The Nordschleife record was a first for Renault Sport and the 8:17.54 time obliterated the previous mark by 9 seconds. Key to this was cutting weight, with an aluminium subframe, carbon-fibre bonnet, and polycarbonate side and rear windows taking around 123kg off its predecessor. Even the rear window heater and wiper blade were sacrificied to lighten the car.
In the driving seat
Sabelt carbon-fibre bucket seats made their contribution to weight loss, with the rear seats removed completely. Road-approved racing harnesses (a first for a road car) added to the businesslike feel, and air-conditioning was an optional extra to reduce weight. Another option was the four-point roll bar, designed to meet any track safety requirements.
Building on success
The Mégane R26.R had the same 2.0 litre engine as the Mégane F1 Team R26, with short-shift six-speed manual transmission. This 16-valve turbocharged powerplant develops 230bhp and a torque of 310 Nm, with 90% of the maximum torque available between 2000 and 6000 rpm. Renault Sport worked hard to achieve that tricky compromise between everyday road comfort and track grunt, but still delivered a 0-100km/h time of just 6 seconds.
Speed and control
As impressive as its speed off the grid, was the grip and stopping power of the Mégane R26.R. With a weight of just 1,232 kg, it had a power-to-weight ratio of 5.3kg/hp, running on optional Toyo R888 semi-slick tyres and braked by custom Brembo 4-piston calipers at the front end.
Spirit of a new era
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the R26.R was how it captured the spirit of Renault Sports. It was a vehicle for anyone to drive to the track, in the same way Renault 8 Gordini drivers had competed in the Gordini Cup, many cutting their teeth for later racing fame. The noise of the two-liter supercharged engine with its optional titanium exhaust was the sound of the affordable sports car for a new generation.
A limited edition
With only 350 R26.R ever built, any owner is in exclusive company. That select group enjoy a Nürburgring 8:17 logo in the rear quarter windows and a plaque on the central console giving the car a number based on the even more limited sales in each specific country.