Put simply, the Ameo Cup car is immense fun over a circuit like the MMRT, but you need to get your head around it in order to even scratch the surface of its potential. Push down the clutch – yes, the sequential gearbox requires the ‘man pedal’ to allow some amount of slippage when setting off – pull the right hand paddle to engage first, lift the clutch up slowly while sensing the bite point before feeding a heavy dose of revs and you are ready to set the track on fire.
Accelerating down the pit lane and approaching C1, the combination of the raw, unadulterated sound of the engine and the loud transmission whine is perhaps the most overwhelming sensation – this 1.8-litre motor barks through the derestricted exhaust to make sure the Ameo sounds at home at the MMRT. Mind you, this is my first time out with the car and I am just warming up to the firecracker that’s underneath the shell and it already feels lively and tremendously eager to change directions. Gingerly I started picking up the pace and immediately the Ameo Cup car’s strengths came into focus – the turbocharged motor has a surprisingly linear pull and it never feels as if it’s running out of puff too early. Over the two fairly long back straights before C4 and C8, this VW pulls like a train, banging through the gears with brutally quick upshifts. The sequential box, in fact, is so effective yet vicious at the same time you will feel every gear change unless you shift near the redline. On my second lap, I took the brave pill and powered hard through the chicanes after C3 and hit fifth gear before the braking zone into C4. This is where I got a chance to give the brakes a proper workout and boy did they shine! As you would expect, the brakes on the cup car are both resilient and powerful – they are apt for lap after lap of hard driving.
The C7 undoubtedly is the most difficult corner to master as it’s a long right-hander that’s not only ever tightening but also a double apex turn. Getting a fast exit out of it is important because it leads onto the second of the two seriously quick sections of the MMRT. Here the Ameo Cup car did have a tendency to move around a bit, especially when lifting off the throttle. Our pro driver for the day, Rayomand Banajee explained the only way to deal with it was to keep the right foot buried to the floor. So I did, and he was right. Sure, the rear-end wiggles tiny bit but you simply need to trust that the car will grip and stick to its line, thanks to the full slick rubber. This brings us to the most astonishing feature of the Ameo Cup car – the handling.
We always hear terms such as ‘Go kart like’ and ‘razor sharp’ when reading about track focused road cars and while most of them generally behave likewise, the Ameo Cup car is in another league. The leech like grip from the slick tyres and the stiffly sprung set up meant I was carrying way too much speed into the corners than what my mind would deem was possible. Better still, it’s the way this car changes direction is what truly boggles the mind – through the fast C9 and the entire last sector of the track, the car felt remarkably quick. That said, it does require some amount of delicate touch – get on the power early and you will face understeer. Rayo was quick to point out that the development team has engineered a certain degree of understeer into the car when it’s at the limit. “Essentially it’s meant for people who are taking their first plunge into motorsports and accordingly its set up more towards understeer. The set up makes it more stable and easier to control especially for a newcomer”.
As far as I can figure out, the correct way to muscle the Ameo Cup car is by taking the wide line and dabbing the brakes before turning into the apex. Also, since the rear end is so incredibly planted for the most part, it only makes sense tucking the nose viciously into the apex and putting that strong front-end grip to full use. Get it all right and it’s a hugely satisfying feeling which is probably what Rayo felt as he clocked the second fastest time of the day (1m 56.60s). To put things into perspective, that’s over 20 seconds quicker than the Polo GT TSI and a good couple of seconds faster than the ludicrously powerful Mercedes AMG GTR.