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Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy – long-term review

How to turn a Megane RS 300 Trophy into a safety car

Specification:
Renault Megane R.S. 300 Trophy
Engine:
1798cc, 4cyl turbo, FWD, 296bhp, 295lb ft
Claimed MPG:
34.4mpg, 183g/km CO2
Performance:
0–62mph in 5.7secs, 162mph
Weight:
1419kg
Price:
£31,835 OTR/£36,185 as tested/£455pcm

If you’re a beady-eyed BTCC enthusiast (or were simply hungover and tuned into ITV4 a couple of Sundays ago), you may have seen our Megane herding a load of Clios at the Silverstone round of the BTCC. Yep, somehow, we were allowed to be the safety car. And doesn’t it look excellent with a set of flashy lights on top?

What you – and indeed us when we got the call – might not realise is that not all safety cars are as trick as Bernd Maylander’s dedicated AMG GT R F1 safety car. See, to transform our humble roadgoing hot hatch to safety car status all we had to do is drive it to Silverstone an hour before the race, give it a clean, apply some vanity plates, comms equipment and a set of yellow headlights and it was good to go.

Annoyingly, the big bosses at the BTCC wouldn’t let us drive (probably for the best as we’d have got carried away and entered the race) so they plopped in a decent driver behind the wheel. A man called Scott Stringfellow.

And forget the cars, Scott is basically ‘the’ safety car for the weekend. Regardless of what’s on track, he bounces between a selection of different cars to keep all the racers, from all championships, in check. Or to round them up if something goes wrong. For each race there’s a different car (everything from a Ginetta G40 for Ginetta Juniors, our Megane for Clio Cup and a selection of Porsches for the Carrera Cup and BTCC races) but our yellow 300 is the one he enjoys the most.

“C’mon guys!,” he shouts into the rear-view mirror on the warm-up lap for the Clio Cup race. Scott normally drives the lesser 280 Megane RS for safety car duties, one fitted with an automatic gearbox – something he’s not missing this weekend. “This is so much more fun! And this definitely makes a better noise! I wish I could go for a few laps and go a bit quicker,” the son famous Gentleman’s club owner continues as the tyres increasingly dig into their sidewall and start to scream.

While Scott concentrates on the driving, his navigator is in constant contact with race control to make sure everything is kept to time for the TV coverage. Then, when/if someone spears a car into a barrier and causes carnage (this happens a lot in the Clio Cup), they’re released to round everyone up and act as a pied piper (which the 300 and it’s tuneful exhaust is good at) until it’s cleared away and the race can continue.

But how did our Megane do? Well, on the International Safety Car Scale of ‘GM exec Corvette ZR1 formation lap shunt’ to ‘Yannick Dalmas’ R8 drift at Le Mans’, it was bang in the middle. Which is where you want to be. Because no one wants to see a bright yellow Megane with flashy lights in a gravel trap. Well, if you’re hungover on a Sunday afternoon you might.

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