28/03/2019

Taken for a ride: observations from the Clio Cup passenger seat

While the cars in the Renault UK Clio Cup are identical, the driving styles of the ‘nuts behind the wheel’ most definitely are not as we recently discovered...
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Jack Young, Jade Edwards, Ethan Hammerton – our Media Officer and lifelong (since the Seventies) racing enthusiast Carl McKellar was well and truly taken for a ride by this famous ‘Clio Trio’ during the championship’s recent Media Day event.

After several ‘hot laps’ with each around the Silverstone National circuit, these were his findings…

“Firstly, just to be clear, the sensation is little short of mind blowing, particularly when it comes to the car’s braking, turn-in response to ‘turn-in’ and mid-corner grip levels.

“Much of this is down to the slick racing tyre developed and supplied by Michelin but also Renault Sport’s engineering know-how and the competition components on the Clio Cup car (brakes, suspension, transmission etc).

“Young, winner of November’s Clio Cup ‘world final’, is first up. He’s 17 but already regarded as hot property in UK racing circles and I immediately found out why.

“Immediately he was on it; flat on the throttle as he turned right through the narrow, Armco-lined pit lane exit – total confidence.

“Swiftly we’re darting left through Maggotts, the two left hand wheels flattening out the kerb so Young can get the car pointing straight as possible for braking into the much tighter, right-handed Becketts.

“Here the right wheels savage the inside kerb and a late exit enables the driver to come off the steering lock early to gain him momentum onto Bentley Straight.

“Brooklands, a long tightening left-hander is next and this is where you really become aware of the car’s stopping power. Young brakes 30 metres or so prior to the final ‘left turn’ marker board on the right and ensures the car hovers around two-thirds of the way across the road before applying a touch more lock to hit another late apex.

“Plenty of kerb on the left is used but not to the point of exceeding track limits. That late apex has again got him lined up nicely for the long, looping right-hander of Luffied and it’s here that he seems to gain over his rivals (he ended the day P1 after all)…

“Holding a relatively tight line to the inside kerb he leaves enough room for the ‘rotation’ of the car (the sensation that it is sitting on a spinning top) to bring him back towards another late apex. This means plenty of speed heading to Woodcote (right hand wheels over the edge of the inside kerb) and then to Copse.

“This is the fastest corner on the circuit and, with a minor lift and a very accurate application of the wheel, he is more than happy to carry crazy levels of speed towards, you guessed it, another late apex. A driver who’s very definitely happy to let the car drive ‘on its nose’…

“Moving on to Hammerton and Copse, Becketts and Luffield are dispensed with in broadly the same way, but Brooklands is different. The Team HARD driver brakes as late as Young but prefers to stay flush down the right hand side of the road, slowing in a straight line more before heading left towards the apex.

“If anything, there is an even later apex here compared to Young. At Woodcote he similarly runs over the inside kerb but not by as much.

“Once, he brakes too late into Becketts but, instead of any drama, Hammerton knows how to kill the speed and still find a decent route to the apex.

“Finally to Edwards and there’s a very definite difference in style. On the straight she’ll ‘pump’ the brakes to limit the risk of locking up when she stands on them next (a habit, I’m told, that’s stayed with her after issues with a car some years back).

“Her line through Luffield is on a par with Young’s and Hammerton’s but, at Copse, Becketts and Brooklands there’s an earlier apex – at Brooklands in particular, she approaches the corner on a tighter line. At Woodcote she runs up to the kerb but not onto it.

“There is also more steering input from her, to counter, possibly, for her putting slightly less rotation into the car – she is pestering the car to turn in instead.

“All three, though, do have two very obvious traits in common: precision/consistency, plus a real calmness at the wheel. Each had an apparent ‘sideways scare’ at the exit of Brooklands as the car settled after riding the kerb. No bother, as an instinctive right flick of the wheel immediately steadied the ship. Effortless control. I only ever felt impressed; never scared.

“Finally, while each has their own ‘technique’, there really is very little to separate them on the final timesheets: P1, Young 1m04.220s; P6, Hammerton, 1m04.638s; P7 Edwards 1m04.808s.

“Brands Hatch Indy in just over a week, when these three and the rest will really be meaning business, cannot come soon enough…”