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Renault Sport Clio 172 Cup (2002 - 2003): a rally homologation special for under £10,000

A true race-bred special, the Clio 172 Cup is one of the lightest – and purest – Renault Sport models ever

Renault Sport unveiled the 172 Cup in August 2002 as a Group N homologation special, known internally by Renault as the ‘sport lightweight version’ and in France as the Clio RS Jean Ragnotti. Coming just over a year after the debut of the Phase 2 Clio 172, the Cup took its focus to the next level with numerous bespoke components and weight-saving measures.

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Unlike the later 182 Cup and Trophy, the 172 Cup was truly hardcore, going without ABS and traction control in the pursuit of ultimate simplicity. Air conditioning was omitted and halogen headlights replaced the usual xenon units for a reduction in weight and cost. The UV-reflective windscreen, rain-sensing wipers and headlight washer jets were all ditched for the same reason, while bespoke, thinned glass was developed specifically for the Cup. The supportive seats also swapped their leather and Alcantara coverings for a low-cost, low-weight fabric. It all added up to a staggering 99kg weight loss.

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The 2-litre naturally aspirated F4R four-cylinder produced the same 170bhp as in the standard 172, but with less weight to hold it back a healthy three-tenths was trimmed from the 0-62mph benchmark, taking it down to 6.9sec. The chassis, meanwhile, received modified wishbones that allowed for a wider track, springs that were 20 and 10 per cent stiffer front and rear respectively, and Cup-specific dampers.

On the road, the 172 Cup is lithe and lively, with its short wheelbase, low weight and large-displacement engine an engaging and rare formula. The lack of ABS was a sticking point for some, but on modern rubber and in the dry it’s not of great concern.

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The 172 Cup isn’t hard to spot, being finished almost exclusively in striking Mondial Blue (90 examples were Iceberg Silver) and with lightweight 16-inch Speedline Turini wheels. Matt body-coloured door strips, a plastic Cup-style front splitter, a larger rear spoiler (shared with the Clio V6) and body-coloured interior trim are all design highlights.

What to look out for

The Cup’s mechanicals have proved to be strong, but ensure that the dephaser pulley and timing belt have been changed at appropriate intervals – most recommend every three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. A blown exhaust is a common issue, as is corrosion within the petrol filling recess and under the side skirts. Plastic interior trim pieces become tacky with age, but spend time removing the coating by hand and they can look as good as new. Numerous 172 Cups were transformed into track cars with turbocharger kits and roll-cages, so keep an eye out for any dodgy modifications or clues to a hidden past such as misaligned interior trim and excessive stone chips.

What to pay

Unlike today’s hardcore specials, the 172 Cup cost less than its standard counterpart when new, and prices are still remarkably low now. They have begun to rise over the last few years, and there are very few cars to choose from (just 400 are registered today), but if you look hard enough you can pick one up from £4000, with the best, low-mileage cars fetching up to £10,000.

Renault Sport Clio 172 Cup specs

EngineIn-line 4-cyl, 1998cc
Power170bhp @ 6250rpm
Torque147lb ft @5400rpm
Weight1011kg
Power-to-weight171bhp/ton
0-62mph6.9sec
Top speed138mph
Price new£12,995 (2002-03)
Value todayFrom £4000

This story was first featured in evo issue 320.

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