The art of kicking RS

Wheels sits down with Renaultsport’s sales boss to talk SUVs, manual boxes, F1 and the next RS Megane

DAMION SMY

THE FUTURE of Renaultsport is brighter than its Liquid Yellow war paint, says the man responsible for keeping the high-performance sub-brand a hard-core enthusiasts’ beacon.

Of course, Regis Fricotte would say that, but the sporting arm of the French car maker is facing the French car maker is facing some serious threats: the pressure from Renault to increase volume without tarnishing its reputation, its controversial link to Formula One and rumours of an SUV.

Fricotte says that the RS brand can sell more cars without risk of sullying its hard-won reputation.

“Currently we’re between 35- 40,000 cars [globally],” he says.

Does he want to double it? “That’s our ambition, within the next four years.” The path to 80,000 RS sales worldwide includes its cheaper GT Line support models, een ,000 but may see the two-letter badge attached to the antithesis of performance: an SUV. “If you look at all the other manufacturers, you can see sports versions of their SUVs. So there is no reason we should not look at it. I’m not telling you that there is going to be one, and when – but obviously be one, and when – but obviously we are looking at it.”

The risk in doing an SUV, such as a Captur RS, is that the brand becomes diluted from a pure, highly respected and hallowed name and falls into me-too, dressup- kit territory. Like Mitsubishi did with the once mighty Ralliart.

Or RS itself did with Gordini late last decade, choking the iconic performance name by wrapping a silk scarf around its neck. “The intrinsic values of Gordini – we didn’t push far enough on the engine performance side; and

“We didn’t push far enough on the engine performance side...”

we probably pushed too far on the look and feel,” says Fricotte, using it as a wake-up call to keep Renaultsport true to its F1-linked status. Renault’s participation and success in F1 is on par with Ferrari and McLaren. RS is its road-going legacy. “The ideal for us is to have both working is supported by a range of road Frenchman. damaged by the Clio RS – which – converting to a five-door dualclutch together – our involvement in F1 cars. And that’s something that we do extremely well in Australia at Grand Prix time,” says the The RS name hasn’t been was three-door, manual only auto only, says Fricotte.

“Yes, it is less into the revs and playing with the stick to go between three-four-five, and the noise… [but] Clio RS now is faster than a Clio IV RS.” Does that mean Renaultsport will ditch the manual for its new Megane? “That’s open,” he says.

“With different models, we have target objectives and different types of customers. mean that in the will not have manual clutch.

“Before we bastardise the name we’ve got the potential to increase our affecting, jeopardising, damaging the brand saying ‘they’ve put badges everywhere and it’s not used to be’. For me, the Renaultsport name and to be increased, because its supports the of Renault.” different targ type It doesn’t me future, we wi and double-c Renaultsport sales without and people sa every worth what it Rena range needs t su development

Hey Renaultsport, what’s Alpine to you?

IN 2016 the Alpine brand will return after more than two decades with a two-door, lightweight Porsche Cayman rival. So how can Renault- Nissan manage two performance arms without inbreeding? “I was a creator of Renaultsport, but it’s not the same customer as a Clio RS,” says Alpine CEO, Bernard Ollivier. “A Clio RS is quite heavy, with four seats; you can take your children to school; you can go to the track on the weekend. An Alpine is not that. An Alpine is a pleasure on a daily basis, but not to take your children to school; it’s a specific use pleasure.” That rules out suggestions of a crossbred Renaultsport Alpine.

“They are different brands – different customers, different positioning,” Fricotte says. “There shouldn’t be any confusion when the Alpine comes out for the customers, for what there is in an Alpine and what there is in a Renaultsport, otherwise we haven’t done our job properly.”