On Saturday 13 May, the tarmac of the Circuit Paul Ricard throbbed to the sound of R.S. engines. Around 90 customers made the trip to Le Castellet and they did not regret it, with the almost-summery weather, the sight of the Renault Sport R.S. 01 on the track and the presence of rally legend Jean Ragnotti combining to give them a day to remember and us an opportunity to ask “Jeannot” what a Renault Sport Track Day involves for him.
The day begins at 8:45, when Jean makes his way to the briefing room to address the Track Day participants. In introducing them to the circuit, he tells a typically funny story and gives them some useful advice on track driving. As per usual, there’s an immediacy and warmth about him as he engages with his audience. As the first of the day’s drivers get prepare to take to the track, our ambassador signs autographs for the other participants waiting their turn, doing so with a kindness matched only by his lengthy list of career honours.
Jean and the Renault Classic team then finish setting up the Maxi 5 Turbo for a midday session of 360 spins. Before that, though, comes the Twingo GT Challenge and the chance to race against the customers, though his time does not count in the final standings.
Wherever Jean goes, he’s asked for a selfie, a handshake or a friendly chat. Time is flying by though. It’s already noon, which is Jean’s cue to hit the track for 20 minutes of 360 spins: 160 km/h down the pit straight, a little tug of the steering wheel right and then a complete left turn with the hand brake full on. And so the magic begins. The balconies are packed, understandably so; it’s a treat no one wants to miss.
In the afternoon, our ambassador finds time for a few interviews and hangs out with the participants, autographing anything and everything, from around 40 cars to helmets, T-shirts and maps.
Three questions for Jean Ragnotti…
What’s brought you to the Renault Sport Track Days?
Pleasure first and foremost. It’s a pleasure for me because I always have so much fun when I’m driving, though I also enjoy giving pleasure to others. I’ve always felt a close bond with amateur drivers, and days like this are just great for that. I’ve been around since these events first started, and though I haven’t taken part in all of them, I’ve been able to see just how much people enjoy what’s on offer for them: the chance to drive on some great tracks, the safety aspect and all the entertainment that’s laid on. It’s especially nice to be here at Le Castellet today. I’ve known the track since it was built. It’s a great circuit that’s grown over the years, and it’s in the south too.
What’s your take on today’s Renault Sport range?
I been watching it develop since 1977 and I can tell you that Renault Sport has always come up with cars that look great and are affordable too, both for the track and the road. The Clio R.S. is fantastic on twisting roads and always fun to drive. I’ve also tried out the Twingo GT, which is a whole lot of fun and amazingly responsive too. And I’ve been impressed by the Megane GT, an excellent road car and very efficient too, especially with 4Control.
What are you expecting from the new Megane R.S., which will be unveiled this year?
The Megane R.S. is the ideal product to my mind. It has a superb chassis, a great engine and it’s so easy to drive. And unlike other manufacturers’ sports cars, which just feel too electronic, it’s a whole lot of fun to drive and delivers performance too. I can’t wait to see the next one.