Story: Barry Green /Photo: Greg McManus
AS a 1960s schoolboy, Barry Green spent his hard-earned pocket money on Racing Car News and Sports Car World, monthly enthusiast magazines he would studiously pore over at the expense of any text book. Little wonder then that reading about fast cars and motorsport led to a four decade career (not out) writing about same, initially as freelancer then author and professional writer. His exploits are captured in two recent release books, The Best of Drives 1 and 2, each a first-hand compilation of nearly 80 drives on some of the world’s greatest roads and circuits. This story is but one . . . (Headshot photo - Ernest Litera)
Drive: Scenic Rim, 170km
Car: 2019 Alpine A110 Premiere
FOR much of its way, the road straddling the border between Woodenbong (New South Wales) and Rathdowney (Queensland) is a serious driving enthusiast’s dream.
No more so than the section just 3km short of the border line where the Summerland Way goes on to morph into the Mt Lindesay Highway.
Therein lays 13km of sinuous, mostly smooth two-lane asphalt, the likes of which the Alpine A110 is designed and built for.
Alpine, a Renault by another name, is familiar to Formula 1 fans as a mid-field competitor increasingly punching above its weight.
Having won the inaugural World Rally Championship in 1973, champion motor sport DNA courses through the Alpine brand and into the rebirth of the A110.
Think weight-saving aluminium chassis and body along with minimalist interior fit-out; engine mid-mounted transversely behind the driver to achieve an optimum 44:56 front/rear weight distribution; and overall modest proportions with low centre of gravity.
Motor-vating the 18-inch Fuch rear alloys and their grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber is RenaultSport’s 1.8-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder engine, delivering 185kW of power at 6000rpm and 320Nm of torque from 2000-5250rpm and mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Result – a stylish, two-seater coupe that weighs in at just 1080kg, making for an impressive 174.5kg power-to-weight ratio.
Our 170km loop through what is known as the Scenic Rim of the Great Dividing Range starts at the turn onto Carney’s Creek Road from the Boonah-Rathdowney Road.
It’s typically country back block going before winding through open farmland and turning right after 15km onto Falls Road.
We’re now into unfenced farmland with cattle grazing right down to the black stuff. The road, essentially one-car wide, crosses five flood ways in succession then struggles uphill 5km through Main Range National Park.
The openness gives way to thick growth and the narrow passage requires downhill traffic to give way.
Then, at the top, we open onto lush grazing land with sky overhead and the horizons broaden – a different world altogether.
The road takes on a little extra width, the sight lines run for miles, and we sweep in fourth gear past a thick copse of pine trees and on past the turn-off to White Swamp.
Further on, a proverbial fork in the road offers a choice – Condamine Road to the right, which you do not want to take unless in a genuine four-wheel-drive with decent ground clearance; or left, the twisting climb up to Carr’s Lookout.
It’s not called ‘lookout’ for no reason. The sweeping views take in some of Queensland’s finest natural landscapes.
But we’re still less than halfway through the drive.
We get our motor runnin’ and head out on the byway down a 3km winding descent that leads to a T-junction and a choice of right towards Killarney (5km) or left to Legume (8km).
It’s the latter we’ll be needing and at the general store with its weathered (still-working) petrol pumps out front, hang a left towards Woodenbong, rough initially but, as repair work rolls out, progressively becoming wider and (marginally) better surfaced.
Then, just before the border, the fun begins – a kaleidoscope of well-paved, flowing twisties, one after another.
With such little heft to move, the Alpine’s response is strong and immediate throughout the rev range.
Light as it is, there’s not a hint of skittishness under cornering and the steering always feels sharp and communicative as to exactly what the front end is doing.
Pitched into a succession of tight turns, the Alpine surfs its way through incisively and sure-footedly.
A suspension set up to produce such cornering capability can compromise ride quality, but through enabling relatively soft springs and a fixed damper rate, the four-corner double wishbone suspension helps make for surprising compliance over rough going.
Given the A110’s compactness, the interior is surprisingly roomy for two.
It feels and looks special – seats finished in sporty diamond-quilt leather, carbon-fibre centre console, and a numbered plaque denoting the Premiere model’s limited edition.
Re-crossing the border into Queensland, the road dips, curves tighten, and the fun continues.
Just before Palen Creek the best is over though it still flows nicely through open grazing land past Mt Barney and on to Rathdowney.
From here, left leads towards Boonah and back to where we came in.
The Scenic Rim Loop is a drive well worth going out of your way to do.
And the Alpine A110 is a befitting set of wheels with which to enjoy it.
Basic price: $106,500. Engine: 1.8-litre turbo DOHC 16v inline 4-cyl. Power: 185kW @ 6000rpm. Torque: 320Nm @ 2000-5250rpm. Transmission: 7-spd dual clutch. Weight:1080kg. Drive: Rear-wheel. 0-100km/h: 4.5sec