The Motul Clio Rally Trophy is a new motorsport series in the Netherlands, which kicked off last weekend with the inaugural Jack's International Drenthe Rally. This ambitious rally event is set on and around the famous TT Circuit Assen. Potential drivers could get to know more about the Clios on the TT Circuit, as well as learn more about Motul at the brand's booth. The Trophy is aimed at both new rally drivers and experienced drivers who want to step up to official factory cars. Motul has collaborated with Van den Heuvel Motorsport for this new Clio Rally Cup. We talked with owner Jasper Van den Heuvel, an ex-rally champion who is now running a team of six Motul-powered rally cars together with his younger brother Jim van den Heuvel who is the aspiring Dutch rally champion.
Jasper, the rally prepped Clios seem to be based on the track Clios, is that correct?
Yes indeed, the Renault Clios are being built on three platforms: race, rallycross, and rally. And in that sequence, the price for the build also rises [laughs]. This means our rally cars are the biggest investment. Partly it is because of the regulations. As the car is officially road-legal, it needs to fulfill all required legislation. It even has a European Certificate of Conformity.
What kind of technical modifications did the car receive?
Last year Renault sold over 400 rally cars. That’s how the factory was able to purchase high-quality racing parts at a decent price. Premium parts that are already factory, like the brakes, remain on the car, we only add better braking pads. What we do modify though is the gearbox, fuel tank, seats and the roll cage.
What are the main differences if we compare this car with the track version?
The suspension is different, but also the Certificate of Conformity which allows you to import the car to any European country. That is mainly the biggest difference. And of course, for rallying we need an extra seat and seatbelt for the copilot.
Renault has a long rallying tradition, certainly with the Clio Super 1600 version in mind. What makes this car so suitable for a National Rally Championship such as the recent Jack’s International Drenthe Rally?
It’s because Renault operates on an international level. We have a client who races here today but will also be racing in the Belgian cup next week. He’s competing in both trophies. The COC makes it perfectly possible. As Renault has built so many rally cars, this specific model has been proven to be very reliable and full of rally-proof equipment. If we look at the type of gearbox and the engine management software, this car is filled with top-notch components. On top of that, the Clio is the only four-cylinder car and provides the same power output as the competing cars, which for the Rally 5 category is limited to 180hp. But it delivers 300Nm of torque, which is comparable to a stronger Rally 4 car such as the Peugeot. The Renault in the Rally 4 category even delivers 360Nm of torque. This makes the car very competitive in the field as it is light, powerful, reliable, and very fast.
Is this a good rally car for aspiring rally pilots?
Absolutely. This is one of the easiest cars to start with. All the proven ingredients turn the Clio into the ideal car for a starting pilot, as it is fast, light, reliable and the running costs are quite low. We have six cars at the starting grid. All the pilots have recently received their rally licenses, so they are all junior pilots.
Jasper, as a former rally champion yourself, you are now managing six teams with young pilots. Is training these young wolves your next challenge?
We formed a rally school 10 years ago and we train pure starters but also support the Peugeot Cup. We simply love our job. We’re one big fan club of rally, sharing the same passion. How far you can push it mostly depends on the budget you can spend on the car. It was becoming a very expensive hobby, until Renault stepped in with the Clio Rally concept.
How do you feel about the new FIA Rally regulations and the demo class, which includes the WRC cars?
The WRC cars remain the goal. They are the ‘Kings of Rally’, but budget wise it’s mission impossible for most drivers. We ran the R5, Manta and Evo cars, but as the materials and cars get older, we decided to invest in the Renault Clio cars. It’s a natural evolution and the crowd absolutely loves it.
How did the collaboration with Motul start?
We used to drive the Group N rally cars with factory specs until 2005. Consequently, you could only make a technical difference in terms of quality. Seen from our perspective as rally car preparers, Motul is delivering the best quality of engine oils for motorsport purposes. As the engines had a ‘standard’ setting, they suffered most. That’s how our collaboration started. We only use Motul products when we deliver the rally car to our clients, from engine oil to coolants and gearbox oil.