Renault, a name with close historical ties to South African motorsport, is back in local competition. A Mégane RS 250 Cup is to contest the competitive Class T of the National Production Car Championship in the hands of up-and-coming young ace Devin Robertson. The car is to be prepared and entered by Big Boss Auto.
Many race fans will recall the feats of the R8 Gordinis in the hands of Scamp Porter and Geoff Mortimer back in the 1960s. Others will remember that South African Formula One world champion Jody Scheckter had his first successes as a promising youngster at the wheel of an R8 on local tracks.
Now the Renault flag is to be flown by another supreme young talent in the form of 20-year-old Devin Robertson, who dominated the one-make Polo Cup series last season. Devin, who started racing karts at the age of eight, progressing to compete in international events as a teenager before returning to South Africa to race saloon cars, will have his Renault début at Phakisa in early August.
The project, which has been facilitated by Renault SA CEO Xavier Gobille, is being run in co-operation with Big Boss Auto. Gobille, a former racing driver, was determined to get the French car company back into local competition. Due to end his stint as head of the local operations at the end of August, he views the race programme as something of a farewell gift to a country he has come to love. “Renault has been closely associated with motorsport for as long as I can remember,” says Gobille. “Internationally, we are currently well known for our involvement in Formula One, and we started sponsoring the Knysna hillclimb a few years ago.” He says the commitment to Knysna will continue, with the production car programme adding to the company’s presence in competition.
Justin Robertson, co-founder of Big Boss Auto with his brother Wayne, and uncle to driver Devin, is excited about the partnership, which has been over six months in the making. Justin says the approach to Renault came at just the right time as the company, driven by Gobille’s desire to re-establish a competition presence for the brand, had already initiated talks with other individuals.
“A key motivation for our approach was that we wanted to team up with a top quality brand not currently involved in motor racing. In this way, the value we would provide would be tangible. From the start, Renault SA’s enthusiasm and immediate grasp of what we could bring to the table in terms of value was gratifying,” says Justin. “Like Big Boss Auto, theirs is a people-centric brand and we share a common goal to ignite the passion for motorsport amongst South Africa’s youth.
“They provided us with our first Mégane street car and within two hours of fetching it, it was on the track undergoing testing. After some preliminary work, we reported back to Renault on what we believed could be achieved and here we are today, our first car ready to roll. This is a very exciting partnership and I would like to thank Xavier and his team for their vote of confidence in Big Boss Auto” Justin concluded.