For those who have been following our Twingo Challenge on Facebook and Instagram, you'll already know the basic premise - James and Simon (our Managing Director and Production Manager respectively) each bagged themselves a Twingo RS Cup and have been busy modifying them to take on a series of head-to-head, performance-based challenges.
But, this time around at least, thanks to a last-minute wildcard entry into UK Time Attack - courtesy of our good friends at BC Racing - the guys would be facing the biggest challenge of all… nope, not each other, but the clock at Cadwell Park Circuit.
It was never the initial intention to compete in a such a full-on motorsport series you understand, but an invite to the party is an invite to the party, even when it's halfway through our very own challenge. In this case too, it's a chance to get our little trackday heroes out on one of the UK's most challenging circuits.
With just a couple of days to get ready and make the journey through the night to Lincolnshire, the cars were hastily modified to ditch passenger seats, shed more weight and include the regulation fire extinguishers. Our pilots were also fully fitted-out with some rather fetching helmets, race suits, gloves and boots.
But, that's the thing about Time Attack you see, it offers arguably the most accessible form of "against the clock' motorsport on the planet, because that's pretty much all you need to compete. As long as you have the correct safety kit, along with a car sporting working lights, street tyres and a 4-point harness, you're pretty much good to go in the Run What You Brung class… and there's a whole load of other classes for more specialist machines, too.
What's more, Time Attack is far from a timed track session where you drive alone, and it means that you'll never see such a variety of cars on the grid at the same time anywhere else. From standard performance cars to fully tuned modified weapons, Time Attack is the only place where, potentially, you can take your ex-works race car, remove all the restrictors and other regulation parts, modify it further with anything you can dream of to go faster, and then take it directly to the circuit. And all without getting sent home by some over-enthusiastic scrutineer.
All in all then, Time Attack is clearly a series where anything goes, and that directly translates to a heady mix of 700bhp Evos with full aero packs, Ex BTCC Cars and custom-built racers all competing alongside pocket rockets with engine swaps and enormous turbos, Japanese tuner legends… and of course, a double dose of Team AF Twingos.
But, let's not forget that we're not here to slay monsters (that's what our M2 Competition is for), this impromptu instalment into the Twingo Challenge is all about racing the clock and putting in the best hot lap. Although, we have to say that, even if we were going head-to-head with the big boys, the miniature hatches were surprisingly competitive on this tight twisty circuit. Cadwell Park is perhaps most famous for its motorbike racing, and an extremely narrow circuit packed full of hairpins and chicanes, many with extreme changes in camber and altitude. As the battered crash barriers will testify, it's not easy to fully open up any car here, especially one with huge horsepower.
The first track attack went off without a hitch, although it was less of a "sighting session' and more like diving straight into the action! It was no mere bellyflop on our part either, both cars performed exceptionally well on the dry track, each sporting their sticky, warm weather rubber. Some great lap times were put in during this first 15 minutes too, the best of the day in fact. And, perhaps most importantly nothing was broken, even with the cars going flat out. This meant that only minor comfort adjustments were needed in anticipation next session… much to the delight of the Team AF paddock crew.
The second session however, was set to bring on a much bigger challenge. A mere half hour before this was due to start the heavens opened, meaning that an extremely quick change to all weather tyres was essential, along with a thorough check over.
Conditions on track were tricky to say the least here, it was almost as if the twists and turns had to be totally relearned, not only to be competitive, but just to stay on the tarmac. And, it has to be said that quite a few didn't remain fully on the blacktop… let's just say more than a couple were recovered from the circuit on the back of a lorry!
It isn't any wonder that Cadwell is often referred to as the "Mini Nürburgring' - in the pouring rain, bravery has to come as standard here!
We were convinced that for session 3 conditions couldn't get any worse… except of course, they could. Just a couple of laps in, a fair-sized shunt ended the session and, as it turns out, the rest of the day's racing. The fourth and final session for all classes was rained off completely for safety concerns, which in this kind of monsoon weather, was definitely the right decision for all involved.
But the real question is - how did the cars and the drivers stand up to Time Attack? And the answer is that all four did extremely well, even in the adverse conditions. Of course, we may not have had the fastest racers on the track that day, but the Twingos more than held their own at Cadwell Park. Besides, and as you'd expect, they were definitely the cleanest out there on the grid, too.
And, as for who came away with the quickest lap of the day? Well, you'll just have to check out our video series for the next Team AF Twingo Challenge instalment. See that, and plenty more action from the two little French stormers, every Tuesday on our Instagram channel (@autofinesse) and on www.facebook.com/autofinesse