I got to hang out at Rockingham ahead of the Clio Cup season. It was a great day where I also got the opportunity to drive the Clio 200 road car on track. Take a look at the video footage from the day.
The Clio Renaultsport 200 is a fearsome little car that this year’s Clio Cup cars are based on. It’s a nice little hot hatch that really performs on track but I imagine it’d be very comfortable on the road too. I didn’t drive the car for long enough to do a full review but I will share my experiences of how I found it on the wet grip track and out on Rockingham’s handling circuit.
I headed out on the wet grip track with none other than BTCC’s very own Adam Morgan, it was a pleasure to have him teach me a little about the car (including how to use the paddle-shift gears) and then try and screw me up on the slippery track. I never realised quite how instinctive it is to correct a skid. I tried to remember everything I was told about turning into the spin but that all went out of the window as soon as Adam grabbed the steering wheel to try and send me out of control.
Eventually, once I learnt that I had to put down more power, it was easy enough to correct the car and continue on my merry way. Those few times I drove 30 miles in the snow and ice have paid off…
After a short break, it was time to head to the track. We were using Rockingham’s handling circuit which is only about a mile long but a great chance to get a feel for the car. I had Adam instructing me once again and I decided that I wanted to try the circuit using the gears rather than in automatic mode – hey, why not challenge myself? The first lap was pretty sedate as I learnt the corners and the car but on the second lap I was ready to go for it.
The whole experience was far too short, just as I felt I was getting the hang of things it was time to pull in and let someone else have a go. I always thought that if I did ever get on track, I’d struggle with gear changes and braking distances whereas the concept of the racing line would easy to grasp. When actually on track, I was so worried about those braking distances and perfect gear changes that I was often off the optimum line (another reason why more than three laps are needed).
It’s also amazing come pelting up to a bit of a hill and braking when told to, trusting that there’s still a chicane just the other side. It really makes you appreciate what Formula One drivers go through when driving at Spa, especially on blind corners like Radillion.
So, I’m now convinced I want to be a racing driver or, at least, spend some more time on track.
Adrenaline flowing, we high-tailed it back to the pits on the main straight and I hopped straight in a car with three-time Clio Cup champion Paul Rivett. After he tried to scare me by getting in the car with his helmet on backwards, we set off on track. Who’d have thought weaving to warm up tyres would be so violent when you’re in the car…
Five glorious laps with Paul later and we were pulling into the pits once again. I was a little sad to get out of the car; being on track, in a race car is just exhilarating. Thankfully, I hopped out of Paul’s car and into, newcomer to the series, Freddie Hunt’s car. Yes, James Hunt’s son.
I took a moment to admire the ‘Sex, Breakfast of Champions’ sticker before we headed out onto track. I was grinning for three full laps of Freddie getting very close to other cars, going too quickly into corners and generally making my heart race (honestly, I didn’t expect anything else from a Hunt).
Filled with absolute glee, I trotted away from the pits to don my media bib and head to the middle of the track where I spent more time than I had photographing the Clio Cup cars during their official test session.
All in all a great day and I’m feeling particularly lucky that my first on-track driving session was under the tutelage of Adam Morgan! I’m hoping to test either the Clio Renaultsport or Megane Renaultsport very soon so watch this space for a full review of one of Renault’s delicious hot hatches.