In previous years, the courteous Volkswagen Golf R and rambunctious Ford Focus RS would have been almost certainly destined to joust it out in the final reckoning of this event – and even with the premium-level strength of the competition assembled, there were short odds of the winner emerging from this first-round shoot-out.
Why? Well, both have done a remarkably good job of preserving their lofty reputations. The VW is fresh from the light makeover that has finally afforded it a metric output beyond 300bhp, while the RS has been the recipient of Mountune’s attention and now boasts 370bhp in its uprated FPM375 guise.
The two have been thrown together so often in the past 24 months that it’s almost tempting to see them as peas in the same sub-£35k, all- wheel-drive pod. In reality, though, they could hardly be more different. Much of their dissimilarity is about lineage: the R is unashamedly plush and soft to the touch, because its multi-purpose urbaneness is meant to represent the peak of middle-class Golf-dom. The RS, meanwhile, with its democratisation of rear-driven sports car driftability, is Ford at its blue collar best, unrepentant about its silly vaunted driving position or the stock nature of many of its fixtures and fittings.