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16 Aug 2017

This week we’re lucky enough to have our In the Headlights choices picked by Pistonheads and Autocar features writer Alisdair Suttie, who was tasked with choosing four Track Weapons. We asked Alisdair to give us a few words on each of the cars he chose:

Lotus 3-Eleven

Lotus has always built cars that can take on the road and track, and the 3-Eleven is the ultimate development of this theme. Even with the road-biased version, you get a 410hp 3.5-litre V6 that nips off 0-60mph in 3.3 seconds to make it the fastest accelerating road car the company has ever built.

If that’s not enough to convince you the 3-Eleven is more than a bit special, it comes with race grade suspension, brakes, wheels and tyres. Okay, it’s not the most practical road car, but as a car to blow away the blues it’s unsurpassed.

Renault Clio RS220 Trophy

There’s an effervescence to the Renault Clio RS220 Trophy that hot hatch fans will appreciate. You need to work the 1.6-litre engine hard to get the best from it, but that’s what this breed is all about. Wring it out and the Trophy sees off 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds as it works its way through the double-clutch paddle shift gearbox.

Point it at a corner and the performance is yet more impressive as the chassis offers spot-on balance and grip, helped by the lowered suspension compared to the standard model’s. All this yet you still get supermini practicality and five doors. Just what a proper hot hatch should be.

Abarth 695 Biposto

The Abarth Biposto is a real wee terrier of a car. Under that pert bonnet lies a 190hp 1.4-litre turbo engine. That’s a lot of power for a small motor and equally compact car, but it adds up to 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds and 143mph top speed. Even more importantly, it makes the Biposto a riot to drive as it rifles through the standard six cog transmission. Or you could opt for the race-bred five-speed ‘dog’ ’box that allows for quicker shifting.

Either way, the Biposto makes any drive an occasion to savour thanks to its track-focused suspension and steering. The brakes are up to the job too, so can easily take this tiny tearaway onto a circuit and show up much more powerful machinery. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, you need plastic surgery.

McLaren 570S Track Pack

McLaren’s approach to a circuit-slanted supercar is not as wild as some, so the 570S Track Pack doesn’t gain any more power. What you get is less weight thanks to lighter seats, trim and wheels that shave 25kg from the original model’s weight. The result is a car that steers and changes direction with all of the precision and agility you could ever ask for.

Of course, performance is huge too, with the 3.8-litre twin-turb0 V8 rustling up 570hp. Yet, the McLaren is also capable of a civilised drive to a track day thanks its slick dual-clutch gearbox, supple ride and comfy cabin. It’s the best car McLaren has made and the perfect choice for road and track driving.

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So who is Alisdair Suttie and how did he get to be where he is? BOTB’s Nathan Rous sat down with him and flipped open his note pad…

Alisdair Suttie has his dad to thank for his love of cars; a love which has sparked a 20-year career writing about and testing some of the world’s most impressive motors.

“My love of cars started early,” he smiles. “Of course I had a stash of toy cars and a Scalextric but my dad was always tinkering away in the garage with something and I’d often be at his side watching what he was doing. In those days it was part necessity, part hobby - you had to do your own running repairs to keep your car on the road, but there was a real enjoyment and passion for it, too."

“Dad had a 1949 Humber Super Snipe which I adored and he also built a couple of kit cars. Better still, I got to learn to drive in some of his company cars, which included a Golf Mk II GTi and a Vauxhall Cavalier SRi, although when I passed my test the first car I drove was battered Renault 18 estate. I think my parents thought it might slow me down.”

It was only natural that Alisdair sought to pursue a career writing about cars, although he had to navigate a brief spell in motoring PR.

“I was working for the BTCC which, in the mid 1990s, was incredibly popular and involved some real legends of the track such as John Cleland, Andy Rouse and Alain Menu. The cars they drove were pretty amazing, too, such as Volvo estates and Renault Lagunas. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that great at PR so a move to BMW Car gave me my break in car magazines and I’ve never looked back.”

Alisdair swung some work experience at What Car magazine and was soon invited to be a road tester, eventually becoming road test editor.

“It was a fabulous time to be working for a magazine like that,” he remembers. “I drove just about everything going. My favourite of that time had to be the Vauxhall VX220 which I had on long-term test. It was supposed to be for six months but I ended up clinging onto it for 18 months and handed it back with 30,000 miles on the clock!”

Leaving What Car after seven years back in 2005, Alisdair has now forged a successful freelance career writing for Pistonheads, Autocar, the Daily Telegraph and a number of motoring trade magazines.

“I love the variety,” he says. “I write a lot of drive stories so I’ve not long returned from Iceland and recently drove coast-to-coast across Scotland which was stunning.”

As for his perfect car, Alisdair can’t settle on one but gives his favourite three which spans a lot of the last century.

“I’d love to have something pre-war in the garage and that car would have to be the Aston Martin Ulster. Post-war it would be something like the Jaguar C-type, while if I had to pick anything from ‘today’ it would generally be anything with a McLaren badge on it.”

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