The Renault Megane RS 250 recently revisited Sepang and in the process, rewrote its personal best laptime of the F1 track in the hands of Denis Lian. If you remember, Denis, a brand manager at Wearnes Singapore with some race experience, did 2:43.02 with a stock Megane RS 250 in November 2010, just before the car was officially launched here.
That was a great lap time for a stock hot hatch, but the folks at TC Euro Cars were quietly confident that they could do better with a clear track and favourable conditions. So they invited the Singaporean down to Sepang for another go, this time with semi slick Toyo tyres on the same stock standard unit.
The unit was and still is TCEC’s only test car, abused by customers and journos alike, with 30k km on the clock. Standard alignment settings (no funny cambers), shocks and brakes, with only the brake pads recently changed. As stock as they come, which is intentional on TCEC’s part – they want to prove that the Megane RS is a master of road and track straight out of the box.
“You can drive the car back as is, pick up your wife and kids, and they wont complain about the loud exhaust, stiff suspension – all the things normally associated with a car of heavy tune,” Reza Mutalib, GM of TCEC told me. We know the Megane well, and it’s hard to disagree.
Anyway, the target was to beat 2:40, so it was a job well done with a best time of 2:38.16. Very impressive. If you’re wondering, Denis did the deed at the recent exclusive Renault Sport track day for owners and prospects. He was there early, and “work” was finished when I reached in the morning. According to him, it wasn’t as straightforward as hitting the track and trying until he hit the mark.
Apparently, the Toyo Proxes R888 rubber used has a sweet spot, and performed the best at 37 PSI front, 38 PSI rear when hot, with performance dropping off outside of that window. So Denis had to be consistent to perform when the window opened.
The Megane RS 250 is capable and great fun on track. You can read my non professional view of the car on track here, but here’s what Denis had to say. “The brakes are overspecified, and more than adequate for the car. They’re easy to modulate and there’s a nice feel and linear fashion to how it works.”
But that’s not what he likes most about the Megane RS, which is brought in with the Cup chassis as standard. “The chassis is very neutral. While it resists understeer very well, the back still works,” referring to the lively rear end of the Renault on the limit. “It reaches the traction limit in a linear ‘flowy’ manner, and lets go progressively. You can see this in Turn 13 to 14, a nice flowing rotation, like a rear wheel drive car,” he enthused.
“It’s unusual for a modern FWD car, very old school, but without the snap oversteer,” Denis noted. If you think the chap is being very generous, he has this to say: “I’m a good judge because I don’t like FWD cars!”
Is this the best time the Megane RS can do at Sepang? Denis thinks that a further two seconds can be shaved off with full slicks, but the reason they chose semi slicks is to demonstrate that owners can get a lot more out of the RS without going to the extreme. Judging from the seriousness I witnessed at the track day, I think many of them already know that for a fact!