The very first road test of Clio R.S.16 was held on Friday, 1 April, at the Montlhéry track. Thanks to the extensive simulation work done beforehand, the car immediately proved to be well-balanced. The other source of satisfaction concerned the temperature of the powertrain, which was in line with the initial specifications.
The climatic roller test benches at the Lardy Technical CentreFollowing this initial shakedown, fine-tuning of the powertrain could begin. At the Lardy Technical Centre, climatic roller bench tests enabled the adaptation of various parameters to be confirmed. In order to be meet the project deadlines, which remained very tight, this stage was performed by engineers that had worked on the tuning of Mégane R.S. 275 Trophy-R : Jean-Sébastien Robert and Frédéric Laurent.
Ten days after the first on-track outing of Clio R.S.16, handling fine-tuning and convergence began on the Aubevoye Technical Centre’s tracks. At this confidential, strategic site in Normandy, Clio R.S.16 rubbed shoulders with the prototypes of forthcoming Renault vehicles.
Two cars were built by the Preliminary Project unit : the Liquid Yellow model will be the concept car unveiled at Monaco, whilst the Deep Black model serves as the ‘mule’ for development testing.
It was decided to fit Michelin Pilot Sport SP2 tyres at the start of the project. This initial session could therefore be directly devoted to the mechanical settings of the axles. Like a racing team, the various options were reviewed : stiffness of the springs, valving and shock absorber stops, anti-roll bars, etc.
"The Aubevoye track allowed us to work near to our base in Les Ulis, in good conditions and in complete confidentiality," explained David Praschl, Clio R.S.16’s development driver. "We chose a route that combined all kinds of difficulties : an uneven section with pot-holes to work on vertical lift, big corners to test road-holding, a hairpin to check traction, etc. We also used the speed ring to study stability at 200kph plus…"
The members of the Preliminary Project unit also attended this first test session to check that their choices were appropriate and think about future upgrades. At the same time, the engine designers analysed the gigabytes of data to check the 2.0-litre turbo engine was working properly and assess its performance levels…
After three days of intensive testing, the mule returned to Les Ulis for disassembly and complete verification of the components. On 28 April, a second test session was used to set the technical definition after having fine-tuned the final details.
How it feels behind the wheel
"Behind the wheel, Clio R.S.16 very quickly proved to be very dynamic thanks to the qualities of its chassis and the Michelin tyres," detailed David Praschl. "The increase in torque was handled well by the independent steering-axis front suspension, but this was no surprise since it’s a technology that has been developed and used by Renault Sport for the last ten years or so. If I had to compare Clio R.S.16 with Mégane R.S. 275 Trophy-R, I’d say that there is less inertia on Clio. This is makes sense, since the car is more compact. It is therefore easier for all types of driver to get to grips with. The agility and progressive response of Clio R.S.16 remind me of Clio III Cup, which was a very popular car among racing drivers. It is also safer due its stability and the efficiency of the brakes. You really can have lots of fun behind the wheel ! Now, we just need to tickle the speedometer to prove that it is indeed the most powerful Renault Sport road car..."
The start of a new story
By unveiling the concept car at the Monaco Grand Prix circuit with Kevin Magnussen – Renault Sport Formula One Team driver – behind the wheel, Renault Sport emphasizes the purpose of Clio R.S.16 : drive, either on the track or on the open road !
Furthermore, the cars that can be seen with it on the track are just some of the Renault Sport models that have inspired a love of driving throughout the generations : Renault 5 Turbo, Clio V6, Renault Sport Spider, Mégane R.S. R26-R and Mégane R.S. 275 Trophy-R.
Following this first public outing, its next appearance will be in Great Britain at the Goodwood Festival of Speed (23-26 June).
The design of Clio R.S.16 also reflects a new way of working between the Renault Sport Cars teams, who focus on production cars, and the Renault Sport Racing teams.