Ash Hand puts best foot forward as he joins Oregon Team in Renault Sport Trophy

Ash Hand puts best foot forward as he joins Oregon Team in Renault Sport Trophy

12.04.2016: • 21-year-old BRDC Rising Star inks Renault Sport Trophy deal

•    21-year-old BRDC Rising Star inks Renault Sport Trophy deal

•    Talented Warwickshire ace joins forces with defending champions

•    APSM protégé sees move as first step towards long-term goal

Ash Hand will compete for defending champions Oregon Team in the 2016 Renault Sport Trophy, as the gifted young Nuneaton ace takes the next step on his path towards a professional sportscar racing future.

Hand first sampled Renault Sport Racing’s high-performance R.S. 01 prototype at Jerez in southern Spain late last year.

That came hot on the heels of finishing runner-up in the fiercely-disputed Renault UK Clio Cup, where he tallied more victories, pole positions and fastest laps than any of his rivals behind the wheel of his Sigma, The Manchester College and QTS-backed car and took the duel for the crown right the way down to the wire.

The 21-year-old Warwickshire star returned to the track last week with front-running Italian outfit Oregon at Estoril in Portugal, and belying the fact that he had not climbed into the cockpit of a racing car for almost half-a-year, he immediately impressed with both his pace and potential.

An agreement was rapidly reached that will see Hand contest the pan-European Renault Sport Trophy this season with Oregon, alongside 2015 title protagonist David Fumanelli.

The championship adheres to Pro-Am regulations, and the prize for the winner of the Prestige category in which the highly-rated Maple Park hotshot will race is an LMP2 class berth with Nissan in the Le Mans 24 Hours – the Holy Grail of sportscar challenges.

Each race weekend takes the form of an endurance race for both drivers, followed by individual sprint outings for the ‘Pro’ and ‘Am’ competitors.

The campaign will rev into life at Motorland Aragón in Spain this coming weekend (16/17 April), after which it visits Imola in Italy, Austria’s Red Bull Ring, Paul Ricard in France and legendary Belgian Grand Prix venue Spa-Francorchamps, before concluding at Estoril in late October.

Not only will Hand have to get to grips with all of those circuits, but he will also need to acclimatise to rolling starts, rear wheel-drive, endurance racing etiquette and the aerodynamics, drag and downforce of the R.S. 01 – not to mention the astonishing power produced by its potent 3.8-litre engine. He is champing at the bit to show what he can do.

“It was getting so late in the day that I was beginning to worry I wouldn’t be racing this year, so to have put a deal together with Oregon is amazing,” reflected the Andy Priaulx Sports Management (APSM) protégé and British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star.

“After establishing such a strong relationship with Renault during my three years in Clios, it was important for me to remain in the family and build a future with them.

The benefits of having that kind of bond with such a major manufacturer at this formative stage of my development really cannot be overstated.

 Looking long-term, this is the first step on the path towards a career as a factory GT or sportscar driver, which is my ultimate objective.

“The Renault Sport Trophy had been my number one choice for 2016 ever since I first tested the R.S. 01, when it blew me away.

It’s an unbelievable car – fast and furious – and although it takes a while to master with the sheer amount of power and grip available, once you do get the hang of that, it’s tremendously rewarding. With 550bhp on tap, it’s certainly a step-up from the Clio!

“One aspect that will be completely new to me is the endurance element. Clio races are flat-out blasts, whereas now I’ll need to adopt a slightly different technique with more of a focus on conserving the tyres and fuel and generally looking after the car, which will add another useful took to my toolkit.

“In my opinion, single-make championships are the hardest to win, because everybody has the same equipment at their disposal – so it’s all about how you make best use of it.

 I need to ensure I go into the season as well-prepared as I can possibly be in the short timeframe I have. I’ve always been a quick learner, and with the expertise of everybody at Oregon around me, I’m confident I’ll soon get up-to-speed.

“As the reigning Teams’ and ‘Am’ champion, Oregon is the benchmark in the series so I’ve definitely landed on my feet in that respect, and although I’ve only had one day with them so far, it’s pretty clear that they’re a great bunch of guys and know exactly what they’re doing.

David was fast last year and has a lot of experience in the car, which I can draw upon to help accelerate my learning curve. I’m sure we’ll forge an effective partnership.

“The bottom line is that this is a massive opportunity for me – the Renault Sport Trophy is a fantastic platform and a superb springboard. Whilst I’m well aware I have a lot to learn, make no mistake – the championship is the goal. I can’t wait to get going!”

Will Fewkes, UK Motorsport Championship Manager for Renault Sport, has similarly high hopes for Hand’s European racing debut, contending that there is no reason at all to discount a championship bid from the precocious rookie.

“Everyone at Renault Sport UK is absolutely delighted to see Ash continuing his racing career with Renault – and at a very high level on the international scene with the Renault Sport Trophy,” he remarked.

“His performances in the R.S. 01 straight out of the Renault UK Clio Cup have received many positive comments from the people at Renault Sport.

“He was, of course, one of the absolute standout talents of last year’s UK Clio Cup – his results speak for themselves – and despite the different challenges posed by the R.S. 01 as well as the circuits on the Renault Sport Trophy calendar which will all be new to him, it would not surprise me if he again puts together a very strong title campaign.

 I am sure Ash will soon be enjoying great success and we wish him the very best.”

Russell Atkins - photo Renault


12.04.2016 / MaP

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