so is the clutch the number one problem area for a selespeed?
Probably. As Smaky pointed out, it's the part that wears out first at around 80K miles (128,000km) though I think you get a bit more than that if the car is used mainly on long trips.
Selespeed holds the clutch disengaged any time the car is stationary (even if the gearbox is in neutral), so the release bearing is subject to extra wear (compared to that on most manual transmissions). That will be why it has a plastic carrier rather than metal
As the clutch wears (or as the release bearing collapses), I think it is useful to re-set the clutch rod length. When I bought my car, one of the reasons it was cheap was because it was really jerky pulling away. The 'professional' diagnosis was "faulty 1st/2nd clutch pack in the transmission". Of course, they thought it was a regular auto
Anyway, I bought Alfadiag and after a few minutes with a spanner or two, the car was driving smoothly again.
and is the much talked about 'actuator' part of the clutch assembly? and would it be changed during a clutch change?
The actuator is the assembly bolted to the top of the gearbox (underneath the actuator, it's basically a standard manual gearbox similar to that used in other models like the FIAT Tipo). The actuator does contain the clutch-operating hydraulic cylinder, electrovalve, and sensor, but the actuator also contains the gearchanging cylinders/valves/sensors, and the pressure accumulator - so the actuator is ALL of the Selespeed system except the pump and the controller ECU.
The actuator would not be changed during a clutch change, but it would probably be removed to allow the gearbox to be removed. Then, refitting the actuator is likely to cause trouble for the average mechanic.
In places where there is less knowledge of Selespeeds (i.e. Australia and NZ) the whole actuator gets replaced to cure what is often a simple sensor or accumulator problem. This is why the actuator gets a bad reputation - it is an expensive 'part' to replace, often costing one-third to one-half the value of the car!