“The previous owner put the block through his dishwasher”

For amateur rally driver Tom Stoker, every event he does must make him feel in some small way like Renault Sport legend Jean Ragnotti – you see, he does them in all a Clio Williams.
  • Clio Williams Rally (1).jpg

Following on from our first feature in December’s newsletter about ‘obscure Renault Sport rally and racing finds’ (a Clio 172 converted for rallying) we move onto Tom in his Williams.

In its heyday (mid-1990s) the 2.0 Clio Williams was one of rallying’s best loved two-wheel-drive cars, albeit in ‘Maxi’ trim. It was used by Renault UK’s official British Rally Championship team and Renault Sport on the continent where it proved particularly effective in the hands of Monsieur Ragnotti…

Tom’s version however is somewhat standard by comparison. Like the 197 we found it in action at Donington Park’s Dukeries Rally.

Tom explains: “I’ve owned the Williams for about 18 months. I’ve got a ring binder of paperwork detailing its history – it was originally owned by a teacher in Wales and then found its way to a chap in Huddersfield who converted it for hillclimbing and sprint competition.

“He put the block through his dishwasher on a high temperature wash to clean it up. It’s still the same block so it must have worked!

“It cost me £5000 to buy with 137,000 miles on the clock. I suppose I’ve put about 400 miles on it since as it only runs on events – Harewood hillclimb twice and now the Donington rally.

“I have had to make some modifications so we can go rallying with it. This has included installing electric cut-offs, fire extinguishers, competition seats and harnesses, window film, bonnet pins and some strengthening to the roll cage.

“The engine has had work done to it as well. It was 150hp originally – mine is now putting out 180hp. I’ve had race cams fitted, the head ported and gas-flowed and a Renault Sport Megane throttle body put in. The gearbox is original apart although there’s a limited slip differential.

“Suspension wise it’s got Bilstein rear shock absorbers and a standard torsion bar while on the front it’s adjustable ‘coil overs’ but I’m going to go Bilsteins there too. There are also bigger front brakes – four-pot calipers.”

Considering how complex going rallying can become, the inherent performance of the Clio Williams has enabled Tom to compete – albeit at club level – for a relatively modest outlay. It’s clear he has plans for the car and that he’s enjoying his time at the wheel.

He adds: “I try and get a few events out of a set of tyres to keep costs down to £500-£600 per event. I’ve got a few single-venue events I’m looking at in the first half of 2017 but the target is the Tour of Mull in October – that would be a dream come true.

“The car’s suspension and gearbox remain relatively standard but really it’s not got anything I’d call a real weakness. It’s definitely got strengths – the main one being how much you can throw it about and make use of the power to weight ratio. For a fairly standard car it’s remarkably quick in keeping up with seriously expensive and well prepared cars and getting close to flat out in fifth gear around Donington was perhaps the best buzz I’ve had in it so far.”

Rally photos: courtesy of Brian Tyler