It was designed to ‘reveal future GT or Endurance champions’, and with its first 24H SERIES already in the books, GP Extreme’s flagship Renault is looking to improve even further on an impressive endurance racing debut.
As maiden racing seasons go, 2017 was a pretty good one for GP Extreme. Following a preparatory run to 3rd at the 2016 Gulf 12 Hours (even despite legislative issues leaving only two days of prep time), the Emirati team walked away from its home race in Dubai just one month later with a 2nd-place finish in-class in A6-Am. Not bad, given that the 2017 Hankook 24H DUBAI featured more than 90 other cars, was only GP Extreme’s second endurance race with the car, and was the first EVER 24-hour race for its selected charger, the Renaultsport R.S. 01 GT3.
That Renault’s flagship GT3 car was fast was beyond question. One round later at Mugello, the #27 R.S. 01 GT3 qualified fastest of the A6-Am runners, and would go on to finish on the outright podium in Austria in only its third 24H SERIES race. Granted, there were a few stumbling blocks along the way – a recalcitrant wheel nut and terminal clutch problems respectively meant neither the #27 nor the sister #28 R.S. 01 finished in Imola – but given that GP Extreme signed off the season with its fourth A6-Am class podium finish in Portimão, there was little doubt the team would be continuing its Renault affiliation for the following year and beyond.
“GP Extreme signed off the season with its fourth A6-Am class podium finish in Portimão. There was little doubt the team would be continuing its Renault affiliation.”
“After many years working with Renault, we’ve really developed a strong partnership with them and are keen to represent Renault Sport in our base in the Middle East for years to come,” explains GP Extreme Dubai main man, Stéphane Clain. “So it makes sense for us to compete with the Renault R.S. 01 on a global stage. It’s a pure racing car, developed purely for racing.
“To give you an idea of the commitment, we have three R.S. 01s, one which is housed in our main headquarters in Europe, and two which stay in the Middle East for races and the driving experience we operate (see sidebar below). Our main 24H SERIES chassis – car #27 – was the last one that Renault made, so this particular car doesn’t have a history with the Renault Sport Trophy” – more on that in a second. “But last year we did the full European Championship with two cars, had some very promising results, and finished fourth overall in the A6 class. We’re very happy with that performance.
“Since then we’ve been working closely with Renault to develop the car’s endurance, and we’re also speaking with CREVENTIC about the Balance of Performance. Remember, these are not proper GT3 cars, and there are a few items which make us slower than other GT3 cars. We’ve seen what we can achieve though, and we’ll be pushing hard this year to get the best results.”
Not a proper GT3 car? Actually, no. Strange as it may seem, the Renaultsport R.S. 01 GT3 was not originally built with endurance racing in-mind…
“Named in homage to Renault’s very first F1 car, the R.S. 01 borrowed much of the aero-savvy swept-back styling first seen on the Renault DeZir concept in 2010.”
Let’s turn the clock back to the 2014 Moscow Motor Show, an admittedly unorthodox venue for the debut of a racing car ‘governed by an absolute pursuit of aerodynamic downforce’, and designed to ‘restate [Renault’s] passion for motor sports,’ so said both the marketing tagline, and Renault brand ambassador – and four-time Formula 1 champion – Alain Prost. It was certainly a head-turner. Named in homage to Renault’s very first F1 car, the R.S. 01 sat atop a Dallara-built carbon chassis, and borrowed much of the aero-savvy swept-back styling first seen on the Renault DeZir concept in 2010. Behind the driver was a Nismo-tuned 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 borrowed from the Nissan GT-R, which sent ‘more than 500hp’ and 600Nm of torque to the rear wheels via a Sadev sequential transmission. Grunt that slotted the sub-1,100kg R.S. 01 neatly between a GT3 and a DTM in terms of performance, and could propel it to a top speed of 300kph. Throw in that enormous rear wing to help generate 1,200kg of downforce, and the performance credentials spoke for themselves.
What didn’t though was the lack of GT3-homologation, the R.S. 01 requiring 25kg of additional weight, 50kg of ballast, a revised ride height, engine restrictions AND steel brakes in place of the original carbon before Renault Sport could officially begin its rivalry on the global GT3 stage with Mercedes-AMG, Porsche and Audi among others in 2016. Two years of development in the now defunct, one-make Renault Sport Trophy was enough though to prove that the new R.S. 01 GT3 would be an immediate contender, as was proven in 2016 by Nicky Pastorelli and V8 Racing teammate Josh Webster when they took GT Open victory at Spa-Francorchamps on the pair’s only series outing that year.
“What is the car like to drive? Pretty short, pretty simple, it’s a great car to drive!” explains Pastorelli, former GT1 World Championship race winner and GP Extreme’s Pro driver. “It’s fast, not too difficult to drive, and gives you lots of confidence through the corners. And that’s impressive, considering we started this program with a car that was definitely not built for long distance racing. It was a sprint racer, so together with GP Extreme and Renault, we’ve done a lot with this car to bring it to where it is today. A lot of small changes, but put those together and it’s a big step forward. We’re particularly strong through high-speed corners because there’s just so much mechanical grip!”
“A Nismo-tuned 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 borrowed from the Nissan GT-R sends ‘more than 500hp’ and 600Nm of torque to the rear wheels.”
Lessons learnt from GP Extreme’s first season, and with another slightly less fruitful Gulf 12 Hours in the bag, it was an even more refreshed pair of R.S. 01 GT3s that arrived at the Dubai Autodrome this January for a second crack at the Hankook 24H DUBAI. Alongside their brand new V6s and Sadev gearboxes – “from the gearbox down to the wheel nuts and the brakes, we’ve changed pretty much everything” – the once ‘Renault yellow’ machines now boasted striking Gulf racing liveries for their home race, as they would do for their second Championship of the Continents round in Portimão five months later. Performance chops now proven, the next step is the top one.
“We learnt so much about these cars last year – that was the key point, learning – and that meant we understood which direction we wanted to take when developing the R.S. 01 over the winter. We’re quite confident we have a very strong package now for this year, and our goal is to win races. We are among the best and we want to beat them.”
*Images courtesy of 24H SERIES and Petr Frýba Photographer
#27 and #28, GP Extreme
Technical Specifications (at launch)
Engine: V6, twin-turbo, 3,999cc
Power: ‘More than 500hp’
Torque: ‘More than 600Nm’
Transmission: Sadev seven-speed sequential, rear-wheel drive
Suspension: Double wishbone and pushrods, Öhlins dampers
Brakes: 380mm steel discs, six-piston calipers
Wheels: 18in front and rear
Tyres: 30/68 R18 (front), 31/71 R18 (rear)
2017, August – 1st outright front row start at the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO (#28, Pierre Brice Mena / Jean-Pierre Valentini / Axcil Jefferies / Jordan Grogor / Nicky Pastorelli)
2017, April – 1st outright podium finish at the Hankook 12H RED BULL RING (#27, Jordan Grogor / Bassam Kronfli / Frederic Fatien)
2017, March – 1st category pole position at the Hankook 1H MUGELLO (Tiziano Carugati / Jordan Grogor / Frederic Fatien)
2016, December – 1st endurance race and, incredibly, first outright podium finish at the Gulf 12 Hours (Jordan Grogor / Nicky Pastorelli / Stuart Hall)
GP Extreme: Historic Racers (and enthusiasts)
Preparing and operating the series’ only R.S. 01 GT3s is just part of an extensive motorsport program for GP Extreme. You may well have seen the company’s decals on Sauber’s C36 F1 car during last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for example, as well as their burgeoning partnerships with Formula 2 incumbent Louis Delétraz and rising British star, Benjamin Goethe.
More notable though is the company’s belting collection of vintage Grand Prix and sports cars. Prides of place are reserved for James Hunt’ Hesketh 308B (1974), Michael Schumacher’s Benetton B192 (1992), John Surtees’ Durex-sponsored TS19 (1976), and Ricciardo Patrese’s Arrows A3 (1980) among more than two dozen others, and since 2013, said fleet has competed regularly at the prestigious Monaco Historic Grand Prix. Oh, and we really do mean ‘compete’: the FIA Masters Historic series will not register any of these quarter-million dollar entrants unless they are 100% period correct, nor are they permitted to simply run ‘parade laps’ during the race itself. No pressure then…
On top of this, GP Extreme and founder Frederic Fatien has a vested interest in motorsport memorabilia. Up to 2000 genuine items are stored, displayed and sold from the company’s Dubai showroom, and that includes pretty much everything from race suits, gloves and helmets, to artwork and sculptures, books and diecast models, and even car componentry. Next time you’re in Dubai, don’t be too surprised to find the nosecone of a 1997 Prost JS45 hanging beside Giancarlo Fisichella’s 2006 Renault overalls and a signed, scale model of Michael Schumacher’s 2005 season with Ferrari.