In the mag hitting the shelves today, you can read Matt Prior’s account of how the new Ford Focus RS fares next to the Renault R26R and Mitsubishi Evo. I won’t spoil the result, but I do have a tale about the test.

Partly because I couldn’t wait to try the Focus, and partly because the R26R had so far escaped me, I volunteered for the drive down to Nice, Ford’s launch location. With the Evo’s lack of a sixth gear, and the Renault’s deficiency in the radio department, we decided to ditch the motorway and head across country for some of the drive. This turned out to be one of my better decisions.

jc I remember Colin Goodwin mentioning an area of France, between Reims and Dijon, where the roads are numbered after Porsches. The D928, D959 and particularly the D996 are all driving roads straight from the top draw. Good mixture of speeds and corners, hardly any traffic, and beautiful scenery.

It was one those drives that will stick with me for years to come, and what a pair of cars to drive it in. The Evo did what it always does, but it was the Renault that blew me away. It really is a cut-price GT3 RS.

Eventually our schedule meant we had to rejoin the autoroute, although later we did go over, rather than round, the Alps. But here’s my advice. If you’ve got the time, forget the autoroute, and go cross-country. It’ll take longer, but with the tolls getting so pricey (Calais to Nice costs €94), the money you save will cover a nice B&B and a bit of supper. You’ll see more of the country you’re crossing, and, if you’re lucky, you might stumble across some of Europe’s best driving roads.