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Oct 10, 2013

NEW RENAULT MEGANE TO DEBUT IN MANUFACTURERS CHAMPIONSHIP

After their Class D victory in the 2012 Australian Manufacturers Championship, Mark Eddy Racing team-mates Mark Eddy and Francois Jouy were looking for a new challenge, and that challenge emerged recently in the shape of a matte black Renault Megane RS 265.

“We won Class D last year with the team’s trusty old workhorse,” Eddy admitted alluding to their ageing Honda Integra Type R, “and we were on track to do it again this year, but we wanted another challenge so we went looking for alternatives.”

“Some would suggest that my parochial ties to France were the reason behind the decision,” Jouy admitted, “but the fact is we looked at all the possibilities for a good ‘hot hatch’ Class C car, and the Megane ticked every box.

“It helped that I’d been involved with the Clio project in past Amchamp seasons, so I knew how good the cars were, and whilst the Clio was down on power, it was a very solid car and the Megane is built just as well if not better.”

Adhering to the strict guidelines enforced by the series administrators, Jouy and the team at Jenmal Motorsport and Collin Matthews Autosport have put the car together closely following the rulebook, but whilst subtle changes have been made, Jouy admits the car was almost ready to go straight from the factory.

“Renault Sport have ben using Meganes and Clios for one-make championship style competition for years,” he explained. “They have very close ties with motorsport and use that involvement in the cars that they build. Adhering to the rules of the category we’ve added the specified safety cage, and made what modifications we can within the guidelines, but the basic structure of the car is ideally suited to endurance racing.”

Whilst it is the first purpose built Megane RS in the country, RS 250 and RS 265 Meganes have been campaigned locally in tarmac and gravel rallies, although Jouy admits that the vagaries of rallying don’t really provide the team with too much data to work from.

“Rally stages are traditionally fairly short so the engines aren’t running as hard for as long as they are in endurance circuit racing. Don’t get me wrong, some of those gravel rallies can be terribly punishing, but the punishment we give a car over four-five-six or seven hours is different. The brakes take a hammering, the gearbox takes a hammering and it just keeps coming, there’s little respite for the duration of the race.

“Part of our success in the past though - apart from building a straight-forward car - is the maintenance. I have to give Mark the utmost respect for the fact that he doesn’t quibble when it comes to keeping the car fresh. After every race we strip it back as far as we can, and then check everything for cracks and wear and replace any worn parts.”

Whilst the team were keen to debut the car ahead of the 2014 season, Jouy admits that they built the car right and not to a short deadline, although they will be on the grid for round four at Wakefield Park.

“The car had to be built right, and we wanted to do it in association with Renault Australia who are helping us on the technical side in ensuring we have all our bases covered when it comes to the build, reliability and getting the best out of the options the car has built in as standard.

“At present their involvement is purely technical, but they are keen to do more, so we’re keen to impress upon them the value of the program, so we’ll be stepping things up to improve the presence of the whole team, not just on track, but also in the pits and in the paddock.

“It's an exciting time for all of us, and we can’t wait to get the car on track. We tested recently at a Renault Club Day at Wakefield Park and it performed brilliantly. We probably did 50 laps and we found a few things we need to tune as a result, and they’re being done now ahead of the round in three weeks.

“There is so much adjustability with the car it’s amazing, from throttle calibration and ESP, to suspension setup and the ABS, it’s just a very exciting car. The only negative with the Megane if you have to pinpoint one is the visibility out the back window, but that’s okay, we’re not expecting to spend much time looking out the back..”

From Eddy’s perspective, he admits that whilst the thrill of sprint races is okay, the former (2-time) Australian GT champion - who this year upgraded to a 2012-spec Audi R8 LMS ultra GT3 with long-time friend Marc Cini - admits that he prefers endurance racing.

“Marc and I will look to do the Sepang 12-Hour again next year with the Audi. We would have done it this year, but we had a clash of dates on our personal calendars so we sat it out. We’ll do the Bathurst 12-Hour again next year with the Audi, but then apart from Sepang my focus will be on the Class C title with the Megane, and with any luck, an outright podium.”

“We haven’t built the fastest car, but I think we’ve built an ideal Class C car,” Jouy added. “Renault has an outstanding reliability record and they build mechanically strong cars and I think - just as we proved with the Honda - that you have to be consistent and finish races. If you can do that over and over again, you’ll prevail, and I think we’ll do just that!”

For the team the focus turns to Wakefield Park (18-20 October) for the penultimate round of the 2013 season where they’ll have two 200 kilometre races to sort the car and prove just how competitive they can be.

Mark Eddy Racing is proudly supported by Network Clothing and Dent Buster.

SPECIFICATIONS:

2013 Renault Megane 265 RS
Engine: F4R four-cylinder, 16-valve turbo-charged petrol injection
Capacity: 1998cc (2.0-litre)
Power: 195kW@5500rpm

Torque: 360Nm@3000rpm

Drive: front-wheel drive
Gearbox: 6-speed manual with limited slip differential
Fuel: 98 RON (premium unleaded)

2013 Australian Manufacturers Championship - calendar

Rnd#1, 24-26 May - Phillip Island, Victoria
Rnd#2, 12-14 July - Sydney Motorsport Park, NSW
Rnd#3, 2-4 August - Queensland Raceway, Ipswich, QLD
Rnd#4, 18-20 October - Wakefield Park, NSW (2x 200km races)

Rnd#5, 15-17 November - Sandown, Melbourne, VIC (3-Hours)