Renault Sport development driver Laurent Hurgon has the privilege of driving the New Megane R.S. nearly every day. Breaking off from a hectic testing schedule, he found time to discuss his career and give a little insight into the future model.
Talk us through you career prior to joining Renault Sport.
“After karting, I competed in several track championships and won the Caterham Cup. I then became a track driving instructor, a job that involved working with manufacturers and providing them with analyses of their products and those of their competitors. After that I worked with a manufacturer before joining Renault in 2004, forming part of the suspension department, which Renault Sport had just brought in-house to handle services that had previously been contracted out.”
What does your job involve?
“As a development driver I play what you might call a connecting role in the development of any new car. I have to put myself in the shoes of as many drivers as possible and ensure that the original specifications are delivered. It involves paying great attention to detail and detecting and correcting any handling issues. I also have to summarise all the feedback from the other drivers taking part in the process.”
What have been the standout moments for you so far?
“For my first interview, Philippe Mérimée – the head of the chassis mapping department – came to pick me up in the Megane II R.S. Trophy prototype. I was struck by the level of performance and how uncomfortable it was. We’ve worked tirelessly since then, making improvements from model to model, the most iconic of which is probably the R26.R, developed in partnership with Vincent Bayle. We stepped out of our everyday working environment and I almost felt as if we were developing a race car for the road. Talking of motorsport, I’ve also been lucky enough to work on the Formula Renault cars: the Renault Sport R.S.01, the Clio R3T and the Clio Cup, etc. And what can I say when the goal for the year is to break a lap record at the Nürburgring? The whole company got behind that and we were almost possessed in our quest for the perfect set-up. It was like coming up with a bespoke piece of clothing in a ready-to-wear store.”
How easy is it to keep on identifying areas where you can progress?
“Thanks to the experience and expertise our department possesses, we no longer have to go back to the drawing board. The engineers around us come up with simulations that help us improve the performance of previous models. Our aim is to perfect the way we work so we can do our job even better, despite the fact launch windows and lead times are tightening all the time. New technologies also mean that you have to review things the whole time. You now have essential features such as the electronic differential and four-wheel drive, all of which allow us to stand out from the crowd with the Megane GT.”
What can you tell us about the New Megane R.S.?
“We’ve learned the lessons from the previous versions and kept a close eye on the competition so that we can offer benchmark performance levels right from the launch of the car. It’s a very competitive market, one in which all the major manufacturers operate. For a launch in early 2018, we’ll have to be working on it through to September. We moving into the final development stage and we know what we want. We’ve reached a stage now where we’re having a lot of fun at the wheel. The more kilometres we rack up, the happier we become, with performance levels now exceeding those of the previous generation. I can tell you that the New Megane R.S. will be versatile and will offer the option of a manual or automatic gearbox.”