The Mégane R26.R owes its status as one of the most iconic of our models to the fact that the entire Renault Sport family worked long and hard in creating earlier versions of the Mégane R.S.
The car is a radical development of the Mégane R.S. F1 Team R26, which French motorsport magazine Echappement named as it Sports Car of the Year in 2007. Launched in October 2006 in honour of Fernando Alonso’s Formula One championship win, it trims five tenths off the Mégane R.S’s 0-100 kmh time, thanks to modifications made to the exhaust system and engine mapping. Making the most of a Cup chassis, increased spring, camber and roll stiffness, and a limited-slip differential that is nothing short of miraculous, it is an exceptionally dynamic car.
Suitably impressed, the experts and commentators rated it ahead of the BMW M3 and the Lotus Europa S and even went to the lengths of congratulating Renault Sport for having “come up with the perfect Mégane R.S.”. Two years later came another car that would leave the pundits purring in appreciation.
The queen of Nürburgring
Just when we thought the first generation of the Mégane R.S. had given all it had to give, our test driver Vincent Bayle and his R26.R pitched up at the Nürburgring and took everyone by surprise.
At 9.30 on the morning of 23 June 2008, and to much consternation, the Mégane R26.R wrote its name in the history books, crossing the finish line at the Nordschleife at full tilt, its titanium exhaust pipes burning blue as it wrote its name in the record books.
Having set off eight minutes and 17.54 seconds earlier, the latest-born of the Mégane R.S. family had just completed a lap of the northern section of the Nürburgring in a record time for a front-wheel-drive production car, a first for Renault Sport. In eclipsing the old record – set by an Opel Astra GTC OPC – by more than 19 seconds, it established itself as a legend before it had even been launched.
By the time it was unveiled to the public at the London Motor Show a month later, its reputation went before it. Rewarding its designers for their audacity, the Mégane R26.R more than lived up to the general sense of expectation, proving to be a huge success and meriting its status as “the ultimate Mégane R.S.”.
R for “radical”
What makes the Mégane R26.R’s performances all the more amazing is that they have been achieved without the slightest power upgrade on previous models. The engine is exactly the same.
Its main asset is its weight. At 1,232 kg, it is 123 kg lighter than the F1 Team R26, a not insignificant difference that can be explained, first and foremost, by the removal of nearly all equipment not contributing to performance. That means no rear windscreen wiper, no rear seat, no car radio, no sound insulation materials and only one airbag, on the driver’s side of course. The use of carbon in the bucket seat shells and the engine hood – which, in a segment first, is 100-percent carbon – reveal a quest for lightness and a radical feel, a quest that has made the Mégane R26.R what it is.
No sooner does the driver take the first curve than they are struck by the car’s exceptional ability to hold the road, the result of the ride height being lowered 10 mm and the finely tuned suspension. Other modifications include grooved rather than drilled brake discs, while the gear shift is shorter and more precise, making the R26.R as responsive and alert as they come.
The Mégane R26.R is Renault Sport’s take on sporting excellence. Designed to achieve peak performance, it paved the way for the Nordschleife records achieved by the Mégane R.S. Trophy in 2011 and the Mégane R.S. 275 Trophy-R in 2014.
|Engine||Inline four, 16V, front layout|
|Max. power||230 bhp|
|Max. torque||310 Nm at 3,000 rpm|
|Top speed||235 kmh|
|0-100 kmh (s)||6|
|1000m standing start (s)||25.9|