Renault World Series at Donington – September 2007

Yesterday, I (along with about 160,000 other people) was at a free event, organised by Renault UK to celebrate their 30 years in Formula 1.

It was very kind of Renault UK to spend so much of their marketing budget on a free weekend’s entertainment. A very large number of people obviously thought so, too, judging by the size of the crowds. Rumour has it that 160,000 people were expected on Sunday, and it certainly felt like they were all there! Traffic jams getting in and out of Donington verged on the Silverstone scale (!), and it was very hard to move around the event at times.

So, what was there to see? Well, the event could be categorised in three parts: activity on the track; a series of static displays from Renault, both modern and exhibits from their “Histoire & Collection”, and a display by Renault Owners. In addition, there was a fun fair and an F1 simulator, all of which were free, and had correspondingly enormous queues all weekend, and there were various competitions such as a “Pit Stop Challenge” and a separate one to change the wiper blades on a Modus. Even these had huge queues, so no tales of Forum prowess at either event!

Starting with the track, there were a series of qualifiers and then 2 races for each category of car. These were: Renault World Series (a slightly toned down F1 car type, 3.5 litre engines, 425 bhp); Renault 2.0 Challenge; the Megane Challenge, and the Clio Cup Challenge. With a large grid for each of these, there were 2 separate sets of qualifiers, then 2 races for each category. There were lots of thrills and spills on the track……….. one Renault World Series car, abandoned on the “safe” side of the track got thumped from behind when another car span off in exactly the same place in the same way just a couple of laps later. Several of the Clios ended up a little battered, and there were some spectacular departures for a good number of Meganes and cars in the other categories as well. This meant a lot of laps with the Safety Car out – a Clio 197, being driven fairly enthusiastically.

In addition to the races, we were treated to no fewer than 4 separate outings round the circuit from one of last year’s Formula 1 racers, and on his last lap, he stopped and did a gentle pirouette right in front of us, and just where several of the more exuberant drivers had come to grief earlier on! On Sunday afternoon, a few of the historic Renaults were wheeled out – 2 of the F1 cars from the 70s, 2 Alpine A442s and a couple of R5 Turbos………. these latter looked a real handful and one of them nearly lost it twice in the same spot. The third time, he went more cautiously, then deliberately spun it for us! All the safety car action meant a slight change to the program. There was supposed to be a Parade Lap of Renault Owners cars mid morning on Sunday, but a particularly large clearing up requirement mean that this got postponed until very last thing. Most spectators had set off to queue to get out of the car park, but patience was eventually rewarded with 3 laps. Before this, we watched as three of the 2 seater cars and one of the Meganes took various prize winners on what seemed like an eterminable number of laps. Whatever the competition was, I hadn’t found it………. what a prize that would have been! Eventually, at about 5:40, it was decreed that the Renault owners could go out.

I managed to get a ride in a friend’s Avantime. Earlier in the day, we had all been lined up by type of car, but by evening it was a bit more random, so we were behind a series of previous model Clios, and initially an ambulance. Plucking up courage to overtake the ambulance, we found a completely clear track, and no sign of the preceding cars……………. which meant that as we came to the next corner, there was no-on to follow, and Steve suddenly realised it was tighter than he thought…………… and then again, we came to corner where the track just disappeared! After this, it became obvious that the lead car had slowed up to try to get all the cars back in a line, and as we came to the end of the first lap, we had to pause, as they were still filing cars out so they could start a lap. So, on the second lap, the only way to get a bit of momentum was to hold back and create a gap that you could accelerate into……….. 3 laps and it was over.

There was a large display in the Owners’ area, including some rare and unusual cars. Not all the cars were there on both days, so, sadly, I did not get pictures of some of the cars that were there only on Saturday, such as a R18 American and an early R5 in that pastel blue colour that was once so ubiquitous. The second managed to amass 11 Avantimes, and a huge number of Clio V6s.
Sadly, some of the cars were “enhanced” by their owners – most of the R21 Turbos had been so treated, and the one R30 had a Starsky and Hutch” style white stripe on it, and there was particularly vile paint job on a R17. A few notables were not there – no R4s, no Fuegos, but otherwise most Renaults from the last 40 years were represented, along with some Renault -engined cars such as a row of Deloreans and several Venturi.
Watching the offload of a rare Venturi 400GT from a trailer was interesting………… the planks of wood that were used to form a ramp off the trailer to the ground proved little use as they snapped under the weight of the car! The challenge to get the car down at a gentle enough angle to avoid catching the front spoiler looked like it was going to defeat them, and it must have taken a good 10 minutes, watched by lots of people, to succeed. They did not move the car far, as the field was quite bumpy, so that would doubtless have been another challenge.
The third part of the event was the static displays. Renault had a couple of huge marquee areas set up as a sort of “showroom”, with many of the latest models. Sadly, there were no new Lagunas, as the focus seemed to be on the Twingo instead. In one of these marquees they had an old 4CV and a Juvaquattre as well. How narrow these cars look now!
These “showrooms” also had an area kitted out to resemble a part of a pit garage:
There was a separate display of the latest Renault Sport models, which included a Concept version of the Twingo, and various Clio and Meganes. We all found a big challenge in getting into the Clio fitted with the Recaro seats as there is a very hard ridge very high up on the side of the seat which proved very painful as you got in and out. There seemed to be no way of getting in and out without encountering it, either!
Elsewhere they had the racing historic vehicles under cover, ready for the track outing on Sunday.
In the same area were the paddocks, the parc ferme and scrutineering area, where you could get a closer view of some of the competing cars, such as these:

All in all, a great weekend, and all free. Thank you, Renault!……… and I’ve just about got the layer of dust off everything!! One really great part that has no pictures……… the venue that Dan, Miriam and I found for dinner on Saturday night. Purely by chance, but the first pub we came to, in Breedon-on-the-Hill, turned out to offer absolutely first rate food. Although a little more costly than your average pub meal, the quality was just superb, and the venue is duly noted for future forum meets at Donington!
2009-12-22 10:31:49

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