Renault Group

Renault Sport: a passion for high performance road cars

17 February 2023

The Mégane R.S. Ultime benefits from the unique knowhow of the designers, engineers and experts who have helped to forge the reputation of Renault Sport at Les Ulis (France) these past 20 years. Through Renault Sport range’s emblematic models, test-driver Laurent Hurgon talks about the passion for performance that continues to drive all those who work out of the Les Ulis base, which is now devoted to the Alpine adventure.


Ask Laurent Hurgon if he’s ever envisaged an alternative career and he needs no time for reflection… “Swap the life I have for another? No way!” he retorts.

I’m so lucky to have worked at Renault Sport all these years. To be involved in the development of high-performance road cars is something most car nuts can only dream of!

Laurent Hurgon
Test and development driver, Renault Sport / Alpine Cars

An atypical Spider to start with

Renault Sport has come to embody the sort of bold automotive engineering and design thinking that was its vision when the first-ever model passed through its expert hands. Buoyed by the success that greeted the Clio Williams, the spectacular, two-seater Spider Renault Sport roadster – codename W94 – came next, causing something of a sensation at the time of its unveiling at the 1995 Geneva Show.

It combined an aluminium chassis with a mid-rear engine and was assembled at the Alpine plant in Dieppe, Normandy, from 1995 until 1999, laying the foundations for Renault Sport’s future calling.

renault spider
The Spider was the first road-going model to bear the Renault Sport name, and it marked the history of the brand's sports cars

Envied expertise

The philosophy that spawned the Spider was subsequently applied to production models with the same uncompromising focus on performance and driving enjoyment. In 2000, the Clio 2-based Clio R.S. took up the gauntlet with a performance package that surpassed that of the Clio Williams, belying its somewhat understated guise. Clio 3 and Clio 4 were similarly subjected to the Renault Sport treatment, but the version that perhaps made the most indelible mark was the stunning Clio V6 - also released in 2000 - whose mid-rear 230-horsepower engine and bulging wheel arches hit a sweet spot! It has since become a coveted collectors’ item that has been known to change hands for more than €100,000!

With its body-built fenders and 230 horsepower engine in the centre rear position, the Clio V6 is now a much sought-after collector's item

Renault Sport consequently turned its attention to the Mégane with the same passion and bid for performance, and Laurent Hurgon was part of the team tasked with developing the successive versions of the model… “Renault Sport had solid experience of motorsport and we carried over the lessons learned on the racetrack and on rally stages around the world to our road cars. An example was the hydraulic compression stop that first appeared on the Clio R.S. and which was the fruit of our experience of rallying.”

From the Spider to the Mégane 3 R.S., the Renault Sport range has developed rapidly

Another technology Laurent Hurgon singles out is four-wheel steering. “The first time I sampled it, it was a whole new experience. Revolutionary!” It featured on all the Mégane 4 R.S.s. But before them, there was the radical R26R. “For us, the R26R marked the beginning of a new era. Our brief was quite simply to turn the Mégane 2 R.S. into a competition car. So, we removed the rear seat, replaced the windows with plexiglass, and fitted a titanium exhaust, carbon bonnet, etc.”


Persuasive records!

Some of the celebrated pocket rocket’s development was carried out around the Nürburgring’s famous 73-turn Nordschleife loop in Germany. “The Nordschleife was perfect for the job. It’s got every type of corner, from slow to medium and extremely fast. It is so demanding, especially on the running gear and body. Everything suffers! We carried out an intensive endurance testing programme there and established several new records for a front-wheel drive car!”

Mégane R26R
The Mégane R26R is the first Renault Sport car to set a record at the Nürburgring

The first was clocked by Vincent Bayle in 2008, driving the R26R. Laurent Hurgon went on to post a further three: in 2011 in the Mégane 3 Trophy, in 2014 in the Mégane 3 Trophy-R and in 2019 in the Mégane 4 Trophy-R. “It was a fantastic adventure. The synergy in the team was exceptional, with everyone working towards a common goal. I was incredibly fortunate to have been the guy at the end of the process. I am so proud of what we achieved. It was a privilege. I will never forget it.” More records were set at other, equally famous tracks, like Spa and Suzuka.

Having worked on the various Mégane projects, Laurent Hurgon has a particular soft spot for two of them: “The R26R, of course, and the Mégane 4 Trophy-R. We really had our work cut out for us with the latter! In performance terms, the bar had been set very, very high and its development kept us on our toes. When I went for the record in it at the Nürburgring, it was the only time I had to resort to a second lap.”

Laurent Hurgon
Laurent Hurgon in the Mégane 4 R.S. Trophy-R

On May 1, 2021, Renault Sport Cars was renamed Alpine Cars, which means the Mégane R.S. Ultime will be the last of the R.S. opus. Unveiled in January 2023, this model offers the full range of Renault Sport's expertise, including front axle with independent pivots, lowered Cup chassis, hydraulic compression stops and 4CONTROL 4-wheel steering system. It is offered in a limited-edition of only 1976 numbered cars (in a nod to the year Renault Sport was founded), all signed by... Laurent Hurgon.

renault megane rs
Laurent Hurgon has put his name on each of the 1976 examples of the Mégane R.S. Ultime

And if the Mégane R.S. Ultime closes a prestigious story, have no fear, though, because Renault Sport’s knowhow is in no way be going to waste since it is now being dedicated to the Alpine range’s upcoming models!