Time Attack Renault Clio 197 | PH Private Area

Meet the PHer who set out to build 'the mother of all turbo engines'. He ended up 580hp in a Clio…

By John Howell / Sunday, 4 June 2023 / Loading comments

The thing I enjoy most about the PH classifieds is the variety. You never know what you’ll find. It could be anything. On my last tour through the many cars for sale, I found a delivery-miles Lexus LFA up for one million pounds, and for that you get a car with around 570hp. Or you could have a Renault Clio with 10hp more for £25,000. Yes, you did read that correctly: a Renault Clio with 580hp. See what I mean about variety…

This car is owned by Nick. He runs a company called Pure Motorsport, which, funnily enough, supplies motorsport parts for Renaults. He sells parts mainly to club racers and hill climbers, but will also sell you bits for older Clio Cup cars used in historic racing – the factory supplies all the parts for the modern stuff. Anyway, it makes perfect sense that Nick decided to build a Renault racing car of his own, which he did.

The first one was a Clio 172 Phase I, which he built for hill climbs. He said it was quite successful, too, having eked out 260hp from its naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine. After he’d stamped his mark on the hill climbs, Nick decided to tackle the Time Attack Series with his Clio, and very quickly realised that there was a problem.

If you haven’t heard of Time Attack, it all started in Japan and moved to the UK in 2006. In 2010 it was formally recognised by Motorsport UK as a fully-fledged series, and it pulls in big crowds at circuits across the country. And it’s not hard to see why. This isn’t head-to-head racing, as such, but effectively a qualifying-style race against the clock. Flat-out driving in other words.

There are various classes and, to quote the Time Attack website, each one pushes a car ‘to its absolute limit and beyond; on the knife-edge of engine power, traction and response; on the limits of handling, chassis set-up and downforce, whilst maintaining reliability and, above all, speed’. If that doesn’t get the juices flowing, I don’t know what will.

Getting back to Nick’s debut, he found that even with 260hp his Clio was nowhere. He was in the Club Class, which is the most popular category in the series for tuned production cars, and split between two- and four-wheel-drive cars. Even though this is the middle-of-the-road class for the gentleman racer, the cars were still pushing 500hp. Twice what Nick’s Clio had, then, which is when he decided to go BIG.

He bought a completely bog-standard Clio 197, and over the course of a year, turned it into the car you see here. First, he stripped out the interior and fitted a roll cage, and then, to use his own words, set about building ‘the mother of all turbo engines’. The advert lists all the intricacies of what that entailed, but the basics include using a Megane 225 block and fitting a new Clio 197 head to it. This had oversized valves and bigger cams, and he also added custom pistons and rods, a new forged crank and the bottom end was fully balanced up. The reason for such meticulous attention to detail was down to the next addition on the list: a Garrett GTX3076 Gen2 Turbocharger. Even in its low-boost setting, this swells the 2.0-litre’s outputs up to a heady 490hp and 350lb ft. Turn the wick up to max and it’ll churn out the full 580hp and 450lb ft.

To begin with, he left the engine on a low heat (just the 490hp) and the car ran reliably and quickly – Nick says that at Snetterton he hit 150mph down the back straight with relative ease. But, as always, when there’s a big, shiny, red button (in this case metaphorically speaking) anyone with a sense of adventure would have to press it, right? So he did. And all was well for about 10 minutes at full boost and all 580hp. Then, without even using full throttle, it stripped all the teeth on fifth gear and the engine’s top end said enough is enough.

He’s since stripped it all down and made some changes. He reckons that the Megane 225 NDO gearbox the Clio is running is basically a tough old unit, but to help it cope with this much torque he’s fitted a new fifth gear with deeper-cut teeth. The issue with the engine was head lift, which he put down to the ARP head studs. He’s since changed these for bolts that will stretch but still retain their clamping force. Even so, he says he’d advise anyone who buys the car to not run it beyond 500hp. Think of the last 80hp a bit like the wafer-thin mint that caused Mr Creosote to explode in The Meaning of Life.

Why’s he selling it, now it’s back to full fitness? Well, he lives in Cornwall and is struggling to carve out the time needed to get to all the events. The closest to him is Brands, and even that’s a five-hour journey. Having to cut short so many working Fridays and getting back late on Sundays after each trip away was taking its toll on him and the business. Hence, it’s time for someone else to have some fun with the Clio.

On which point, I asked him what he’d suggest for the next stage in its evolution. He reckons the first thing would be to lose some weight. The Clio is a heavy car – around 1,200kg – and currently all the bodywork is the original steel panels. He has a set of lightweight polycarbonate windows to go in it, but he’d also look at carbon panels to lighten it further. Then he’d consider some aero. He said the Clio’s suspension and twin-axis steering are so well designed that the car is stable at 150mph and doesn’t torque steer wildly even with all the grunt. But to really get the lap times down substantially it needs more aero grip. A front splitter and rear wing can be bought off-the-shelf, but a custom-built flat floor and rear diffuser would be worth considering, depending on how far the next owner wants to go.

And if that is you, and you’re looking for something balls-out crazy for some weekend fun, then why not give Nick a call? He knows stuff and fair play, he’s built something unseemly – which in PH terms means brilliant. Bravo. 

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