So here we go, the first of what will be a series of hype-building videos from Renault. It’s part of their #Under8 social media campaign to promote their Nurburgring challenge against SEAT’s Cupra 280.
Lest we forget, Renault were slightly miffed when SEAT stole their Nurburgring lap-time record. The fastest lap by a production-spec FWD car has belonged to the Megane for some time now, ever since the R26.R took it’s titanium exhaust and scaffolded interior around the Nordschleife in just 8:16.90, fending off a strong challenge by the more powerful Focus RS.
A few months later the Megane 265 Trophy lowered that lap time even further, down to 8:07.97, and then things went quiet for a while. OK, the non-FWD record got a bit of press when Porsche and Nissan started bickering about the specifications of the GT-R that beat the 911. Then the hybrid battle kicked off when Porsche’s 918 Spyder upstaged McLaren and their P1, who went all coy and said they’d done a lap time they were happy with but wouldn’t tell us how quick it was.
Meanwhile SEAT were building up for their own attempt at the FWD record. They hyped it up on social media, sneaking out pictures of the camouflaged cars pounding around the ‘Ring, until eventually they revealed the new lap time – 7:58.4, beating the Megane Trophy by a clear margin and smashing through the 8 minute barrier.
It was then that the online bickering started as the Renault fan-boys cried ‘Foul!’. The Leon had been stripped of its air-con and was running with upgrades that weren’t officially in production yet, although they’re supposedly due to go on sale in June. That meant it was an unfair challenge.
Despite this argument Renaultsport’s engineers have quietly set about the task of reclaiming what they see as rightfully theirs. A new Megane is undergoing preparation and there are some big names signing up to the challenge. Akrapovic, Ohlins, Michelin and BRM Chronographes are all doing their bit to help Renault snatch that title back.
To do that they’ve got to find another 10 seconds from the Megane 265. A carbon-fibre and titanium exhaust will help, as will trick dampers and springs, but will we see the spiritual successor to the R26.R? Will the current Megane get the stripped-out, plastic window treatment? I do hope so.
It’s ambitious stuff but you know what? I don’t care. ‘Ring lap times have about as much relevancy to me as the price of a good beer in Rekyavik. I’m unlikely to be there anytime soon so I’m not really interested.
All it tells me is that the car can lap one particular race circuit slightly more quickly than the competition. But only when the weather conditions are perfect and only when when driven by someone who’s clocked up more hours on the ‘Ring than I’ve spent watching repeats of Top Gear.
Does that lap record have any bearing on my life? No. Does it tell me how the car will handle the twists and dips of the A6075 between Tuxford and Ollerton? No.
So, please Renault and SEAT, enough of the willy waving. You are, in effect, measuring the size of your todgers to fractions of a millimetre and that’s just silly. That goes to you too, Honda, with your Civic Type R. Not forgetting Vauxhall, I don’t care how fast the Astra VXR Extreme will be around the ‘Ring.
If we get a lighter, stripped-out Megane 265 then fine, maybe it’s all been worth it, but otherwise it’s time for the manufacturers to put their tape measures away and zip up their trousers.