The Dark One – RS Clio 182 Cup

May 15, 2015 3:02 pm

There’s something in the water in France, something that finds its way into the local chassis and suspension engineer’s DNA. It seems to give them a weird sixth sense on how to make a car go around a corner and yet maintain a semblance of ride quality and balance that only French suspension engineers seem able to muster. The Japanese don’t get it. Sure they can make cars handle well, no question, but ride quality is the price paid.  The Americans seem to do the opposite. The Germans are closer but even they don’t quite seem to have the same knack of making something that handles, rides, is fun to drive and is also relatively inexpensive.

When the production of the 205GTi ended in 1995, I thought the world had seen the last of the breed, many moved on to the 306 GTi6 (we won’t mention any ‘warm’ Peugeots beyond that) which was a good car, but it was more grown up, more user friendly: a “less likely to kill you” sort of car. Then a funny looking French hatch appeared on the local market, a limited number of them too, testing the waters. It was 2001 and that car was the Renaultsport Clio 172 Cup, only 85 available and they sold them all, quickly.

You see those that knew, just knew. On paper it was a no brainer, but from the driver’s seat it was the new 205, with airbags and ABS so it was proper safe too! It had that hard edge missing for the past 6 or so years, but had a great ride, mid-corner throttle adjustability approaching 205-levels, and power steering that kept all the feel that you could want. So of course I bought one, loved it and then stupidly sold it….

The world financial crisis impacted me greatly, not financially, but in the fact that suddenly many of the opportunities I had to drive race cars dried up. People got sensible and either sold, scaled back or packed their toys away whilst the storm raged. Competitive motorsport also has a very political side, and the driving often takes a back seat to dealing with egos and power struggles that detract from the bit I actually love, driving fast.

I missed the driving, I needed to rediscover that joy in my life and get back to the purity of it. I decided it was time to build something that I could just enjoy myself in, whether it be a quiet Sunday morning cruise on some favourite roads or as the occasional track day/hill climb warrior where I started in the first place.

I’d found my way back into a Clio 172 as my daily driver (and loved it) but once you start modifying a car for part time motorsport duties it does make it a more challenging daily drive proposition, small things like car park entrances, bumpy roads and slightly obnoxious exhaust notes can be draining when you have to drive for work. There was no doubt in my mind though that the choice would be a French Hatchback and a mental short list was drawn up, but a Clio was always top of the list.

Then a car appeared: lightly damaged – although a fairly simple repair – Clio 182 with Cup-spec chassis and known history. It was the opportunity I had been waiting for. I snapped it up and then began the process of stripping the car for repair and paint (it was Titanium Silver). There are a number of fellow enthusiasts tracking there Clios and most of them are silver, so I was determined to have something a little different. I decided on Glacier White as it’s a simple, no fuss, non-metallic colour and of course they never produced them from the factory that way so I was unlikely to rock up to an event and see another one.

The “TD1” moniker came about as a reference to the classic Australian movie Mad Max, an all-time favourite of mine. The lead character, Max Rockatansky, has a partner/side kick that is briefly mentioned, vaguely referenced but never actually seen in the movie itself, simply known as, “The Dark One”. As a fan of vague references it seemed to fit, and the irony of calling a white car, “The Dark One”, worked for me too. This has since been shortened to TD1 and the car became a legend, before it even began, in the tight Renaultsport community.

The plans for TD1 are pretty straight forward. It will remain registered and completely street legal and all modifications will be done with that in mind. There is also the possibility of using the car for on-track instruction with first timers being able to experience the track environment with me riding shotgun (for a small fee of course). I know many people are worried about tracking their own cars and/or would like to improve their skills, so if demand exists I’d explore that opportunity. The standard things will get attention: coil-overs, sway bar, brake upgrade and set of track wheels are all either ready to bolt on or soon on their way. The only other likely addition will be a Quaife or Gripper LSD to aid traction.

Most importantly though, will be just to go out and enjoy driving again!

Many thanks to special guest contributor, Matt Bolton, for bringing us the story of his 182 Cup, TD1, brought back from the brink of WOVR extinction.

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