I can think of no better time than immediately after a budget announcement to point out that there is still life in the enthusiast community, despite the miserably oppressing cost of motoring in 2011.
And I’m not talking about the shiny, corporate side of things, but the ordinary-bloke side that’s frequented by people who simply love cars regardless of whether they can afford a Mk1 Lotus Elise or a Porsche 911 GT3 – or no car at all in the case of some spectators that turned up just to appreciate the atmosphere at a Donington Park track day this week.
The car park promised a typically broad range of machinery and talent headed for the track. Some cars were worryingly decaled-up and ready for the race season, including Radicals and Ginettas that were there to test in preparation for their respective one-make series. At the other end of the scale there was a Sierra Cosworth and a good scattering of hot hatches in the same vein as the long-term Renaultsport Megane 250 Cup that was our wagon of choice.
It will come as no surprise that the Megane was utterly absorbing. It’s a car that has such a vast palette of characters that it seems slightly obscene that it should be able to offer the level of reward that it does. This is a car that you can subject to every kind of boggo hatchback duty you can think of, and then at the weekends it will scrub its tyres bald on track as it drives around machinery that should be way out of its league. Forget the front-wheel drive doubters. This provides a far more forgiving but just as thrilling experience as the vast majority of the rear-wheel drive track weapons.
Quite apart from my delirium over the boundless joys of a Renaultsport chassis, it was just good to see that there is still such a broad group of people who can and are enjoying cars simply because they can. It’s also worth noting that the people in said group are as approachable as ever. Walk up to your stranger of choice and you can chat all day long about the type of machinery that has brought them to the same event. You might forget their name the next week but you’ll know that they ran a Mk2 Ford Focus RS that they’d uprated to 380bhp. And yes, apparently it did understeer chronically.
This is all part of the fun, and it’s worth remembering that whilst motoring becomes an ever-thornier political battleground, it doesn’t mean that being an enthusiast is any less worthwhile.