So there I was, all chuffed with myself that I’d planned a dreamy intro for this feature. I’d write about being lost in the moment, struggling to believe that I was pulling the gears and chucking Renault’s new Clio Rally3 within sideways, I thought.
I had been rally driving – that was never supposed to happen in order to me.
But let this particular be a lesson to you that tempting fate can really only come back to bite you. Slipping knees first onto the particular ground just after I’d put Renault’s all-new rally car off the road really wasn’t what I’d had in mind.
Circuit Andorra – Pas de la Casa was the setting for the big instant in rallying history. Saturday, January 14 was the 1st time the public laid eyes on the particular very first four-wheel-drive rally vehicle to wear the famous diamond badge.
Homologation is to come in the particular spring plus testing is already complete, but this has been Renault’s chance to show the world the fruits of its labor.
It’s an important car not just for Renault and the Alpine Customer Racing division, but for rallying as a whole, as finally after two long years M-Sport Poland’s Fiesta Rally3 has a playmate. The world’s special stages will soon reveal who’s boss.
But January’s second full weekend had been all about generating some media hype about one of the year’s most intriguing cars.
We had the chance to speak to chief engineer Yann Paranthoën at the back end of last year, plus everything I’d heard about the particular car sounded promising – from its F1-engineered rear wing to the raspy four-cylinder engine and punchy styling. The car looked and sounded the part in the promo video Renault released, too.
But seeing is believing as they say, and I was won over straight away. Just setting eye on it, it’s clear that will the Clio Rally3 is a proper piece of kit. It just looks very well sorted. And I’m sorry to say it M-Sport, but you’ve got some work to do in the particular (admittedly fairly trivial when you boil it down) sound department.
The three-cylinder thrum of a Fiesta Rally3 has got nothing on the bark and growl of Renault’s 260bhp four-cylinder heart. Bonus points must be awarded for the canon-like exhaust resembling the bowl associated with Rice Krispies (as advertised, I’m never quite sure I believed it) as it crackled and popped on the over-run.
2021 RX2e globe champion Guillaume De Ridder was the one entrusted with driving duties as Renault’s new creation broke cover. But his run on Sunday, completed after the conclusion of the particular passionately supported and rather entertaining Clio Ice Trophy for Rally5 spec Clios, was just a precursor for exactly what lay ahead on Sunday.
Renault had been brave enough to let all the attending journalists have a go behind the wheel. We’d each get three laps alongside De Ridder before swapping seats plus having a go ourselves.
But before we get to that, and how it went wrong for yours truly, Paranthoën was back on hand in the bitterly cold Andorra to offer some more words on the vehicle rally coordinator Josep Ferrer described as “his child”.
“It’s a very important car for us because for sure we need in order to have a good business plan, ” Paranthoën explained.
“For sure if we can sell quite a lot of Rally3s the business will be good and if the business is good with regard to sure this will become easier to propose another project.
“When you do customer racing, particularly within Renault/Alpine, you need in order to make a profit. If the car is good, you will sell a lot of cars. You market lots of vehicles, you sell plenty of spare parts and the business will be good. ”
But it is about far more than simply business. Renault has massively bought into Rally3.
For sure whenever we do the first rallies compared to the Fiesta it will certainly be very interestingYann Paranthoën
“We are very happy along with the regulation, ” Paranthoën said. “We go to Rally3 project due to the fact we think that will this regulation is really good for the particular customers and for us since technically you can do quite a lot of things, so for engineers it’s always interesting in order to work like this.
“And the regulations are extremely clear about the budget as well as the price cap, and when we perform the business plan good with the particular price cover in mind, plus with the technical rules, it will be the very great four-wheel-drive vehicle.
“For certain when we do the very first rallies compared to the Fiesta it can be very interesting. We hope to have more manufacturers mainly because only 2 it’s not a lot, yet we prefer to compete with other manufacturers than just Ford. Let’s see in case other producers will have the particular same decision as us. ”
Manufacturers of the world, there’s your cue.
Renault though is unlikely to join a healthy list of automakers in developing the Rally2 car to complement the range of Rally3, 4 and 5 Clios. At least not really for now.
“Personally, regarding sure I would like to perform a Rally2 car, ” Paranthoën confessed, “but to be honest it’s not possible in Alpine Racing because to do a Rally2 vehicle actually we need a great deal of budget [allocated to customer racing] as we need in order to do a lot of test session to end up being competitive. Plus to perform a car to try and beat Škoda or Citroën, I think it’s extremely, very difficult.
“And we don’t have the particular staff for this. We are only four or five engineers, actually only two designers, only two mechanics, so we know that all of us cannot do everything.
“Alpine Racing is focused on Formula 1 plus LMDh [World Endurance Championship] and I actually think Rally3 will be the last car for the time being. ”
For my final question, I decided to ask Paranthoën why he was therefore bold and elected in order to let press hacks have a go at traveling. And We promise I actually used the phrase “idiots like me” within my question, not realizing how prophetic that would prove to be.
“Because it’s a customer car, ” came the reply, “so we all need to present a car and we need in order to have good media for certain, so it is always a good day!
“We explain our project, we explain our own car, it’s always the pleasure to work like this. ”
To his credit, Paranthoën meant that. After I’d sheepishly returned to the pits and snuck out to the back right after hanging my head in shame in front of my fellow mass media colleagues, I shouted “I’m sorry! ” in their direction. He smiled, plus simply wanted to know what I thought associated with the vehicle.
What did I believe of the car? Truthfully, We don’t really feel qualified to give a proper answer since I experienced no frame of reference. Rallying may be my area of expertise but generating a rally car most certainly is not. Before this trip I’d just ever traveled in 3 rally cars before and none of them from the driver’s seat.
Yet what I actually can tell you are that the Clio Rally3 is confidence inspiring. From as early because the first sweeping hairpin I found the feet within the car, tugging the handbrake and modulating the resultant slide with the throttle. This probably didn’t look very impressive, but We felt such as a legend.
Renault has taken its time to develop a car that people really want, plus it’s been smart in how it is gone regarding it. Over 30 different drivers obtained behind the particular wheel during the car’s testing phase. No one driver was responsible intended for development. And for a car that’s becoming pitched squarely at customers – with no works-supported team to speak of – that’s a shrewd move.
Turn-in was crisp, although conditions on the day were icy to say the least. Michelin’s X-Ice North tires, and the particular 190 studs that protrude from them, helped keep skidding to a minimum – but not completely!
And the power has been addictive. I actually must confess I had been never usually fully sold on the concept of Rally3, yet getting a first-hand taste of it makes those year-old thoughts feel ridiculous. These are proper little vehicles that are usually easy to drive and (relatively) affordable. Win-win.
Last year’s WRC3 runner-up, Jan Černý (who’d made a cheeky stop upon his way to Tenerife to try the vehicle that rivals his 2022 steed), assured me associated with this whenever he came back from his run and could sense the particular apprehension in my demeanor.
“You’ll be OK, ” he said, nicely aware which i was about to lose my rally driving virginity.
“It’s really easy to drive. The particular first corner is the bit slippy but other than that it’s fine. ”
“But you can’t see nothing. ”
Ah, thanks mate.
He wasn’t wrong though.
De Ridder made it look easy since I tried to balance enjoying my initial ride in a rally car on snow and ice while absorbing the information he was telling me concerning the vehicle and the problems.
“You may handbrake through this one, ” he said, locking the rear wheels on cue and sliding beautifully through the bend.
“Or not, ” this individual added next time around, using the ancient art of the particular Scandinavian flick to guide the Clio on its way.
Suitably impressed but quietly bricking it, soon it was our turn.
I didn’t really know what to think or exactly what to expect from personally. This was just about taking an incredible opportunity, trying to play it cool in front side of De Ridder and, above all else, not really crashing the car.
“Please, generate carefully, ” we had been warned within the pre-event briefing. “The last thing we want is to get there in order to be a problem that will stops the particular others from trying the car. ”
Whenever you hear that, a person never believe it’s going to be you. It’s something you take in but basically bat away milliseconds later because, properly, that’s simply obvious. Isn’t it?
I has been driving in group 2 of three, I used to be originally supposed to be within three but I pleaded my method into two due to the timing of my flight home.
But in doing so, the weather gods got decided to play the trick upon me. Snow and ice isn’t the particular surface I’d have picked for the first flavor of move driving, yet I had been dealing with the added curveball of a fresh bout of fairly heavy snow.
I was warned as such before all of us set off: “Conditions are a bit difficult now, ” Sobre Ridder commented, “but I’ll guide you via it. ”
Happily managing not to stall the motor, we gently pull away.
“You can press the stage mode button, ” We hear down the intercom. I avert my eyes toward the particular steering wheel plus there it is – this beautiful, big blue button that turns everything up to 11.
Stage mode engaged, I give it our best shot.
The aforementioned handbrake-induced slide was definitely a highlight from the program – but I did casually forget to mention that I was see-sawing a bit around the exit, over-correcting as I produced that classic mistake associated with shuffling the wheel like you would inside a road car.
But the particular rear end of the circuit was my kryptonite. In the haze which was my view through the windshield, making out a few of the particular corners was a near impossibility. I actually hadn’t stood and watched anybody by means of this part of the track, and that was probably the biggest mistake.
The corners I particularly didn’t like were a quick left-right sequence before another capturing left hairpin. The hairpin actually could be forgiven – I do manage to get the nice slide through there on 1 of our later laps.
But the left-right is going to be living rent-free in my head for many years to come.
Again, carrying more than habits through road driving, I was not pressing the brakes hard enough. The left turn was after the longest straight on the particular circuit where you’d get up in order to fourth gear before stamping on the anchors and threading the particular car through.
De Ridder quickly picks up within the fact that I’m not exactly oozing confidence
Twice I got my braking wrong. My third time with the corner was the worst as I ran off-line, understeered and nosed it in to some snow. Down to first gear. Power. Nothing has been happening. I began to really feel worried.
“Try reverse. ”
Embarrassingly, We didn’t understand how to find it. But once Sobre Ridder acquired explained that will I needed to press the red switch atop the gear lever, I got the vehicle free.
With regard to all of about five seconds.
Back on the road, frustrated at my off plus dazed by the white-out in front of me, at this point I’m totally disorientated. Crawling, I try to work out which way the road goes. De Ridder quickly picks up for the fact that I’m not exactly oozing confidence.
“Right!, ” he or she says.
But it was too late. By this point, I’ve wandered off straight-on and this 260bhp rally-bred monster has tip-toed into an additional clump associated with thick snowfall.
I repeat the same process because before.
First equipment. Nope.
“Ah, I think we are stuck now, ” says De Ridder.
I don’t know what to say – or exactly what to perform. It’s a moment of pathetic fallacy as I actually freeze upward and just sit there like a total plum, fearing I’m in for a right old bollocking.
De Ridder gets away and it’s clear that will the car wasn’t getting out under its own steam. It was barely off the corner, yet far sufficient off for that bank to get gobbled it up and robbed it associated with any traction.
“It’s not really your fault, ” Sobre Ridder says, rallycross driver turned counselor. “There’s absolutely nothing you could have done. ”
I’m not sure I believe him, but the sentiment is respected all the same. Soon I’m also out of the vehicle, as well as the Renault guys appear from your white wall of weather since our rescue aid, later on followed by the particular circuit’s tractor that makes light work associated with pulling the Clio free.
I catch a single of the particular engineers grinning to himself as he takes a picture of my downfall.
“Don’t worry about it, ” he stated, reading the shame etched on the face. “Nothing is broken, at least right now you are a real rally driver! ”
Fair perform to the particular entire crew, as none of them held this against me personally. They could see that the conditions were challenging – particularly for a complete novice – and the car had been absolutely good, so no harm, no problem.
I can not say We felt the same. Clambering into the co-driver’s side once the particular car was free as De Ridder drove all of us back to the pits, he once again reassured me: “You can’t observe anything. You are literally guesstimating every corner. ”
But once we pulled up, I had the walk of pity to face. On the other side of the door was my media colleagues who were all well aware some thing had gone awry.
As soon because I acquired out there, I was directly into a debrief. Journalist mode fully switched on, I obtained a chance to experience another part of life as a rally driver when the press hounds a person. A huddle began in order to swarm since all anybody desired to know was: what happened?
Once I’d delivered our explanation, Spanish media ace Nacho Villarin helped myself see the funny side: “Now you are ready for your first Rally Sweden!, ” this individual patted me on the particular back, prior to explaining their own story of rolling a Yamaha buggy at an event this past year at Nasser Al-Attiyah’s race camp.
A minimum of his off-road excursion has been cool! Mine was just pathetic.
Hats off to Renault although. It had been an amazing opportunity and, although we’re yet to get the last proof, exactly what it’s produced looks to become a very fine move car indeed
I’m fully convinced it’ll be the winner, so long as I’m not driving it.