The history of this particular RenaultSport Clio 182 Trophy is well-documented across the Internet (that is, a couple of websites and a smattering of images and narratives posted to various social media channels). In fact, it is quite a famous car. At least in the eyes and mind of its owner. Although, on second thoughts, perhaps 'infamous' would be a better word to describe what is now affectionately known as Le CBR.
I bought Le Clio B**tard Rouge back in 2007 during the week following my birthday. I was looking for a fun and (reasonably) fast car so that I could take advantage of the great local driving roads and to indulge my passion for driving. My mind was pretty much set on going down the screaming K20 V-TEC route with a view to buying an EP3 Honda Civic Type-R, a car with which I was already familiar. However, a friend persuaded me to try a RenaultSport Clio and, would you believe it, a rather tasty-looking Clio 182 Trophy was up for sale no more than 90 minutes drive away. Despite worn brake discs, and brake pads that were pretty much see-through, the test-drive was simply sublime - a real hoot! The smile was instant and very real as was the feeling that I was sat in something very special and equally as capable. I didn't really need much convincing so a deal was done there and then and I brought #165 home to south Wales. It's funny how things work out, don't you think?
It was meant to be a relationship made in heaven; a biological-vehicular bonding between man and machine. Yet the reality was considerably different. For those readers who are not aware of Le CBR's history I will simply say that there have been high points and there have been low points. At times it has been a real rollercoaster of emotions. Through unfortunate incidents, bad luck and - let's be brutally honest here - "specialist" f*ck-ups, the car has spent 4 plus years languishing in various workshops around the UK. Let me clarify that #165 has not wanted for anything; it has been lovingly looked after and money has been spent on it (oh boy, has money been spent on it!) yet I'm sat here now, writing this text, not having seen Le CBR for 2 years. The frustration has been palpable, but it's not all been bad.
And that's the problem! It's not all been bad. On those occasions I've been able to exploit and enjoy the car I have quite simply had some of the best driving experiences imaginable. I've been fortunate enough to enjoy some truly spectacular roads across the UK and Europe, and who in their right mind would not want to drive the fantastic roads I have on the doorstep here in Wales? Despite the many years spent in the hands of people with spanner-things I have still been able to cover 90,000 miles of driving with #165. They have been bloody enjoyable miles, too. Admittedly those 90k miles may have been spread across 3 different engines but that's a minor point...
From the hills and valleys of Wales to the challenges of the Isle of Man TT course, from tarmac rally stages and track days to Radcliffe-on-Trent, #165 and I have shared many a great drive together. The way in which you can hustle the Trophy along your favourite ribbons of tarmac never fails to impress, inspiring confidence in the driver and the car never too shy to cock-up its back leg as you tripod around another bend. Show it a challenging road and you hear that little voice inside your head, egging you on and encouraging you to explore the cars potential. As you thread your way from one bend to the next the rate at which you cover the ground can be eye-opening. It may seem cliched to talk about the RenaultSport Clio and 'twisties' in the same breath but it's a reputation well-deserved in this case.
Many a time I have found myself simply driving the same sections of roads over and over again. To do so means I get to enjoy some genuinely fantastic driving routes whilst affording me the time to make a stop, take a few minutes out and to grab photos of the spectacular locations in which I often find myself. Ultimately it is about the 'thrill of the drive' but, as any true driving enthusiast will tell you, it certainly doesn't hurt to have eye-catching scenery around you.
Without a doubt my preference is for road driving - but that's not to say Le CBR, like its owner, doesn't enjoy a few track days now and again. On Her Majesty's highways it is simply not possible to push or fully explore the capabilities of the car (unless you have a penchant for uniformed officers with batons, pepper spray and flashing lights) so organised track days are a great way to see just what the car is capable of. Not to mention how capable the driver is, too!
Whilst I tend to argue that the Trophy - stock - isn't a great track car, it's certainly very capable on track and doesn't disappoint. On the larger circuits the bigger power boys and girls will simply breeze by when presented with a straight of any decent length. Any knowing Clio driver realises that driving fast in a straight line is boring, though. It's the corners where the fun really happens and where the Clio comes to life. The speed that can be carried through a bend often surprises many a 'quicker' machine on track. Whilst a premium set of coilovers would no doubt be a better choice for a track-focused car, the trick Sachs dampers are superb performers on track. The eagerness with which the Trophy can turn into an apex is addictive and the fact that it is so playful through the bends on the throttle is also strangely alluring. A little lift here or dab of throttle there and the whole car helps pull you around the corner. Not to mention how nimble these light cars can be under braking, too.
As I've already said above, it's not all been bad. Had it not been for #165 I would not have been introduced and invited to so many great car clubs and events. Many miles have been covered driving to social gatherings, car shows, dyno days and holidays and lots of friendships have come out of it. Sometimes it can be as much, if not more, about the people you meet as it can about the shared passion for all things performance cars and driving. I've met people who have bent over backwards to help me get the Trophy back on the road and I've forged friendships that will last a lifetime. Perhaps I shouldn't become too upset with Le CBR spending so much time off the road. Especially looking at the bigger picture and considering all the positive things that have come out of my ownership experience with #165.
Some of my happier moments of recent times have either directly or indirectly involved #165. It's such a special car, and it's well and truly under my skin. I haven't had the opportunity to drive Le CBR nearly as much as I've wanted to but it would physically pain me to say goodbye to it. The Trophy is a keeper and it is going nowhere. With a bit of luck, it won't be too much longer before we once again continue our travels, too!
Before this crayon signs off I feel a quick apology is in order. This article was originally released about 36 hours ago but - due to reasons unknown - it completely vanished from DriveTribe, never to be seen again. As a result I decided to rewrite and share again as it did appear that people were genuinely enjoying the article - for which I am incredibly grateful. I hope this version hasn't lost too much during the rewrite because it certainly dampened my enthusiasm!
Oh - one more thing. I may have lied about the Radcliffe-on-Trent thing. It wasn't a particularly great drive that day but it's a lovely area that holds many fond memories of my younger childhood. Please don't hate me people of Radcliffe-on-Trent.