Many of you probably read about Pirelli’s recent launch of the 2012 Formula One tyre compounds in Abu Dhabi. Since our neighbouring emirate is only 40 minutes away, we thought we’d head over to scope the scene. International media aplenty descended on-mass for the mid-morning press conference and, of course, the unveiling. Questions were asked, goals were outlined, and all was done within an hour. You’re probably sitting there thinking, “nicely done boys: a productive morning under your belts and back in the office before lunch”. Come now, you know us better than that.
Most of Pirelli’s two-day event was spent testing the effectiveness of its latest rubber around the Yas Marina short circuit. Having learnt that the perils of a wet road – as we frequently come across in the UAE – can be averted with a wet-weather shod Renault Laguna, Crankandpiston’s next port of call was the Renault Clio Sport RS. A cheeky little minx at the best of times, stiffening the suspension, whacking on the low profiles and slotting a 200bhp 2.0l under the bonnet meant Ms Daisy’s driver wouldn’t be required. Helmeted up and passing a hand over the go-faster stripes as I climb in, I’m met with a bit of a result: a fully manual six-speed gearbox.
We take it slow on the out lap, gradually feeding in the power until the tyres are warmed up. This doesn’t stop my attempt to short-shift from sixth to fourth going slightly wrong, the distance between windscreen and helmet halving as high second gear revs plead for mercy. Soon a chopping gesture from my instructor suggests I gun it, and I oblige dutifully.
Braking hard at the 200m board, the front tyres bite hard as we hurtle into the sharp left turn one, feeding the power as we bump the apexes through the chicane. Solid traction out of turn four, and nippiness keeps the Clio loose yet stable through two fast sweeping right handers, heavy braking lifting the right rear tyre playfully without the threat of oversteer.
Manually slotting in the gears leaves only one hand free as we enter the right-left-left complex, but weighty steering keeps the nose dipped and planted, ten-and-two all but forgotten. It’s at this point I decide my instructor’s lack of input is a good thing. Brief lift into the final right-left, right hand down and throttle nailed in an attempt to kick the rear out before hitting the main straight. Lap two…
Fifteen minutes of arduous practice later – a mild tilt of my instructor’s head his acknowledgment of a job well done – we head back to pit road. Feeling more confident (nay cocky), I’m keen for a go in something faster.
Hello, what’s this? It looks like an Aston Martin Vantage GT4… >>>