Monday 20 March, 8.30: Despite the grey skies and rather chilly temperatures for the first day of spring, there’s plenty of joy in the air in the paddock at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours. Much like a first day back at school, it’s a chance for our near 90 customer/drivers to catch up with some familiar faces and make new friends.
We’re just a few minutes’ away from the start of the first Renault Sport Track Day of 2017. Staged for the last ten years at some of the greatest tracks around the world – including circuits in Japan and Brazil – these events deliver a very simple pledge: to give customers the chance to exploit the full potential of their R.S. cars in complete safety.
As with ski runs, colours are used to denote each group of drivers, who are split according to their level of track driving ability: green for novice, red for intermediate and black for expert, a group mostly made up of Renault Sport Track Days regulars. Though the track is still damp, the expert drivers waste no time in tackling the 4.411 kilometres of tarmac in a 20-minute session where the focus is on driving pleasure and getting the most out of both man and machine.
The intermediate drivers then ready themselves to take their turn on the track, with the pit lane quickly filling up with all the models designed by Renault Sport over the years, from the little Twingo R.S. to the various generations of the Clio R.S. and the Megane R.S. 275 Trophy-R.
There’s plenty to keep customers entertained between sessions. As well as posing for a selfie with Margot Laffite and the Renault Sport R.S.01, they can also enjoy a few laps of a virtual circuit on an Ellip6 simulator, take a timed slalom challenge at the wheel of a Twingo GT or even test drive a Megane GT.
Renault Sport Track Days also provide a chance to take in the range’s latest innovations. Hogging the limelight this year is the Clio R.S. 220 EDC Trophy. Having donned our helmet, we find ourselves behind the wheel, with Alain the instructor alongside us in the passenger seat.
The EDC gearbox helps us on our journey of discovery of the former French Formula One Grand Prix venue, allowing us to focus solely on the racing line, the throttle and the brake. The 1.6L turbo engine snorts contentedly as Alain dishes out instructions: “There’s no point in braking here. You’re going to look for the end of the rumble strip and then follow the racing line. Now it’s flat out all the way to the Adelaide hairpin. Hit the brakes when you reach the cones and keep your foot down before easing off at the clipping point.”
On returning to the garage, it’s time for a spot of lunch, with everyone heading to the VIP boxes overlooking the home straight. The conversation flows as the participants tuck into typical driver fare: white meat and pasta.
“– I’ve come from Germany with my Clio R.S. I love discovering new tracks. I went to 13 last year. I was loyal to German manufacturers for years, but this is my first Renault and I love it. There’s a really nice vibe at Track Days.
– I go to a lot of Renault Sport Track Days but I always get a coach for the first session. It helps you spot the good lines and avoid making mistakes.
– It’s been a good investment. He stopped me from going off in the first session.
– I love Track Days but this is my first time at one of these events. It’s really well organised and I’m hoping to meet other enthusiasts from the Paris area.
– Have you signed up for the Spa-Francorchamps day? It’s an amazing track, especially the Raidillon. I think there are still a few places available this year. It’d be great to see you there.”
And with that, it’s back out for another lap. For anyone looking to take that extra step and get a feel for racing, Renault Sport Track Days also give you the chance to get behind the wheel of a Clio Cup. After suiting up in Renault Sport overalls, drivers are briefed on the workings of the sequential gearbox, brakes and slicks. With a coach for company, they can sharpen their driving skills considerably over the course of one or more sessions.
It’s 5pm according to the track clock, which means that this first Track Day of the year has reached its end. We exchange email addresses and add new friends on Facebook, promising to catch up with each other again soon, namely on 24 April at Spa-Francorchamps. Will you be joining them there?
Brazil shows its passion for the track with Sandero R.S. 2.0
Two days before the first Track Day of the European season, Brazil got the ball rolling with the Sandero R.S. Speed Experience Renault Sport event at the Autodromo de Capuava, near Sao Paolo. Some 54 existing customers and 80 potential ones took to the wheel of the little sports car, which was designed by Renault Sport for the Latin American market. In taking to the track, the Sandero R.S. 2.0 showed its ability to thrill and excite drivers.
For further information on the Renault Sport Track Days and a full calendar: Renault Sport Track Days