Renaultsport Clio is a terrific track toy
With 3000 miles and three track days under its belt, the PH long-term Clio Renaultsport 200 is continuing to titillate us on a daily basis.
We kicked off our track forays as a guest of Renaultsport on one of their own events at the Bedford Autodrome, which was a great place to start as the 'competition' is naturally pretty evenly matched, and the circuit with its wide-open run-off zones lends itself to enthusiastic exploration of the outer limits of grip and stability.
Not that we've fallen off anywhere yet (we've also done Bedford again and Brands Hatch on PH track days), because the Clio somehow manages to combine its uproariously chuckable chassis with a level of predictability that means the car can be brought back onto the straight and narrow from all sorts of unusual angles - whether induced by ham-fisted incompetence, or unrestrained exuberance on the part of its driver.
Superbly agile, chuckable and fun
Unrestrained exuberance is all very well, but it did throw up an interesting consequence on the A1(M) Northbound near Peterborough immediately after that first Renaultsport event. I was motoring in the outside lane when I was startled by a loud hissing sound over my left shoulder. By the time my brain had computed that it must be a tyre letting go of its air, the car was already starting to go a bit wobbly and I hove-to on the hard shoulder in a cloud of rubber smoke.
Although the tyre was flat, in the darkness I couldn't immediately see any damage so emptied both cans of emergency tyre-inflator gunk into the valve - the car doesn't come with a spare. Then the gunk started spilling out of a nine-inch gash on the inner side-wall (which in hindsight I suspect was the result of an injury caused on the Bedford circuit kerbing), and I was comprehensively jiggered.
Missed the cones again...
I called Renault's emergency number and they transferred me to the AA, who promised to quickly remove me from the hard shoulder 'to a place of safety' while they tried to find a mobile fitter with access to the right size replacement tyre. In the event, the AA controllers left me on the hard shoulder getting steadily chillier and more peeved while they failed to track down a new tyre, and it was nearly an hour and a half before salvation arrived in the form of a recovery vehicle at around 11pm.
The AA carted me off to the nearest service station, where I was decanted onto another vehicle for a frustrating onward journey to Nottinghamshire that ended in the early hours.
When tyre gunk isn't enough...
The next day (Saturday morning) a quick ring around with the Yellow Pages had me still stumped for a tyre (including calls to two very uninterested main dealer service departments in the area), and I was forced to call the Renault emergency line again in order to discuss ways to get home to Brighton. I had visions of making the trip on the back of another AA transporter, but instead the AA sent out another chap who knew where to find another tyre and the problem was resolved with a new ContiSportContact 3 for the not unreasonable sum of £130.
The experience hasn't done a lot for my faith in 'get you home' gunk, although presumably it would have dealt with a more typical puncture effectively.
...it's time for a piggy-back home
That wasn't the end of our tyre problems, either. I'm still kicking myself for a petrol station kerbing incident where I scuffed one of the Clio's gorgeous satin black alloys and took a chunk out of the tyre sidewall. I had hoped to make a cosmetic repair to the wheel myself, but was surprised to find our local Renault outlet couldn't supply touch-up paint, or even a paint code. 'They'll match it in the body shop if you want to take it in,' said the helpful chap on the parts counter, but the scuffing is really only superficial so we'll just put up with it for now.
So we not only had to replace the tyre with the chunk missing, but the off-side front as well.
Post track day shoulder damage
That one was starting to lose chunks of tread after our third track day foray, and was showing canvas (or whatever they use these days) on the shoulders. Still, at least the guy from Kwik-Fit Mobile was impressed by our commitment, and (PH bean-counter) 'Uncle Stuart' hasn't seen the bills yet...