same level as Ashley Sutton (2015 UK Clio Cup Champion and 2016 BTCC revelation). If Ant came along in the right conditions then he would be of interest to our team – he’s definitely got what it takes to do the job.”

And added the squad’s Team Manager Oli Collins: “He’s just been very impressive. He’s not come in saying he’s going to blow everyone’s doors off; instead he’s been very sensible and listened to us. As a result he’s done exactly as we asked and been on the pace straight away for the conditions.”

Jackson, too, was impressed by Whorton-Eales’s approach and said: “The real deal, like most of the top Clio Cup drivers tend to be. The Clios always give a driver a great grounding and Ant’s taken to this really well. He could have a great future ahead of him.”

Whorton-Eales was crowned the UK Clio Cup Champion after taking nine wins from 18 races during the 2016 season in his JamSport Racing-prepared car. Following his Dunlop test with Motorbase he said: “Full marks to Dunlop for giving me this day. It’s not just some token prize; they take it seriously and aren’t scared of throwing tyres at the car, meaning you get a proper go in it. Likewise Motorbase who’ve not simply put a safe set-up on the car – it’s been a properly aggressive race set-up which means I’ve been able to get a real feel for the car.

“Three or four seasons in the UK Clio Cup definitely gives you an edge when you get a chance to do something like this – most front-wheel-drive cars can be quite ‘understeery’, but that’s not necessarily the case with the Clio. I’ve had mine quite loose and that’s been the case with the Focus which I’ve really enjoyed. Driving it on slicks in the damp… well, I felt right at home, didn’t I!?”

Renault Sport’s UK Motorsport Championship Manager Will Fewkes who attended the test with Whorton-Eales enthused: “Ant’s performance at Snetterton has yet again underlined the UK Clio Cup’s credentials as a production line for touring car drivers in-waiting. He has been stunning and like many before him to have come from the UK Clio Cup – including Mat Jackson, Andrew Jordan, Sam Tordoff, Jack Goff, Josh Cook and Ashley Sutton – he undoubtedly has the talent to make an immediate impact in British Touring Cars.

“Dunlop’s investment in this prize test not just for Ant but also other UK Clio Cup Champions since 2013 should not be underestimated – it is a huge moment and opportunity for any young driver and we thank Dunlop greatly for this and their terrific support as a technical partner to the Renault UK Clio Cup during the last four years.”