The Alpine A110 is a perfect getaway car for a country break
The long, winding drive that leads up to Gidleigh Park in the heart of Dartmoor is less a road and more an automotive assault course. Dark, twisting, narrow, steep, flooded, blindcornered, high-banked… The lane doesn’t so much follow the contours of the land as thrash about on it like a netted eel. It’s so arduous that halfway along, the hotel has nailed an encouraging notice to a tree: “Keep heart, you are still en route!” My wife and I were celebrating a milestone anniversary and had decided to treat ourselves to a night at the hotel. We laughed at the sign: it seemed like sage advice for a long, winding marriage, too.
Gidleigh Park was an inspired choice. My wife was drawn by the fact the lavish Arts and Craft house sits in 107 acres of woodland on the banks of the Teign river and has a chef, Chris Simpson, who has just won a Michelin star for his vibrant cooking. I, however, was drawn by the chance to put a very different star through its own breathtaking paces on Devon’s tough-mudder roads – Renault’s vivacious Alpine A110. Price £46,905 0-62mph 4.5 seconds Top speed 155mph MPG 46
If you are of a certain age, you might remember the bug-eyed, bottle-blue, French, two-seat rally car that tore to victory in the 1973 World Rally Championships. Now, the Alpine A110 is back and it’s stayed true to many of its original winning traits. It’s incredibly light. It is aluminium bodied and has an aluminium chassis. “If we have low mass, we can have moderate power,” says Alpine’s Thierry Annequin. “We have chased all grams everywhere on each component and every system.” What Thierry means is that a small nut doesn’t need a big hammer to crack it. So the relatively modest, turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine, which sits behind the driver, lends the car a wonderful sense of poise and balance. Floor the throttle and you feel you are being pushed rather than pulled – like a giant hand in the centre of your back.
The ride and handling is bewitching – and yet also remarkably composed for a such a dinky car. The lightweight guys tend to bounce around on rutted tarmac, but the Alpine remains wonderfully grounded. It flows across all surfaces – even over the dreadful gutters and grooves that scarify Devon’s sinuous lanes.
Inside you’ll recognise some familiar kit from Renault – though nowhere on the car is its French parent even alluded to, which seems a little rude. The leather sports seats and steering wheel are comfortable and tactile. My favourite detail is the auto gearbox. You select either D, N or R simply by pressing one of the three circular buttons. In hospital a patient’s DNR instruction spells the end, but here the letters are an open invitation to grab life and zoom towards it.
After hours of joyously slaloming across Dartmoor in the little Alpine, we arrived into the warm embrace of our r hotel. At the reception desk we were given our key by the e friendly manager: “Many of our rooms are named after local tors,” he said with a smile. “You will be in Laughter.” ” Who wouldn’t be? ■ Keep feet fresh and dry on even the longest bike rides, and amaze your mates with the wacky designs Often it’s the simplest ideas that prove the most compelling. And so it is with Chase the Sun. The challenge? Ride across the country in one day; coast to coast; east to west; dawn to dusk. Last year, 700 cyclists from around the world took part in the event’s 10th-anniversary ride. Originally conceived by Olly Moore, the concept is unique: it is a ride, not a race; it is a collective endeavour. The ride attracts cyclists from many countries and backgrounds, from trained athletes to determined novices, experienced longdistance adventurers to city commuters. There is no timing or ranking, no medals, only the ultimate success of chasing the sun across the country to view the sunset on the coastline. In 2019, the event will be bigger and more exciting than ever. At midsummer sunrise on 22 June, riders will be able to chase the sun some 200 miles over a choice of three different routes: in south and north UK, and Italy. The southern leg starts at sunrise on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent and finishes at sunset in Burnhamon-Sea in Somerset. The northern leg is Tynemouth to Prestwick. In Italy, the ride traverses the country from Cesenatico to Tirrenia. The event is free, but there are support and accommodation options. Register at chasethesun.org.
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