Exposure to a Performance Car review of the Lamborghini Countach 5000QV at an impressionable age set Dan Trent on course for a life-long obsession with cars. As editor of PistonHeads.com he’s got direct access to a classifieds repository of over 100,000 such vehicles to browse day in, day out. Temptation is never far away. He’s still some way off that Countach though.
I’ve loved the Megane R26.R from the moment I was lucky enough to drive one. Indeed, I think was among the first in the UK to do so. Then there was the weekend at the ‘ring, followed by a track day at Spa on the way home. I’ve never driven a road car so hard or – it felt – so fast. At Spa owners of supposedly much fancier cars kept wandering over in the pits to get a closer look at ‘that Megane’. The looks on their faces when told the plastic windows, titanium exhaust, cage, harnesses and carbon-bodied Sabelt race seats were factory spec were a picture.
A couple of years ago I met the chap who led the development, Jean-Pascal Dauce. He wanted to make the Renaultsport Megane quicker and expected to be given more power from the 230hp 2.0-litre turbo to do it. When he was told this was impossible he did (I like to think) a Gallic shrug and told his superiors he’d take 100kg out of the car instead. In the end he hacked 123kg out, the result very much the 911 GT3 RS of hot hatches and, at the time, the fastest front-driven car to lap the Nurburgring.
I love the thoughtful attention detail in the car, like the fact it takes advantage of the reduced weight to run softer springs than the standard R26 Megane and match compliance with composure. It’s a car designed to carry speed, offsetting its relative power deficit. And it’s very, very good at it. Indeed, if you’re a believer in the mantra the straights are for fast cars and the corners for fast drivers this is the car to prove it.
For all the fuss fanboys like me made about it in the press Renault UK struggled to sell the allotted 230 cars and found homes here for just 159, the remainder sold back into the French market with UK VINs so as not to taint the official allocation there. Prices now are not far from the £23,815 they cost in 2008. To that you’d have been an idiot not to have added at least the £700 package of roll cage and Toyo R888 track tyres, preferably stumping up £2,250 for the hugely desirable titanium exhaust too. Those two options separate the R26.Rs on sale from the merely interesting to the properly desirable.
I thought this one was my only bet with the spec I want. But then read in the ad it had been modded. I can understand the desire to tweak but having met Dauce and heard the story of how it was built I’d want it standard. Renaultsport specialist K-Tec has sold a few and has a nice one in the Lunar Grey like the one I took to the ‘ring. Standard exhaust though.
I was giving up hope and clicked on this one. Bingo! The ad hadn’t listed the titanium exhaust but I’m enough of a spotter to recognise the plain, slash cut tips and it’s got the cage too. Could it match a GT3 RS for ability to appreciate as well as tear up a track? Maybe not to quite the same level. But with this spec and mileage you’d have to be confident of at least holding your money. While owning an absolutely stone-cold modern classic in the process.