I was really looking forward to driving the Artega around the Nordschleife and while it didn't intimidate anything like as much as the monsters Harris brought along it was still someone else's car and on delivery miles at that. Most importantly, however, I didn't want to look like a total numpty, this being my first visit in years.
I've spent plenty of time in hot Clios at the Nordschleife though - my 197 Cup long-termer put in a good few laps there, including this one chasing Ringside Seat man Dale Lomas a couple of years back, so when I spotted the grey Clio driven out by camera guy Neil Carey standing idle I spied an opportunist, er, opportunity. And the perfect car to get my eye in again.
his Twizy video but allow me to do the same, briefly. Having run one for six months, and put in a serious number of track miles in this time, I can safely say it's one of the best 'proper' driver's cars on the market for any price.
Truly, it's the 911 GT3 of hot hatches, a point proven by the fact that the harder you push it the better it gets. Most road cars will hang on up to a certain point and then suddenly just call time out and, dynamically, fall to pieces. Not the Clio. It'll look after you if you're finding your feet but, if you're up to it, it'll more than keep pace. It was a pleasure to reacquaint myself, both the Clio and the 'ring too.
Totally That Stupid's Reed Hitchcock - think of it? Reed's no stranger to European cars - or the 'ring in fact. Just ask a major car rental firm about the latter. But other than my witterings at him he'd never been in a proper hot hatch. What better than the Clio to show him what they can do!
So, the Stateside view of such cars? "I've read about so-called "hot hatches" in English magazines but frankly always sort of dismissed them as cars that wanted to be much more than they were," he says. Oh. And Renaults? "Renault left the US market in the late 1980s. The impression they left with us American car guys was of underpowered, poorly-constructed crapboxes. The very word "Renault" evokes visions of what was sold on our shores as the "LeCar" - or the R5 as it was known in Europe - in varying states of disrepair."
Are hot hatches ever going to catch on in the states then? "Right now, the closest things we have to cars like the Clio are the fun but tubby Golf GTI, the Scooby Impreza, the Mini Cooper, and the Mitsubishi Evo - cars that all score very highly in the American motoring press, but in reality serve niche markets among young, upward car enthusiasts who live where the roads actually curve, or who think they're 'cute.'"
Track pics by Frozenspeed