Of all the parts fitted to hot Clios which are featured in the PH forums, a Whiteline rear anti-roll bar has to be one of the most popular. Many of us know first-hand how mobile 172/182s are in standard trim, but this Australian-made 'stabiliser bar' is said to tighten things up at the back sufficiently to boost agility with minimal impact on ride. As my car's been handling so sweetly on its Bilstein B14s, the ARB felt like a natural next step. Plus, who doesn't like the sound of a little more, ahem, lift-off playfulness?
To look at, the Whiteline part is a remarkably simple piece of kit. Its main parts are a shallow U-shaped bar and a couple of damper extensions, but you only have to see how the combined components are designed to hang tightly to the rear beam of Dieppe-built Mk2 Clios to understand the physics at work here: in a nutshell, the bar reduces roll at the rear of the car by linking the rear struts at their base. Tighten things up and it further reduces roll.
Since the 182 has become very composed with its B14s and nearly new Dunlop SportMaxx RTs, opting for the tighter of two available settings with the Whiteline bar (enabled by the two connecting bolt holes on either side) felt like the right thing to do. The feeling of confidence quickly faded on the morning of the following day, though, when snow started to fall and the temperature on the dash read zero degrees while en route to Donington Park for a Bookatrack circuit day. No kidding, there were four major car crashes over about 10 miles of the M1. And there was still one of Britain's most daunting circuits to come.
With only the morning's running available due to time constraints, it's wasn't like sitting out and waiting for the weather to improve was an option, either. So the engine was started up at 9:20am and, when the lights on the start/finish straight were green 10 minutes later, the Clio was the first to charge towards a sodden Redgate Corner. I say charge, the brakes were applied well in advance, what with the effects of our ARB not being known and the gravel trap off to the left not looking like a welcoming place for a hatchback in reverse.
It was slippery, obviously, but the rear didn't feel loose and unpredictable at all. Over the following laps it quickly became clear the rear anti-roll bar, even in its stiffer setting, wasn't going to turn the Clio into a short wheelbase widow-maker, but rather a more eager and direct prospect that felt right at home on Donington's fast layout. With the front wheels set at negative two degrees, there was some initial understeer to contend with - in the wet the lateral forces were never high enough for this setup to work - but as a dry line began to appear, the front end got sharper and sharper.
Come midday, the car felt wonderfully pointy. It rewarded trail braking or a closed throttle with lovely, progressive and very useful rotation at the rear - although admittedly it wasn't fool-proof; not when the slip angle got a little too great on the way into Craner Curves and the outside rear ran over water. Thankfully, the route across the grass didn't include any unsighted bumps or jumps; only a splattering of mud on the car's sides and a few strands of grass wedged into the ARB's lowest parts showed that I'd cocked up a bit.
That's the great thing about Donington, though. It's a circuit that rewards commitment thanks to its addictive, flowing layout. But get it wrong and you're punished. A proper, proper challenge. On this chilly day the Clio felt so dialled into the track, with the Ferodo DS2500 pads providing fantastic stopping power, the engine pulling sweetly and nothing overheating or catching fire during what must have been a solid hour of combined track time.
Best of all, my stint left me itching to get back to up to the circuit in the near future - which is handy because it's only three weeks until PH will be there for the opening 2019 EnduroKA round. Some might even say my visit to Donington with the Clio was motivated by the chance to get my eye in there ahead of the season... The Clio's next big challenge? An MOT certificate. If passed, perhaps it'll be treated to a front strut brace. More on that next time.
Car: 2004 Renault Clio Renaultsport 182
Run by: Sam Sheehan
Bought: May 2011
Mileage at purchase: 74,457
Mileage now: 126,300
Last month at a glance: A new rear anti-roll bar renews the 182's appetite for apexes.
Thanks to Bookatrack for having us along!
Track pictures credit: Matt Sayle Photography