End of year report

r26.r340_4b430f86d8085-lightboxA lot of people get put off regular track driving due to the maintenance costs and seeing as my car doesn’t really get driven on the roads it shows just what tough little cars these are.

Since the car arrived in the beginning of June it’s seen a good few trips over into Europe. Motorway driving (in the dry at least) is tackled easily as long as you have someone for company to talk to (I never did get a radio fitted) and the mpg sits at a healthy 28-30 on a long run, only dipping into the mid-20s when you’re sitting above 100 mph (on the autobahns of course!)

After around 3000 miles (and on a particularly hot day at the Nurburgring), the front tyres where getting past their best so I swapped the front with the rears. Some people don’t like to do this, but I feel it keeps the car handling more consistently as all four tyres are of the same age and have been through the same number of heat cycles; more importantly it also means you have four brand new tyres on the car when they need replacing.

On the next trip to Spa Franchorchamps the front brake pads needed replacing, done in the pit lane by the ever helpful John at Ron Simmons racing. As advised I stuck with the standard Renault Brembo pads as they had served so well on the car.

After that, as the car was approaching 5000 miles I thought it prudent to get the oil and filter changed. Seeing as the car never does stop/start town driving or low temperature work the oil was still visibly like new, but it’s a small price to pay to keep things in top condition. Actually it was a very small price I had to pay, more on this later.

Other than that, the only things needing sorted are the tyres which are now well past their best. Peter at Denton Tyres in Carlisle has got some in stock for me for £150 per corner which is entirely reasonable considering the grip they’ve provided, especially over 5400 miles.

If you read some of the Renault Sport forums, most people like to have a good moan about how quickly the tyres wear, some experiencing less than 2500 miles. Having mentioned that I had gotten over 5000 miles out of mine the general consensus was that I wasn’t trying hard enough!

Having been with the car now for quite a few laps I found that if I changed the way I was driving, not only were my lap times much quicker but the car kept itself much more composed. Where previously I would trail brake into a corner forcing the car to unsettle into the apex the Renault benefits from all your braking being done in a straight line. Turn in is sharpened and with the Quaife LSD doing its thing you can actually power through the apex and out to your exit point. the tyres hook up perfectly and you end up taking each bend faster and faster as everything happens at such a controlled and manageable pace. In fact the only indication of how fast you’re travelling is the increasing amount of more exotic cars you end up passing!

So overall, am I very happy with the car then? Well there’s been so little to fault, it would seem unreasonable to pull anything up about the car. The passenger seat developed an incredibly annoying creak which Benfields Renault in Carlisle said they would investigate. One of the metal shims had come loose in the carbon bucket allowing the seat a few mm of movement.

After pricing a new seat (over £3000!) they sensibly opted to try and repair it. As I had to bring in the car in for the warranty work the service manager did the oil and filter change for the fantastic price of £59 at the same time.

One of the complaints people have about Renault is the service given by their dealerships but in Benfields’ case they have been exemplary. In fact the repair job on the seat didn’t last for long and now that the winter weather is upon us and the car is in hibernation in the garage, they have offered to come out and change it on my drive! I should just add at this point that I didn’t even buy the car from them, but any time I’ve been down, the showroom empties as the staff all come out to have a look and ask about its latest Nurburgring times. A small point maybe but it’s nice to see Renault have built a car their staff are obviously proud of.

So all in, a cheap year of track days then. The whole idea in buying the car was it would be fully warrantied (something the Mugen Type R is not going to be, according to my order form) and even accounting for consumables it really doesn’t owe me much. By the time you add up tyres, brake servicing, oil & fluid changes I’m guessing a full season of track days is going to come in at less than £1500, or roughly the same as one service on my old M3 CSL!

I couldn’t be more pleased with the way it has performed, the car always impresses anyone who gets to come out in it and although it isn’t what you would call subtle I still love the way it looks. Will it still be here come the season’s start at the Nurburgring this Easter? I can’t think of anything better suited for the money.

Oh and for all those who suggested I wasn’t trying hard enough, my 2009 best bridge to gantry time was 8 minutes 8 seconds.

See you in April!

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craig Winter