AFTER ITS EUROPEAN TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP CROWN, RENAULT TRUCKS-MKR TECHNOLOGY IS STILL HUNGRY FOR VICTORY
Less than one year after having formalised their partnership, Renault Trucks and MKR Technology won the European Truck Racing Team Championship crown during their very first year of working together. A crown which rewards their joint ambition, commitment and efforts. A crown which also honours the best truck and the best engine. A crown which, in fact, far from being an end in itself, is just the beginning of a superb adventure together. In terms of public relations, Renault Trucks invited almost 4,000 customers to the various events during the 2010 season and initiated several promotional operations, as it did during the Barcelona World Series by Renault in October. The ever larger numbers of spectators who flock to these events, and the high degree of technology demanded by the discipline, makes Renault Trucks more certain than ever that its total commitment to Truck Racing is the right way to go.
If the new Renault Trucks racetruck came as something of a surprise when it was first presented to the press in April 2010, it didn't take long for it to also cause a stir by its performance. Its first race saw its first victory, setting the pace and giving its adversaries a warning: they were going to see a lot of it - from behind. This victory came as a confirmation for the manufacturer - if any were needed - that deciding to join forces with Mario Kress between the seasons in 2009 was the right choice to make. Being a young team, the main concern during the early races was to concentrate on reliability and getting the right interaction between chassis and engine. A long-term goal that cannot be achieved overnight: "That's why we didn't make any major changes to the engine at the beginning of the season," explains Gérard Petraz, Renault Trucks Racing's technical director. "The main objective was reliability. When you're racing you can't afford to change several different parameters at the same time. If you do, you're almost certain to hit trouble."
The real improvements couldn't be implemented until after the Smolensk race, in Russia. The benefits then became immediately apparent in the mid-season trials with two victories at Most (Czech Republic) and two victories at Zolder (Belgium)! Even so, we all had to wait until the very last race of the season at Jarama in Spain before celebrating the final victory. Gérard Petraz describes what happened: "When we got there, we soon knew things were looking good. After the first speed trials, we realised we really were in with a big chance and that our rivals would have a very hard time preventing us from winning! And of course we were proved to be right!"
This was the second time in two years that the Truck Racing crown was not decided until the last Grand Prix of the season. In several races, timing differences in the qualifying trials were no more than a few tenths of a second. In September, during the Le Mans 24-hour Truck Race, in the Super Pole, the team missed pole position by seven thousandths of a second and the first five had less than six tenths between them. "It's crazy - these are the kind of differences you expect to see in F1!" exclaims Gérard Pétraz. "It proves just how keen the competition is and how much keener it gets every year."
It is therefore not surprising to see this vitality reflected in crowd numbers and growing awareness of the discipline. During the whole season, almost 500,000 spectators came to watch the races, as opposed to 430,000 in 2009, even though the season had one track more. The most popular venue was the Nürburgring and its 200,000 visitors during the weekend setting the pace for the whole discipline. Then came the Le Mans 24-hour Truck Race (France) with its excellent turnout of over 51,000 visitors, while the 48,000 and 45,000 spectators respectively at Most (Czech Republic) and Jarama (Spain) proved that Truck Racing is a big draw in all parts of Europe.
While it is certainly a hugely popular occasion and a fabulous spectacle, Truck Racing is also a tremendously powerful communications tool for the Renault Trucks brand and its vehicles. At practically every meeting, the manufacturer's local subsidiaries took advantage of the event to invite their customers. This year, almost 4,000 customers - twice as many as last year - attended the races, took part in the activities organised at the track or met the team. Renault Trucks also uses these meetings to present its products to the spectators: trucks from its range and special previews of new models. This was, for example, the case of the Magnum Route 66 special edition presented for the first time at Le Mans in 2009, or this year, the Renault Premium Truck Racing special edition.
By its commitment to Truck Racing, Renault Trucks comes into closer contact with its customers, sharing a common passion for trucks with them. Every racing weekend is an opportunity to promote the brand, get its products better known, as well as invite customers and future customers to the tracks. The competitive values expressed by the search for perfection and bettering personal best performances are perfectly in phase with the brand's philosophy. "The competitive spirit, a command of technology and innovation are values our company greatly esteems," explains Stefano Chmielewski, CEO of Renault Trucks. "Our association with the MKR-Technology team is up to our expectations and the total commitment on all sides has delivered the hoped-for results. The whole company is right there behind the team, fully involved to supply it with our expertise in terms of design, technical assistance during the races and engine technology."
There is no doubt that the discipline’s high degree of technical achievement, which increases every year, has made Renault Trucks a benchmark in the field of technology. But more than just a question of image, customers also see success on the racetrack reflected in production vehicles. The engine developed for racing was, in fact, based on the same one fitted to the Renault Magnum, and every time improvements are made, the production engine subsequently benefits from the solutions found by the competition engineers.
Three questions for... Gérard Pétraz, Renault Trucks Racing's technical director
What does a racetruck inherit from a production model?
On the Premium Racetruck, FIA regulations require us to have a cab, a chassis base and engine from production models. The engine is the DXi 13, equipping the Renault Magnum you see on the roads every day. Of course, it is pushed to reach maximum performance, since it delivers 1,100 hp and a torque of over 5,100 Nm. Furthermore, some of the parts used are made of special materials, although the architecture remains identical.
What connection is there between racing and production models?
When competing, by definition, we are only concerned about going fast. We are not restricted by any legislative measures or the standards that apply to production trucks. This offers engineers huge fields to explore. By being free to "think out of the box", they can find alternative technical solutions which they would never have considered otherwise. But what is most interesting, is that these solutions can subsequently be incorporated into future production models. It is worth remembering that when competing, we clock up about 400 km every weekend, or about 5,000 km a year, including private trials. This is a fantastic test track offering the equivalent of millions of kilometres on regular roads! And since we push the parts to their maximum limits, I can assure you that if a technical solution can take the punishment on the racetrack, it will certainly stand up to all the tests and conditions a production vehicle has to face.
After having won the team championship, what is your objective for next year?
For us, the objective always remains the same: to win. For 2011, we want to do even better than in 2010 and therefore not only win the team championship, but also the "drivers" crown. We will aim to achieve this with the help of all the partners that have given us so much support this year and contributed to our victory: Total for delivering the fuel, Goodyear who supplied the tyres, Arvin Meritor, our partner for the drive axles, dead axles and brakes and Renault Trucks Oils for its lubricants.