ART OF SPEED

Evo India - - CONTENTS - By DAVID VI­VIAN | PHO­TOG­RA­PHY by KENNY P

Re­nault Sport Clio V6 body kit

TTHE IDEA. HOW­EVER HUM­BLE YOUR START­ING POINT – and they don’t come much more hum­ble than a front-drive shop­per – sac­ri­fic­ing the rear seats for a po­tent mo­tor driv­ing the rear wheels will have all sorts of in­ter­est­ing con­se­quences. The Re­nault 5 Turbo and Turbo II were fine early mark­ers for what, 20 years on, would be the ul­ti­mate man­i­fes­ta­tion of the no­tion. Dis­torted to a level of al­most com­i­cal tumes­cence by their mid-mounted me­chan­i­cals, the ter­ri­ble tots ral­lied with some suc­cess and proved a hoot to hus­tle down a twisty back road. They also es­tab­lished a kind of ‘what if?’ mentality at Re­nault­sport.

As in ‘what if we do it again?’ De­spite a new di­rec­tion sug­gested by the 1996 Spi­der, for its next act Re­nault­sport re­turned to the baby-hatch-turned-ul­ti­mate-ral­ly­weapon for­mula. Insert ‘fan­tasy’ some­where in there too, be­cause while there seemed no good rea­son why the treatment shouldn’t work for the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Clio, ral­ly­ing was off the ta­ble. Per­haps more cu­ri­ously still, in front-drive 2-litre 172 Cup hot hatch form, Re­nault al­ready pos­sessed a Clio with se­ri­ous per­for­mance and point-to­point chops.

Un­de­terred and con­fi­dent its su­per­mini could do the bi­jou su­per­car thing, Re­nault­sport pushed on with the de­sign for a mid-en­gined V6 Clio racer that would spawn a lim­ited run of road cars. Pre­viewed as a con­cept at the 1998 Paris show, three years later (and with more than a lit­tle hands-on help from Tom Walkin­shaw Rac­ing at its Swedish Ud­de­valla site) the most out­ra­geous road-going Re­nault ever hit the road. And, amaz­ingly for a Clio, took up most of it.

Un­like the R5 Turbo, the mis­sion here was to some­how shoe­horn a large nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine – a 227bhp ver­sion of the 24-valve 3-litre V6 from the Re­nault La­guna – into the midriff area of the nor­mally slim-hipped Clio. To fa­cil­i­tate this, the stan­dard bodyshell was fit­ted with cus­tom sub­frames to sup­port the new mo­tor and a re­mark­able amount of lat­eral largesse to ac­com­mo­date a sig­nif­i­cantly broader foot­print and heftier cool­ing re­quire­ments.

Some 171mm wider and 66mm lower than a reg­u­lar Clio – with a 38mm in­crease in wheel­base, and tracks widened by 110mm at the front and 138mm at the back to match – the V6 had car­toon­ish pro­por­tions that seemed both per­fect and pre­pos­ter­ous. Recog­nis­ably Clio were the parts of the donor bodyshell you could still see, but the new bumpers, com­pos­ite side pan­els and sill cov­ers, to­gether with the in­dus­trial-sized vents, were spec­tac­u­larly dis­tract­ing.

In 2003 the Clio V6 was given a facelift and called the 255, de­not­ing an in­crease in power (to 251bhp, or 255 PS). With an even wider front track and sharper lines, it looked mad­der than ever. It also ad­dressed some of the scarier han­dling is­sues of the orig­i­nal. Re­spect was still ad­vis­able, though, es­pe­cially in the wet.

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