Phil gets a few laps in the Cupra R around Mondello


By Philip Hedderman
Talk about flying by the SEAT of your pants?
That’s exactly what us brave souls here at thenextgear do to test cars to the limit.
If a manufacturer claims that their hot hatch only bottoms out at close to 300kmh – then we push it that far.
Now, before some law-abiding square starts dialling 999, let me explain.
Last week an email dropped inviting myself, Bob and the rest of the motor-mad gang down to Mondello race track for a ‘spin’.
We duly obliged, packed the cameras, flask and sarnies and headed for Kildare.
Waiting for us – the whole Spanish fleet.
After a quick safety briefing you were asked for your weapon of choice.
Mine? The 260bhp Cupra R.
Into the cockpit and first things first.
Adjust the seat, get strapped in and most importantly – switch OFF the traction control.
Turning the key, the madness would have to wait just a minute longer as we queued in the pit lane.
Eyeballing the safety steward, his flag began to fall as did the hammer.
The first corner comes quick so I only manage to get her into third gear.
Taking the wide line and sharp right, it’s full on the power as we head for a chicane which will terrify the coolest of customers.
The track twists and turns, rising high and low with one sweeping, never-ending corner that ensures that, although you’re hard on the throttle to rectify the understeer it’s your reflexes which keeps her out of the ditch.
Braking hard (“not too early and in a straight line”) is the commentary coming from the instructor sitting in the co-pilot’s seat as we head for another blind bend.
“Trust your instincts” came the calming voice as the car rockets toward the brow of a hill with just the horizon in view.
The tyres squeal like a wounded beast as the 19 inches of rubber keeping us upright is pushed to the limit.
The arse of the Cupra gives cheeky wiggle and we see daylight.
We’re on the straight and flat out.
Six, Seven … Eight thousand revs and it just keeps responding.
There is literally no end to the power as it roars and snorts like an Aston Martin with every gear change.
My heart is pounding, the adrenaline is pumping quicker than the fuel injectors in this little rocket and I’m in motoring nirvana.
A quick glance at the speedo and the needle is tipping 150mph and there is plenty left …. but we run out of tarmac.
Hitting the anchors hard we’re back to where we started and feeling both exhilarated and a little sad.
The disappointment didn’t last long though as we get to do it all over again – only faster this time!
At the debriefing I met an equally impressed Bob who gushed that it “was the best fun you could have in a front-wheel drive car”.
No Bob you’re wrong – it’s the best fun you can have in a front-wheel drive car ON YOUR OWN.