Renaultsport has dominated the hot hatchback market for a while now, but trust me, Dieppe is about to take one in the eye.
Opel/Vauxhall's in-house performance division OPC - VXR to us Brits - has just launched the biggest threat to Renault's preeminence in affordable fast front-drivers that anyone has produced in years. It's the Corsa Nurburgring. On initial acquaintance admittedly, it could even be the best performance hatchback that Vauxhall has ever produced.
Thanks to its rather trick mechanical specification (explained in our first drive) this Corsa is a sensation on track. Can't tell you how good it is on the road, because Opel hasn't let us find out - but despite an apparent lack of wheel travel, those Bilstein springs and dampers didn't seem too harsh to deliver reasonable ride comfort over the kerbs here at the Lausitzring.
I can pay the car no greater compliment than to point out its uncanny similarity to Ford's original Focus RS. Its performance is broadly similar; cornering potential possibly even better. And the circumstances behind its expensive mechanical makeup are comparable too.
It's become the stuff of legend that, thanks in part to so many pricey chassis and drivetrain components, Ford failed to make money on the mk1 RS. Vauxhall will make money on this Corsa; wouldn't have built it otherwise, they point out. But its ability to make that money is due to one key fact: the specification, purchasing and development of this Corsa has been linked with that of the next Astra VXR.
The next hot Astra, which is OPC's big seller, will have the same mechanical slippy diff as this car, and a related Bilstein chassis spec and Brembo braking setup. And that extra buying power has allowed OPC to give this supermini the mechanical makeup for unmatched handling in its class, as well as a price that's entirely realistic when you consider the car's rare hardcore focus.
It didn't take many laps of Lausitzring's twisty infield circuit in this car to feel totally blown away by its ability to lock on to an inside kerb under full throttle, and genuinely taken aback by its outright speed. A Clio RS would be a much easier purchase to justify, but it wouldn't stay with this Corsa for more than two corners; wouldn't have a prayer in a straight line. A DS3 Racing seems tame by comparison.
Couldn't help wondering how much more incredible this car's handling would be, in fact, if it wore a set of semi-slick cup tyres like the Megane R26R, rather than the relatively ordinary Continental SportContact 2s it's got.
"We did try it on some Michelin Pilot Sport Cups," explained Robert Kubel, the car's project manager at OPC. "My concern was that, other than during full-on dry weather track use, the car would never work its rear tyres hard enough to warm them up to operating temperature."
Robert's concern is completely understandable, considering how keen to turn in the Corsa is. You could spin it easily on cold rear tyres.
And yet having driven this amazing hatch this morning, I can't shake the notion of fitting a set of Toyo Proxes 888s, and having a go at a new lap record for a front-driver around our dry handling circuit.
Roll on the full road test. Minus the Toyos, obviously.