Ash Hand turns heads in 'mega' Renault Sport Trophy test

Ash Hand turns heads in 'mega' Renault Sport Trophy test

10.11.2015: • Renault UK Clio Cup runner-up impresses in Renault Sport R.S. 01 • Highly-rated Warwickshire ace laps close to the pace of ex-F1 driver

•    Renault UK Clio Cup runner-up impresses in Renault Sport R.S. 01

•    Highly-rated Warwickshire ace laps close to the pace of ex-F1 driver

•    21-year-old BRDC Rising Star assessing options for next career step

Ash Hand showcased his palpable prowess in an impressive end-of-season test tryout with Renault Sport Trophy team Monlau Competición at Jerez in southern Spain – hailing the striking R.S. 01 prototype as ‘a mega piece of kit’ as he lapped close to the pace of an ex-Formula 1 driver.

Hand was a title protagonist throughout the fiercely-disputed Renault UK Clio Cup this year, only narrowly missing out on the coveted crown in the final race of the campaign after tallying 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.

Those eye-catching results brought the talented young Nuneaton ace to the attention of Spanish outfit Monlau Competición, who invited him to Jerez to sample Renault Sport Technologies’ high-performance R.S. 01, which forms the basis of the Renault Sport Trophy – a key element of the popular World Series by Renault package.

Not only had Hand never previously set eyes upon the former European Grand Prix venue, but he had to adapt to the R.S. 01’s rear-wheel-drive, aerodynamics, drag, downforce and sheer power in distinctly inclement conditions – making not so much for a baptism by fire as a baptism by rain.

With its 3.8-litre engine delivering a mindblowing 550bhp, the R.S. 01 is undeniably a very different animal to the ‘pocket rocket’ Clio, but the highly-rated Maple Park hotshot got to grips with it remarkably quickly and over the course of 43 laps of Jerez, he edged consistently nearer to the leading pace.

Hand placed a superb fourth out of 12 on the morning timesheets, barely two thirds-of-a-second shy of the outright benchmark and only three tenths adrift of erstwhile Caterham F1 driver Giedo van der Garde. As he evaluates his various options for 2016, he admits that his Renault Sport Trophy outing has certainly given him something to think about.

“Once the Renault UK Clio Cup season had finished, Monlau Competición approached me about going for a test and I didn’t need to think twice – I jumped at the opportunity!” revealed the Andy Priaulx Sports Management (APSM) protégé and British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) Rising Star.

“There was a lot to take in with having to learn both the car and circuit as well as getting used to a new team – and the weather threw an extra complication into the mix!

“That meant there was a fair bit to get my head around in a short space of time, but I absolutely loved the R.S. 01. It’s a mega piece of kit – extremely fast with an incredible power-to-weight ratio and phenomenal carbon brakes. That was where the biggest chunk of lap time was to be found and what took the longest to master, but after the first session I felt comfortable inside the car and was starting to push quite hard. It all came very naturally.

“In truth, the slippery track surface early on probably did me a favour by allowing me to get a handle on the car when grip was at a premium. There were a few tail-happy moments, which was fun and I think the rear-wheel-drive suited my attacking style.

“It was really encouraging to finish so far up the timesheets, especially with some very high-calibre drivers at the test and with more seat time in the car, I could undoubtedly have gone quicker still. What was important was that we improved throughout the day, and the team seemed to be pleased with what I did. I was able to provide them with a lot of feedback, which I think they found useful.

“Overall, it was a very positive, productive day. I bonded with the team really well and it was a calm and constructive environment in which to work. Having established an excellent relationship with Renault over the past three seasons, I’m keen to stay with them if I can so the Renault Sport Trophy is definitely an option for next year, particularly as it would enable me to gain some European experience.

“It would also represent a step in the right direction towards my long-term goal, which is to become a professional, factory-backed sportscar or GT driver on the international stage. That’s what I’ve been working towards my whole career.”

Indeed, the Renault Sport Trophy offers a range of attractive end-of-season rewards and enjoyed a tremendously successful inaugural campaign in 2015 with races at circuits all around Europe. Off the back of Hand’s display at Jerez, Monlau Competición Technical Director David Simón believes the 21-year-old Warwickshire star has the ability to be a genuine front-runner in the series.

“At the beginning of the test, Ash demonstrated his potential by lapping inside the top five in conditions that were not exactly conducive to inspiring confidence,” he reported. “He had a great feel for the behaviour of the car and the changes we made, and we used his comments to hone the set-up.

“He only had 50 minutes of dry running in the second session, but he showed clear improvement to keep reducing his lap times and always listened to what his engineer advised. The entire team felt very comfortable with Ash and we would be delighted to see him in the championship next year. He would certainly be one of the leading contenders in the ‘Prestige’ category.”

Russell Atkins - photo Renault


10.11.2015 / MaP

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