Will Clio ace Rivett finally get his BTCC chance in 2014?
Just as the Renault UK Clio Cup has been a cornerstone of the British Touring Car Championship support package since its inception, one driver has been an intrinsic part of the key BTCC feeder series for an incredible 13 years on and off – multiple champion Paul Rivett.
While the main purpose of the one-make Clio Cup is to provide a platform on which the best young saloon car talent can shine before graduating into touring cars, despite his undoubted ability and numerous successes in Clio racing, the 34-year-old is still yet to receive his long overdue ‘big break’.
Unsurprisingly, the Banstead driver is as determined as ever to win yet another title this year. Whether he achieves that or not, the aim at the end of 2013 will be the same as every other season which has gone before…to try and secure the funding to finally make his rightful debut in the BTCC.
“I’d absolutely love to do the BTCC next year”, says Rivett, “Our plan is to move on, we’ve wanted to try and do that for a number of years now, but even if we can’t make touring cars and we have the budget to race Clios again in 2014, it will be with a new car so it will still be a progression of sorts.
“Hopefully we can get there into touring cars but I’d look at crossing over into GT racing too. My ultimate goal, basically, is to make a living as a professional racing driver – I’ve proven myself time and again on the TOCA package. As long as I’m behind the wheel, though, I’m happy and very lucky too as there are a lot of talented drivers on the side-lines who just don’t have the budget to race.”
If motorsport careers were built purely on talent, Rivett would have been a star in touring cars years ago and a certain title challenger, if not a champion. Without the required financial support though, the step up, as his career history to date has shown, is impossible to achieve.
Starting out in karts back in 1990 he raced, and defeated, a whole host of names who went on to great success – the likes of 2009 FIA Formula One World Champion Jenson Button, Anthony Davidson and the late Dan Wheldon. Button, in fact, only pipped him to the 1990 British Cadet Karting Vice-Champion’s position when Rivett sustained a broken collarbone. Wheldon won the title.
“We were on holiday in Wales when I first tried karting”, he explains, “After having a go in the kids karts, they let me try the adult karts and I beat them on my first time out. My dad was always into racing, he did some mechanic work too, and he asked if I wanted to try out racing so we went to Blackbushe and I was third in my first ever race. We never knew then what it would lead to…”
His first taste of car racing actually came in single-seaters in 1994, one day after his 16th birthday, with an outing in Formula Vauxhall Junior. Without any budget to continue though, Rivett was then away from the sport until 1998 when he enrolled with Jim Russell Racing School at Donington Park.
After winning the Vauxhall Vectra Winter Series, he went on to make his full competitive debut in Ford Fiestas in 1999 – at the time a support category on the BTCC package – which marked the start of long association, which continues to this day, with the inimitable Colin Stancombe and his team.
Rivett then travelled across the Atlantic to try and expand his experience on the American short ovals in Late Model Stock Cars. Making a huge impression, taking wins and multiple podiums, he returned to the UK in 2001 to debut in the Renault UK Clio Cup with Stancombe Vehicle Engineering.
Finishing fourth in the main championship, he went on to claim his first car racing title with the 2001 Renault UK Clio Winter Cup crown and then took the main season championship the following year driving for Team Firstair. He then made a brief return to single-seaters at the end of 2002 when offered the chance by Firstair to take part in the Formula Renault UK Winter Series.
Adding the 2003 Winter Cup and then a second main season title in 2004 to his rapidly expanding trophy cabinet, Rivett just wasn’t able to secure the financial backing to climb the ladder into the BTCC. In fact, the pot was completely empty meaning he had to sit-out the 2005 season. As a driver who had achieved all that could be asked on track, he still hadn’t received the break he deserved.
Returning to Clios with Boulevard Team Racing in 2006, ending the year as Vice-Champion, Rivett was again elbowed back onto the sidelines due to a lack of funding and was only able to contest four races in 2007 with the JHR Development squad. Able to put together a deal to remain with JHR in 2008, Rivett was again Vice-Champion before yet another season out of the driving seat.
In 2010, though, he was fortunate enough to attract the funds to at least remain on the BTCC support package with SVE – vital backing which has remained in place since. Following a part campaign in 2010, Rivett claimed an unprecedented third main season Clio Cup crown a year later and only just missed out on making it four last season during the final weekend of the championship.
Alongside his Clio racing last year, the category mainstay also debuted in a completely different sphere of motorsport – offshore jet-ski racing in the P1 Aqua X Championship where he brilliantly won the Sea-Doo Challenge title at his first attempt. If the road to touring cars remains blocked, perhaps a return to the waves is on the cards?
“You never know”, responds Rivett, “Car racing is where my heart is but, if all else fails next year, we might just end up back in Aqua X. I’ve got more sponsors in Clios now than I’ve ever had in my career and the biggest part of that is PER HIRE and Names.co.uk. If it wasn’t for Matthew at PER HIRE I just wouldn’t be out there racing – I’m indebted to him.”
By Marc Orme