Last year, I was a passenger with two of my closest friends on a road trip to some of the most exciting pieces of tarmac in the world, the legendary Spa Francorchamps and the infamous green hell at the Nürburgring. I had effectively ‘chickened out’ by not bringing one of my own cars; instead, I had opted to play the role of chief toll booth transactor for my friend.
The experience of being amongst the supercars on the circuit at Spa and the never-ending corners of the Touristenfahrten lap on the Nordschleife made me deeply regret my decision to leave my car at home. This trip really stuck with me and was the motivation required to pursue a track car build. It also provided me with two people whom I have since blamed when my wife asked me, “Did you buy ANOTHER car?”.
This year marks a milestone in my life—I am set to become a father in May and like any normal person, I felt this occasion should be marked with the purchase of a ‘hot hatch’. In 2023, I realise that the words ‘hot hatch’ seem to be followed by power figures of over 400bhp, however, I am roughly referring to the 2006–2012 definition. Somewhat influenced by my friend and his Renault Mégane 275 Trophy R, but not quite with the same budget, I opted for a Renault Clio RS 200.
I had initially ignored the NI market as previous experiences revealed that when looking for a very specific model of car, the choice tends to be suboptimal at best, and anything that might be a candidate is often priced at a premium.
After many hours of trawling though Facebook Marketplace, eBay and Auto Trader, I had two potential candidates in England. I booked my return flights to Birmingham with the intention of viewing thoroughly before committing to any purchase. However, this wasn’t my first rodeo, and I knew the potential ‘new car’ excitement would get the better of me and that return flight would have at least one empty seat.
The day before I was due to travel to England, I received a text message from the seller of the first potential purchase. He revealed to me that he had just sold the car to another buyer…superb timing! A little frustrated, I turned my focus to the second car, and if I’m being honest, it was really just a backup car that I wasn’t 100% committed to. For this reason, I made the decision to cancel the trip and went back to the drawing board.
After venting some frustration about the loss of sale in the group chat, I got sent an advert for a 2012 Clio that was located about 20 minutes from my house. After doing my usual detective work, I located the owner on Facebook. After some back and forth, I committed to purchasing, provided that a closer inspection and test drive were to my liking.
Long-winded introduction over, let’s talk about the purchase. It is a 2012 Clio RS 200 in French Racing Blue, full fat with cup pack, Recaro Yellow Dot bucket seats, cup spoiler and some other meaningless factory options.
The previous owner had installed an aftermarket steering wheel and replaced the factory cup pack springs for some Grams lowering springs with 20mm spacers. The exhaust had also received a tuneful Scorpion cat back system, which I am still on the fence about. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds good, but when you are already a middle-aged idiot in a bright blue Clio with a spoiler, the last thing you want is everyone in the local village turning around to watch you leave…slowly.
An initial drive on some of my favourite back roads immediately revealed the setup was much more Dubshed than Nürburgring ready, however, I knew immediately the car was a good platform and with a few modifications, It could be very capable on track.
Why document this? Well, after one or ten glasses of whiskey in the early hours of the morning when all good ideas are conceived, my friends and I thought petrol heads like us might enjoy reading about the journey of a man in somewhat of a midlife crisis preparing and driving his modestly priced car on the racetracks of Europe.