Each time I write a fleet update, I can't believe how quickly the weeks (or even months) have passed and how much has changed in such a short space of time. It's fair to say that the last three months have been just as busy and rewarding with my Renaultsport fleet, with both cars keeping me on my toes and lightening my wallet in the process. Whether money is spent enhancing or maintaining though, I find that both cars are easily forgiven for being so fantastic to drive.
Back to full health thanks to Mark Black
I'll start off with the Megane, as that has been the most demanding of my time and money. Firstly, thanks to PHer 'HJMS123' for recommending Mark Black at Midlands Renault Specialists, as a trip to him saved me a small fortune. I had the common swivel bearing seizure, which I was anticipating at some point, so I booked myself in for a 360-mile round trip to get the bearings done; I had the belts replaced at the same time, in total saving me more than £500 compared to using local specialists in Kent.
That healthy saving paid for a shiny new Milltek exhaust system, which has made a nice addition both aesthetically and aurally. Despite being a non-resonated system, it's not much louder than standard (inside at least) when idling but picks up nicely and whooshes through the rev range. More importantly it doesn't boom or resonate on the motorway, which I wish I could say about the Clio. I'd been tempted to name the Megane Mickey Mouse with the amount of squeaks it had, but a can of lithium grease spray managed to rectify the noisy dash.
Alcantara makes all fast cars better, right?
If I had to pick one thing that has impressed me most on the Megane, it would be the mechanical limited-slip differential. I've experienced the VW 'VAQ' system and most recently the brake nibbling traction control in my Mini GP, but it's the mechanical unit in the Megane that has impressed me most. So much so, in fact, that you have to allow extra room on the inside of a corner when turning in; the harder you accelerate into the corner, the harder the differential works to pull you into it and out the other side. It really is an incredible experience and one I won't be tiring of anytime soon!
Moving onto the little Clio, I must confess that I've barely driven it recently due to having a comfier car now to use on the road. I've picked up a cheap NB Mazda MX-5 1.8 for some summer motoring, so that's become my revvy fun car on the local country roads. I'm happy to say though that the Clio currently stands in third place in my class of the Javelin Trackdays Sprint Series, after the first two events at Snetterton and Blyton Park.
Uniroyals have replaced Avons for wet use
Following a damp outing at our Silverstone Sunday Service in March, I wasn't feeling comfortable with the Avon ZZS rubber I was running for my wet tyre, so I changed to a set of Uniroyal Rainsport 3s that a lot of track drivers rave about. Truth be told, I've had fun in the wet on track but I'm not particularly fast, which was apparent during a damp sprint at Blyton Park. With only one dry session in the morning, all of the pressure was on that run; the rain was coming in, so there was no chance of going faster. After I set my fastest time in the dry I just used the rest of my runs to get a feel for the tyres in the wet, which stood up well in the conditions.
Ben's shakin that ass and rather enjoying it!
Time will tell how well I can perform at a wet event, but driving in the rain in a competitive environment naturally adds more pressure than just being on a track day; it's a frustrating experience compared to being out in the dry, where I'm more confident to push harder. Otherwise I'm looking forward to trying out some new tracks this year; notably Cadwell Park in my sprint series, and Rockingham with Renaultsport.
Given how quickly I usually move on from one car to another, I'm quite impressed that I've been in Clios for two years now without a desire to change it for anything else. Saying that, I'm planning on parting ways with it later this year and combining funds with the yellow Renaultsport to get myself into the outgoing Megane in 250, 265 or 275 form. My ardent Renaultsport enthusiasm shows no signs of abating!
Car: 2002 Renault Clio 172 Cup
Run by: Ben Lowden
On fleet since: May 2016
Purchase price: £3,300
Last month at a glance: Not much doing with an MX-5 having arrived...
Trophy out and Cup in as Ben changes Clios
Super Spa in Clio Cup!
Car: 2007 Renault Megane 230 F1 Edition
Run by: Ben Lowden
On fleet since: December 2016
Purchase price: £5,000
Last month at a glance: Megane man maths means more miles!
Top banana! Ben adds another Renaultsport hot hatch to his fleet
[Lead photo: Michael Topham]