Competing in Formula Renault since 2011, the team run by Thibaut de Mérindol and Cyril Comte won its first title in the category during the penultimate weekend of the season. Thibaut and Cyril now look back on what was a successful campaign in which their drivers racked up 10 victories, 10 pole positions, 13 fastest race laps and 33 podium finishes !
Founded by Thibaut de Mérindol and Cyril Comte, R-ace GP came onto the racing scene in 2011. Today, Thibault is both President and Team Manager, while Cyril heads the technical side.
“Cyril and I were engineers at SG Formula in the F3 program then in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series since 2005”, recalls Thibaut de Mérindol. “We talked about starting a team and that it would happen sooner or later as soon as we had the idea. The closing of the Stéphane Guérin team was the trigger.”
Very early on, R-ace GP stood out. A month after its first race, the team took its maiden pole position in Formula Renault NEC. The first podium results followed soon after.
In 2012, R-ace GP entered three drivers who would go on to win championships in the World Series by Renault : Pierre Gasly in 2013 and Nyck de Vries in 2014 in the Formula Renault Eurocup, then Andrea Pizzitola the following year. The Frenchman’s title in the Renault Sport Trophy was also the first title won by the Fontenay-le-Comte based outift !
While Nyck de Vries took the first race win for the team, Esteban Ocon took the squad to the top step of the Eurocup podium. Aurélien Panis and Ukyo Sasahara did the same before Max Defourny battled for the title in 2016 !
2017, a year of challenges
The first title came in 2017 thanks to a quartet of drivers composed of Will Palmer, Robert Shwartzman, Max Defourny and Raúl Guzmán.
“This first title in the Formula Renault Eurocup is a genuine accomplishment that is the reward for the job everyone has done”, says Thibaut de Mérindol. “At the start of the year, we knew that our drivers would allow us a shot at the title.”
“Nevertheless, we faced several challenges. We needed to give our four drivers a car that could take poles and win races. This required a certain level of internal organisation and discipline. We managed to do this with three of them, which signifies that today we are capable of providing a competitive car to several drivers.”
“At the same time, we had to maintain team spirit throughout the year despite having three drivers in the chase for the title. Everything had to be good on and off the track to make the most of their competitive spirit. For us, this collective work is one of the veritable successes of the year. The preparation meetings, the sharing of information, the data, videos and the feedback both before and after each session… We brought everything together to work as one man with three times the technical feedback. We thank them for having participated while knowing how to respect each other on the track.”
A season in which details mattered
“The first three meetings were nearly perfect’’, confides Cyril Comte. “We won the first five races and had a pair of one-two finishes. This showed the team that we were heading in the right direction. Will Palmer’s victory in Monaco was also very special.”
“We knew that we had to take advantage, because we knew very well that our rivals and the Formula Renault Eurocup is perhaps today the most competitive open-wheel category”, analyses his partner. “The Circuit Paul Ricard round was also a turning point for Robert with a race incident that led to his disqualification and a mistake by the team concerning the installation of a part. If not for that, he would have been in contention for the win. If not for Silverstone, Max would have also had a very different season. Starting from pole, he suffered a broken clutch due to an exceptionally long start procedure that cost him a lot, without overlooking his penalty for having slowed down too much when leaving the pits the following day.”
A turning point behind the scenes
“We have successfully restructured the team over the last two years”, recounts Cyril Comte. “We are pleased with the way things have progressed and we will continue to work in this manner.”
“This restructuring was gradually started with the desire to put new things in place", adds Thibaut de Mérindol. “At the end of 2014, we realized that we had not fully exploited the potential of some drivers who had spent time with us."
“A lot of drivers have made an impression on us by both their qualities and their flaws”, continues Cyril Comte. “All of them have allowed us to forge our experience and savoir-faire. So many different drivers have allowed us to progress, evolve and grow."
“This title and the double in the NEC are the reward for two and a half years of work”, concludes Cyril Comte. “It began to pay off in 2016 when Max Defourny battled against Lando Norris. This year, we have taken another step forward by knowing how to do it with three drivers. Internally, today we have a team of 15 people for the Eurocup program. Cyril runs the technical side, the major orientations, the dispatching of tasks with the other engineers and he runs the briefings. I am the team manager at the track and I look after the customer relations and the search for funding while also trying to put the right people in the right positions both in our cars and on the operational side. This is why the recruitment of Maxime Bastien two years ago as our workshop manager was one of the key elements in our restructuring and thus these successes.”