From eBay to Brands Hatch

Ever wondered what happens to cars after their time is up in the Renault UK Clio Cup – well here’s one we discovered at Brands Hatch in December with a not so obvious ‘after life’.
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The car is from the 2010 UK Clio Cup (the year of the ‘Gen 3’ 200) but was actually a ‘barn find’ on eBay of all places. The successful buyer was Sevenoaks race team owner Matt Ellis whose father Martyn – co-driven by Clive Letherby – now drives it in single-venue asphalt stage rallying.

“From memory it was about £14,000, ready to rally, so still a bit of a bargain, but it needed some work,” says Matt.

“The previous owner had converted it to rally-spec but dinged it and got a bit disheartened so it ended up in a barn. Then a trader got hold of it and put it on eBay where we saw it six months ago. With the care we’ve given it we’ve even had a few offers come in for it for over £20,000.”

Matt, who also takes part in sprints and hill climbs in a modified 320hp Mégane Renault Sport ‘Mk3’ (and with some giant-killing results, too), subsequently appointed Uttoxeter race preparation specialist Area Motorsport to restore the Clio to mint condition.

“Everything was stripped and re-done – sensors, plugs, suspension, CV boots, lighting, electrics, fire system. It was a bit temperamental but it’s all good now,” adds Matt.

“On saying the heart of the car – engine and gearbox (Sadev six speed sequential) – remain the original parts. Everyone knows how good they and they’ve never missed a beat. We’ve actually now got a very rapid and bulletproof car.”

Results in events are starting to improve, too, with Martyn – from a rear-wheel-drive background – beginning to master the art of rallying a front-wheel-drive machine.

“It’s a bit a learning curve for him – you’d be surprised just how good a lot of other crews are even at club level rallying in Britain,” continues Matt. “We’ve actually found ourselves seeded really low down on the entry list – they put us 74th out 100th at Rockingham! But we came up to 36th overall which was good. We also had a decent climb up the order at Brands as well.”

Donington Park (5 March) is the next event for the Clio before Matt hopes to start its next phase of ‘development’.

“We’re going to lighten it hopefully by quite a bit,” he explains. “First we’ll be putting in Perspex windows then moving on to the boot, bonnet and bumpers using fibre glass or carbon and also cutting the doors out.

“We’ll also likely go back to an ORECA exhaust system (single exit). That should also save on weight but also give us possibly a bit more power – it’ll be less restrictive. It’ll also make the car sound nicer, from the 92 decibels now back up to the 98dB mark.

“Ultimately, though, I’d quite like to get it back to circuit racing spec. I currently race Hondas but wouldn’t mind using the ‘Gen 3’ Clio to have a go at the BARC’s Michelin Clio Cup Series (for older UK Clio Cup machinery). Then who knows… maybe the UK Clio Cup for the latest ‘Gen 4’ cars at British Touring Car events.”

Pictures: courtesy of Gary Hill