On a grey Friday at Germany’s famous Nürburgring Nordschleife track in early April this year, New Renault Mégane R.S. Trophy-R, driven by R.S. test driver Laurent Hurgon, smashed the track record in the front-wheel drive production car category, recording a time of 7’40”100.
While Renault Sports’ engineers pour every bit of their expertise into the cars they work on in order to achieve record-breaking performance, that high level of achievement is only really achievable by choosing partners with similar levels of dedication and expertise.
One of those partners on New Mégane R.S. Trophy-R is legendary tyre manufacturer Bridgestone which provides the car with its high-performance Potenza S001 and Potenza S007 tyres, produced specially to get the best out this hottest of hot hatches.
R.S. Cars Engineering Director Thierry Landreau explained the reason for the choice of the Bridgestone Potenza: “The increased power from the 1.8 litre turbo engine [on New Mégane R.S. Trophy-R] delivers far better acceleration, while the car uses our 4CONTROL technology that delivers outstanding agility through tight turns and great stability when going at higher speeds. The Potenza range is renowned for offering a high degree of grip, so it makes it a perfect fit for the vehicle’s power.”
Bridgestone EMEA’s Head of Consumer Tyre Development Simone Rando, meanwhile, talked of the great synergies between the two companies, from their long history in racing, to both engineering teams’ meticulous attention to detail.
“It was clear from the beginning [of the partnership] that an incredible vehicle could only work with an incredible set of tyres,” he said. “The challenge is always for us both to be the undisputed number one in our fields. Developing such a special tyre for such a special vehicle – one that can go so fast on such a difficult track and to attempt to beat the record – really brought the Bridgestone DNA to life.”
Tyre grip is one of the top levers that can increase the performance of an already high-performing car – and the mould and tread design of the Bridgestone S007 were created specifically to maximise that grip, with engineers from both teams working closely together to squeeze every last 100th of a second from the partnership.
“Ultimately the tyre is the only thing that touches the ground,” Rando explained ahead of the record attempt. “The driver needs to feel that contact in the steering wheel to know that the grip is there to make the corner lap after lap and get continuous feedback right to the end of the drive.”
The feedback gained in pre-record testing was relayed from driver Hurgon to technicians on both teams to enable them to make the necessary tweaks and changes to maximise the car’s output.
“One part of development is objective measurements made on our machines – but the subjective feeling of how the tyre handles on the road is the most important factor in steering the tyre’s development,” explained Senior Manager OE engineering at Bridgestone EMEA Cédric Robert of the feedback system.
R.S. Cars managing director Patrice Ratti praised Hurgon’s dedication ahead of the attempt to break his own record of 7’54”36 posted in the Mégane 275 Trophy-R in 2014. “He’s a great driver who knows the track by heart,” he said.
Hurgon spent the build up quietly getting in the best physical shape possible for the attempt, lifting weights in the gym and hitting the road on a Bridgestone road bike to get in perfect shape. “It’s a very demanding track, with lots of difficult lateral acceleration, so the better shape you’re in, the better you can perform,” he explained of his gym addiction ahead of the attempt.
When record day – April 5 – came, the Bridgestone and Renault team’s played a waiting game with the weather. While the S007 gives great grip in the wet, it really reaches its maximum performance in dry conditions – an important consideration when a split second can separate success and failure.
Eventually the teams agreed the time was right to take to the track and Hurgon began to rev up the R.S. Trophy-R, pushing it to the extreme to break his own record.
“The car was perfect,” he said after the new benchmark was set (and before he was drenched in Champagne by R.S. and Bridgestone engineers). “We didn’t have the best conditions, but we are very happy with the car and how it behaved. The whole team did an amazing job.”
Watch the full video here.