Renault is on a good run in Australia. The company finished last year "on a high" with best sales figures since 2002, and its well-equipped line-up is now complemented by a five-year warranty and invigorated dealership network. And wisely, it chose to build on this new-found momentum during last week's 2012 Australian Grand Prix.
The Renault-powered Red Bull team won the F1 Championship last year and this season, four teams are using the French marque's engines. Importantly for the brand's visibility, however, local boys Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo are driving Renault-powered cars. And they made history on the weekend -- with fourth and ninth placings respectively it was the first time in the modern era two Australians have scored points in the same F1 GP. Indeed, while McLaren won the race, Renault went a long way to winning the public relations war off the track.
Renault Australia's entertaining GP schedule included a jet-pack powered 'rocketman' drag racing against a RenaultSport Megane over 400 metres and a series of races involving six identical RS250s that grabbed serious television airtime.
In the lead up to the GP a lucky few were able to grab laps with some of the RS drivers including drift specialist 'Mad' Mike Whiddett, speedway rider Jason Crump and stuntrider Robbie Maddison. Our chaperone for the 10-minute session was Maddison: the daredevil who in Las Vegas in 2009 jumped to the top of a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, then followed with a death-defying descent.
When asked what he thought of the RS Megane, Maddo told us it was "fun". That might sound indifferent but he was quick to mention he was raised "not to waste money" and referred to his choice of the trusty F150 for daily duties...
Then Lowndesy [V8 Supercar driver, Craig Lowndes] arrived and wished him well for the session, surveying the Megane and suggesting he'd "have it flat" throughout. Sure, Maddo wrung the hatch hard but it wasn't so easy that we didn't visit grass, get Ken-Block-close to braking markers and even run into kitty litter. Otherwise, as Maddo said, "we were the most sideways" and definitely had fun.
Maddison is currently talking to the likes of HRT and Kelly Racing in anticipation of competing in the V8 Supercar championship. He told motoring.com.au the Supercars most resemble the power-to-weight ratio of the motorcross bikes he's spent his life riding. Already on Red Bull's card, the Renault-Infiniti-Nissan racing relationship would be a natural fit for Maddison when Nissan joins the V8 Supercar Championship.
Renault F1 teams this year don't have the advantage of added downforce via manipulation of the exhaust system, Red Bull Racing spokesman Eddie Mendez told motoring.com.au. The Renault-developed ace card was approved during 2011 and of interest to all teams in this year's championship...
McLaren won the race but Renault won extra fans. The Renault race-off on Sunday featuring David Coulthard and the antics of Crump and Maddison was one of the most entertaining support events we've seen at Albert Park.
Renault Australia has released a limited edition RS Megane to commemorate the F1 AGP. Limited to just 50 vehicles, the Megane RS 250 AGP is available for order from dealers now, starting from $49,990. The hot hatch is based on Renault's reputable Cup chassis, and equipped with a powerful turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and smooth-shifting six-speed manual. The engine is rated at 184kW/340Nm, with all of that hefty torque arriving by a low 3000rpm.
The Megane RS 250 AGP Edition boasts the same Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tyres used by the RS Trophy 265 model which currently holds the record for fastest lap set by a front-wheel drive car at the famous Nurburgring circuit. The AGP Limited Edition comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels and high-end braking system from Brembo.