One imagines Jean-Pascal Dauce, dismayed at having had his request to give the forthcoming phase two Renaultsport Mégane R26 a power hike curiously denied, felt a lump form in his throat. After all, it being 2007, his counterpart at Ford – none other than Jost Capito – was in the process of arming a new Focus RS with a reported 300bhp and a chassis capable of handling it…
In hindsight, the man behind any Mégane worth driving had sound grounds on which to ask the Groupe Renault board for a right of reply, because at a time when the hot hatch power wars were threatening to go nuclear, the R26’s existing 227bhp wasn’t going to be enough to carry the new car. What that seemingly apathetic rejection forced Dauce and his engineers to do, however, will go down in automotive legend.
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At 1345kg, the R26 was not a particularly heavy car and had even been described in these very pages as ‘the ultimate hardcore fast hatch’, yet after Dauce’s men stripped it down to a carcass and replaced what they couldn’t remove with lighter alternatives, what was left was the R26.R.
There must have been an whiff of mania during product planning meetings for the R26.R – amusingly, Dauce later admitted that things did in fact get a bit out of hand – because out went the rear seats, passenger and curtain airbags, climate control, rear-window and headlamp washers, and the radio and CD player. With any pretence of practicality laughed aside, there was also a ruthless cleansing of soundproofing materials. Of what remained, the seats were exchanged for carbon-shelled Sabelt pieces with six-point harnesses and aluminium bases and the bonnet was swapped for a carbon piece that itself was an objet d’art. A roll-cage and titanium exhaust also featured, if so optioned.
Overall, 123kg evaporated and the car’s all-important power-to-weight ratio rose from 171 to 189bhp/ton – the equivalent of giving the original R26 a robust and very competitive 250bhp.
One detail illustrates the R26.R’s motorsport-inspired madness better than any other, though: polycarbonate rear and rear side windows. Renaultsport saved 5.7kg by ditching glass and it’s this deliciously melodramatic detail everyone remembers. One window also bears a graphic celebrating test driver Vincent Baylé’s committed 8min 17sec Nürburgring effort. Perhaps easier to appreciate, however, is that this 911 GT3 RS-lite went on to lap the West Circuit at Bedford Autodrome in the same time as a BMW M3 CSL, a fact that’s still hard to comprehend.
In This Article
- 1The Art of Speed | the great performance car design details
- 2Lexus LFA rev counter - Art of Speed
- 3E30 BMW M3 bodywork - Art of Speed
- 4Pagani Huayra's wing mirrors - Art of Speed
- 5Ferrari Testarossa side strakes - Art of Speed
- 6The Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 Evo II's bodykit - Art of Speed
- 7The Lancia Delta Integrale Evo's rear spoiler - Art of Speed
- 8The Renaultsport Megane R26.R's polycarbonate windows - Art of Speed - currently reading
- 9Ferrari F50 rear mesh - Art of Speed
- 10The McLaren P1's exhaust - Art of Speed
- 11The Subaru Impreza's bonnet scoop - Art of Speed
- 12The Aston Martin Vantage V600's twin supercharged V8 - Art of Speed
- 13The Honda NSX's Monel ignition key - Art of Speed
- 14Koenigsegg One:1 active wing - Art of Speed
- 15Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano flying buttresses - Art of Speed
- 16Shelby Mustang GT500 racing stripes - Art of Speed
- 17Aston Martin V12 Zagato double-bubble roof - Art of Speed
- 18Lotus Esprit pop-up headlights - Art of Speed
- 19Lamborghini Miura louvred engine cover - Art of Speed
- 20Alfa Romeo SZ headlights - Art of Speed
- 21Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1 grille stripe - Art of Speed
- 22Aston Martin One-77 carbonfibre chassis - Art of Speed