LeonOC visited Barcelona a few months ago and reviewed the Cupra and Cupra 280 on track and road, we were however invited to do the same again but this time in the UK.
The excitement started to build as we got closer to the date of this event, I have ordered a Cupra 280 myself, but I knew that it wouldn’t be here in time for the event which was good because I wanted to give my 380ps MK2 Leon Cupra R its last hoorah. A week or so before the event I received the official invite, I knew the event would be held at Mallory park and would be a track focused event but when I opened the invite I was shocked at what I read. Not only were going to be driving the New Cupra, But we will be getting a go in the Euro Cupracer!
Yes you read right SEAT Sport were bringing along one of their MK3 Leon Cupracer which for me is the Holy Grail, Being an avid touring car fan as well as SEAT enthusiast this was a big thing.
I arrived at the hotel on the Tuesday night to attend the evening meal with SEAT UK staff and other journalists which was held in the very nice Kilworth House in Leicestershire, on arrival something very bright caught my eye.
Yes SEAT UK have wrapped some of their cars in matte yellow and orange, this wont be available to order but was purely done for fun. A good night’s sleep was had even though I was like a child waiting for Santa to come. Available in the car park were the Cupra 265 and Cupra 280 both powered by the new 2.0TSI engine. The Cupra 280 has the 19” wheels , 280 badges and the extra 15bhp amongst other things.
Nice and early start, lovely full English eaten and off we went for the 40 minute drive to Mallory Park, I was a passenger at this point with another freelance journalist in a Cupra 280 SC with manual gearbox, Unfortunately I picked the wrong day to do the test because it was raining very heavily and carried on raining very heavily all day. Most of the journey was done on the motorway but as a passenger I noticed how smooth the ride was even in Cupra mode, flicking between Cupra and Comfort did however make a difference, as we got closer to Mallory Park we did come across some lovely twisty roads which enabled us to try the car out even though SEAT UK director Neil was right in front of us in his Cupra 280. The Cupra button was pushed and off we went. Once we arrived at Mallory we parked the road going Cupra’s up with the ones specially liveried for the track event.
The press presentation was held in the Halwood suite, fronted by the lovely Juliet Carrington head of press and PR for SEAT UK.
A short video was shown first of all showing the Cupra out on the road and then Juliet went on to introduce the car and the figures. SEAT has had a very good few years with regards to overall sales and is well on target to have another record breaking year. Another video was then shown Neil Williamson the SEAT UK director spoke on this video along with Jo Elliot product marketing manager for SEAT UK, the video as always was very professionally done and Neil even managed to drop in abit about SEAT enthusiasts who spend a lot of money on there cars making them faster. Neil seems to be a fan of the like’s of Leon Owners Club as he actually gave us a personal mention at the Barcelona event.
At this point Juliet seemed a little worried that she couldn’t see my own car parked up to which I replied it’s back at the hotel, go and get it she said!
To get back to the hotel I partnered up with Martin Ward from CAP, we picked up a Cupra 280 SC manual and this time I drove, the twisty roads back out of Mallory Park were very slippery but I still managed to have fun in the car not once did it step out of line. Down the gears, on the brakes into the corner and back on the power. The motorway wasn’t as fun because visibility was awful but this gave me chance to flick the active cruise control on and let its do its job, of course it did this superbly and this is one of the toys to order if you are going to order any of the new Leon range. Because of the awful visibility I also put it back into comfort mode and just enjoyed the drive as much as I could in the circumstances. Back at the hotel I handed the car over to Martin and he went off on his way, I jumped back in “The Yellow Baron” and straight away realised at how much more refined the new Cupra is. The whole cabin is a nicer place to be, the materials far superior. The ride is also far superior but the MK2 Leon chassis is now 9 years old and things have moved on.
Back at Mallory Park I was asked to park my car with “the special cars” a line-up of SEAT Heritage cars consisting of Ibiza Rally Car, Darren Turner’s 2007 BTCC car, MK1 Leon Supercopa previously driven by Darren Turner and Jason Plato. Tucked away in the garages further along was also the BTCC Tom Boardman STR show car and the 2008 BTCC Leon TDI chassis raced by Jason Plato, which is a very special car to me as it’s the car that got me interested in Leon’s and made me buy a Leon FR TDI.
Because the weather was really bad the track time was very limited and had to be booked, I booked on the 12:20 group, the time came and I jumped in one of the special livered cars, the cars were Leon Cupra 280 SC with DSG, off we headed out on track, I decided to stay a little further back from the front runners so I could get my bearings, after a few laps I was doing what I thought at the time was ok, then I looked in my rear view mirror and realised that the car behind me was actually a lot faster than me through all of the corners turned out after he was a semi professional which made me feel a little better, the car felt really good on track and very capable even in the terrible conditions with lots of lying water. The DSG was superb and the car still felt very smooth even though it was being pushed. The engine noise which is provided by an electronic speaker sounded good on track but of course we would all prefer the real thing to an electronic speaker. By the end of the session I had managed to speed up a little but nowhere near where I should have been. The Cupra really is very much at home on the track but still as smooth as you want for the everyday drive. This of course is helped by the different driver profiles that you can pick from, Cupra for that spirited Sunday drive and comfort for the long motorway journey. What I didn’t know at the time was Jordi Gené was the person who set up the Cupra button, all the settings it adjusts have been set up by him.
Being the avid SEAT touring car fan I am I have watched Jordi for many years in his WTCC with SEAT, I never thought anything of this photo and never thought to check the guest list for the day.
So there I am standing waiting for food when Juliet called my name, turned around to see Mr Gené stood with her, Juliet introduced me as the mad man with the powerful Leon to which Jordi was amazed “380ps through the front wheels are you mad?”. Over lunch Jordi and I discussed everything possible WTCC, Nürburgring record, My Leon Cupra R and my old Leon FR TDI. As I said before the Leon WTCC and BTCC TDI car is a special car to me because it started my obsession with SEAT and to hear Jordi talking about driving the Leon TDI WTCC car was a privilege. Jordi discussed the recent Nürburgring record with me as well as going into very technical details, he did however also tell me he drove the Renault that set the previous record and was some 12 seconds off the time they set so maybe the car they actually set the time with was a little different to the one they claim to of used.
At this point I am now grinning because not only am I going to get some laps in the Leon cupracer, but its going to be driven by a guy who I have watched for many years racing for SEAT. Unfortunately one of Mallory Park’s neighbours had complained about the noise of the Cupracer so we had to run it for very short periods and leave gaps between runs, while leaving one of these gaps Jordi and I jumped in a Cupra 280 DSG and he took me out. The word unbelievable come to mind, he really had a lot of confidence in the car, the reality is in the development stages of the Cupra Jordi was heavily involved in the set up of the car so of course he was confident in what it could do. Before he set off he did say we were going to have some fun and that we did! I would of never dreamed of doing the speeds he did around the corners and it really showed just how capable the standard road car was, Even though it was wet he pushed it as hard as he would of done in the dry and its an experience I will never forget it was completely exhilarating, the corner between Gerard’s bend and Charlies was the scariest point because at times it felt like we were about to go off into the barriers but as calm as ever he took one of his hands of the wheel to explain something to me.
The rain kept on coming down which made track time very limited but I did managed to get my current Leon Cupra R out there on track unfortunately expensive road tyres couldn’t handle the power with all the standing water and I kept spinning the wheels so after a few laps I gave up. The last hour was spent with the SEAT photographer who did some photographs of my car with the heritage cars and the Cupracer, and even one of me and Jordi.
So I already knew that the Leon Cupra and Cupra 280 were very good cars hence why I have ordered one myself, I honestly didn’t think last year that I would bother replacing my current MK2 Leon Cupra R because I love it to pieces but experiencing Jordi Gene throwing it around today has really opened my eyes to how good the Cupra 280 is.. Yes I’ve watched the Nürburgring video over and over again but you really cant understand just how well that car is handling until you have an experience like I did. The MK3 Cupra is certainly a winner and definatally one of the best hot hatches on the market!
I would like to say a huge thank you to SEAT UK once again for giving me this opportunity, Thanks for SEAT Sport for bringing the Cupracer and of course to Jordi Gené for giving me the experiences I will not forget.