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£900, 93k on the clock and still a ‘silver bullet’

Renault Sport might not be officially involved in UK rallying any more, but there are still plenty of its cars out there competing in private hands at club level on the stages in the UK.
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The entry list for Donington Park’s recent Dukeries rally featured a 2004 Phase 2 Clio 172 plus a 1995 Clio Williams 2.

We caught up with both owners/drivers – Rob Fisher (172) and Tom Stoker (Williams). Tom we’ll focus on in next month’s newsletter (the Williams’s tale includes a few surprises)! In the meantime here’s Rob’s story.

“I bought the 172 for £900 in 2013 (a private seller in Newark) as a standard road car just to do a few auto solos and track days with,” he recalls.

“However the car surprised me with just how capable it was so we decided to go down the rally route.

“It’s meant a bit of work to make it rally-spec – chiefly there’s the safety equipment  including seats, rollcage, harnesses and fire extinguisher – but it remains fairly standard.

“The suspension and transmission we’ve needed to beef up to withstand the punishment it goes through. There’s a converted set of WRC (World Rally Car) units on the front while the rear is a simpler rally suspension (AVO). The gearbox is a standard five-speed but with an upgraded limited slip differential made by Sadev. We have Sadev driveshafts as well. Given what we do it needs it!”

Twelve events – some multi-surface at airfields; others full asphalt such as at Donington – have been contested with the 172 in the past two and a half years but remarkably the car’s mileage has not suffered too much.

“It had 90,000 miles on the clock when we bought it and now that’s up to about 93,000. The events are quite short (approximately 50 competitive stage miles)| but we still bargain on £1000 per event to cover entry fees, fuel and maintenance – I’d say each rally is worth 1000 road miles.”

Rob, from mid-Derbyshire, is co-driven by Adam Lawrence from Manchester. The pair have experienced plenty of adventures in their ‘silver bullet’ and have plans to take it into the forests.

“The first event we did, near York, was the most disappointing,” continues Rob. “Two miles into its very first stage as a rally car I did the engine. I’d come off the asphalt onto the gravel and in the heat of the moment kept it flat out on the rev limiter and dropped a valve. End of rally. A very expensive lesson – but by that evening we’d already got the car back to base and put a new engine in and just five days later we were out on another rally!

“Its performance is pretty remarkable. On an event this year near Nottingham we were up to seventh overall and beating a lot of newer, fancier four-wheel drive stuff but sadly we stopped with a gearbox problem. It was disappointing to retire but that event still makes me smile a lot. I love throwing it about and driving it hard.

“Our next event now will probably be in the New Year – maybe the North West Stages near Blackpool. But I do want to take the car on a few forest rallies. It’ll need some different kit on it as forest stages mean a different type of surface and challenge. It’ll be interesting...”

Photos: Paul Horton Motorsport Photography