Nürburgring, The “Ring”, Nordschleife, The Green Hell. . .whatever you prefer to call it, one thing is certain - there is no other circuit in the world that offers such an incredible challenge to man and machine. With over 70 corners, 300 meters of elevation, giant curbs, jumps, varying surfaces and long fast straights, there is quite possibly no other circuit on this planet that can test a car to its ultimate limit like Nordschleife...
The 20,830 meter long track is essentially a public road, and as such is open to the public as well as being used for racing with many motorsport enthusiasts make the pilgrimage, testing themselves against the clock, or simply to sample the most legendary of all circuits. It is also where car manufacturers test their latest machinery to the limit and beyond. A very intriguing unofficial competition is the race against the clock in road-based machinery.
This challenge has spread throughout the ranks of manufacturers, the prize - legendary status for the car, the driver, and rights to possibly the ultimate marketing status, the claim to be the fastest over one lap of The Green Hell.
Over the years, Porsches, Ferraris, and other exotica have competed for the outright fastest lap. However, not to be outdone, more recent times have seen the latest breed of hot hatches take to the track in the search for the ultimate honors. It is perhaps best to replace the ‘hot’ in hot hatch with ‘super’ such is the vast performance being delivered by the latest incarnation of these cars. Incredible power, lightweight and with technologically advanced chassis, ‘super’ hatches have delivered some incredible lap times. Current front wheel drive record holder is the awesome RenaultSport Megane R.S Trophy-R with a barely believable 7min 54second lap.
Renault Sport is no stranger to Nordschleife having, in 2008, achieved a record breaking lap with the previous incarnation Megane, the R.26R. The time then was an impressive benchmark for a front wheel drive car of 8 min 17 seconds.
Renault Sport’s has channeled everything it knows into its latest incarnation, the Megane R.S 275 Trophy. The numerals in the title indicating just how much power the delivers. Power can corrupt and Megane delivers a significant amount of torque and horsepower through the front wheels, an amount that requires a high competent chassis to deliver traction. Alongside an impressive spec sheet it comes as no surprise that Renault Sport has looked to Öhlins for its shock absorbers.
The car is no track only racer nor is it likely to be kept in an air-conditioned private garage as a museum piece. No, the Megane R.S is an everyday road car that just happens to be able to boast capabilities that would shame many a supercar around a track. The ‘numbers’ for the Trophy-R line up as so; 275bhp at 5,500 rpm, 360Nm of torque, a 255kph top speed and 0-100kph in 5.8 seconds.
However what is possibly just as impressive is that this Euro 5 Emission meeting petrol powered machine offers the latest ‘Start-Stop’ technology and impressive 45mpg fuel consumption. However we doubt that was achieved on this particular run-around the Ring!
The car distributes its 1297kg in a 66-34% weight bias front to rear with nineteen inch wheels running 235/35 tyres.
The reason why cars are tested at the Nordschleife is that unlike any other circuit it presents a massive variety of corners and demands which mean only the best chassis are able to provide the control and finesse needed to build a fast time. This is where the Öhlins Road & Track shock absorber plays a vital part. With the Megane delivering 275bhp through its front wheels, getting this power down onto the road early and effectively is vital to getting maximum drive out of the corners. Good damping characteristics can provide the control needed to achieve this. It’s equally important for a car to maintain stability under heavy braking over uneven surfaces, something which is not unusual at the ‘Ring, and something we are all familiar with on the open road. To deliver control under heavy braking and retain the ability to change direction quickly helps carry speed through the corners. On a track as demanding as Nordschleife it’s also vital the driver feels he is always in control, has the grip he needs and can predict what the car and chassis will do.The Megane relies heavily on its chassis and in particular the Öhlins Road & Track shock absorber to deliver its performance.
The impressive specification of the Öhlins Road & Track shocks go a long way to explaining why the Megane achieved such an impressive lap time. In more detail - the Öhlins Road & Track shock absorber is a high performing club sports kit with a unique feature, the Dual Flow Valve. The DFV is a high speed valve similar to the blow off valves used in Öhlins motorsport products but with the unique feature that it works on both compression and rebound flows. This valve helps the oil in the shock absorber to flow through the compression and rebound ports in the Dual Flow Valve. Because the DFV opens more quickly and easily over bumps and minor road imperfections in both strokes of the shock absorber this helps maintaining the tire contact with the road and thus increases the grip and traction.
How does this track performance relate to the road? The Öhlins Road & Track shock absorber has proven itself on one of the most challenging racetracks in the world, a track that manufacturers use to develop and refine their cars to deal with the most unforgiving roads the UK can deliver. Öhlins Road & Track does not compromise, delivering outstanding performance regardless of the conditions. As Öhlins engineers say ‘The ground gives better traction than air’. For more information on Öhlins Road&Track suspension, visit - www.roadandtrackbyohlins.com.
The result was a new lap record for front wheel drive cars around Nordschleife and Renault Sport raised the bar for what is capable to achieve with hot hatch backs.
5 minutes with Jean-Maxime Boulanger, Mégane R.S. Product Manager
What does this record mean to the team at Renault Sport?
The record proves the know-how of Renault Sport Technologies. What is important is that our competitors are still testing their current and future cars at the Nordschleife, so Renault Sport thinks it relevant to keep on fighting on this track and this record shows we have the best car in the front-wheel drive category.
How confident were the team in advance of their attack on the Nordschleife?
Renault Sport’s ‘wizards’ always push for the best results on each new model and with even more priority with a technical limited edition such as the Trophy-R. We have been ‘King of the Ring’ for six years and even as competitors push harder, we were confident about this time attack because Renault Sport and its partners put in a massive effort on this brand new radical car.
Does this sort of exciting activity help future development of high performance road cars (and how)?
We are used to working on very cutting edge technologies and improving motorsport knowledge (single seater cars for World Series by Renault or rally cars for example). Each technical item from the motorsport department that could be used and adapted to road legal use is utilised in our global product plan. For example Öhlins was a Mégane N4 partner and becomes naturally a road legal car partner on the Trophy & Trophy-R limited editions this year.
What has been the reaction been from fans of the brand and dealer/distributors?
We have a strong Renault Sport Community all-around the world and proud to communicate to our 400 000 fans on Facebook pages. When we started the #under8 communication teaser two months before the time attack reveal, people were very enthusiast and had already guessed that Renault Sport was back at the Ring. From April to June, dealers and distributors were truly submerged by people’s curiosity. All of these would know what car and of course the result! Thanks to this new record, Trophy-R was sold out less than 3 weeks.
How did you choose your partners for this project?
RST wants the best on its project cars. We have true know-how about chassis, performance and driving pleasure but as we always can do it better, we focused on exciting items such as chassis, sound and materials to improve.
Öhlins is one of the best worldwide well-known shock absorber suppliers for road and track so that was an obvious decision.
How crucial was the chassis / suspension selection to gain the record yet still be able to utilise the RS as a road car?
That is the global Trophy-R genesis ! Our radical car is maybe a record killer but remains a road legal one. This hurdle cannot be handled by many competitors but Renault Sport still did it and with the R26.R previously
And finally if the record is threatened, will you go back to ‘The Ring’ for another attack?
We will see when the time comes...
Click here to view the tech spec