French Rules - 2012 Super TC2000 Renault Fluence GT
Another rare case of French domination
Halfway through 2011, TC2OOO came up with an idea, an ambitious one. Their goal was to create the most advanced racing series of South America. And by advanced, they meant the fastest, throwing any use of new technologies to the side. To reach those ambitions, the Asociacion de Corredores de Turismo Carretera (Governing race body here) reached out to Radical Performance Engines, looking for something that could help them get that title.
Radical obliged, and they have been powering the series since the beggining. This stirred up a bit of controversy, as manufacturers were resilient to the spec engines, since the new series was to be an evolution of the well-established TC2000, the use of standardised engines made little sense to them.
Despite the expected crying, 8 manufacturers joined: Chevy entered their Cruze, Fiat hopped in with their Linea, Ford entered the sedan version of the Focus. France was represented by Peugeot and Renault with their 408s and Fluences, respectively. Coming from Japan, Honda and Toyota fielded Civics and Corollas. Finally, Volkswagen entered the Vento.
Although the model has remained the same, more aero enhancements were added as seasons progressed.
When to specs it came, the only different things were the bodywork, based upon TC2000 machinery, which was at the same time based on international touring car regs. The 2.7l RPE powerplants put out 430hp at an ear shattering 10.500rpm. Torque was a bit lacking though, producing a measly 260lb-ft of twist. That power was managed by a six-speed XTRAC sequential 'box sending power to the 285mm P Zeroes at the front, making STC2000 the most powerful front wheel drive series in the world. Not only are they the most powerful, as they're also the fastest: At the Rafaela oval, Facundo Ardusso set a 304kph record.
The series set off on March 11th, 2012 in the Oscar Cabalen circuit, in Alta Gracia, Cordoba. Matias Rossi scored the series' first win with his Corolla, while the Fluences ended 5th, 6th, 9th and 19th. From the get-go, the Renaults were established as solid midfield contenders, although nothing was established since the equal performance meant anyone could win.
Good results didn't take long, as the team's first podium would come thanks to Emiliano Spataro, who finished 2nd at the Parque Roca circuit. November 4th was the day in which Renault Sport proved themselves victorious, rising above the dominant Corollas and 408s. Leonel Pernia also scored pole position by winning. Through a method called "Super 8", the race results of the last race determined the starting positions of the top 8 for the final race of the season.
The Potrero de los Funes circuit is regarded as one of the prettiest in the country.
Onto the final race, and it would be Ortelli the man that would spearhead the team during the race. When everything was said and done, Ortelli finished in a decent 8th position, while pole sitter Pernia ended losing 9 positions to finish in a lowly 10th place.
With the first season wrapped up, the Renault Sport Lo-Jack Racing Team finished 4th in the constructors' championship, with Emiliano Spataro taking 4th place in the championship, leaving Renault with a respectable 3rd place in the constructors' championship
Although not the best, Renault fared pretty good on the opening season.
Complications regarding the series' place in national motorsport brought an issue to the table. Since STC2000 was never officially separated from TC2000 in 2012, Franco Girolami, the reigning "champion" was re-named a TC2000 champion, and this season would be the first official season of STC2000 as a new series.
The RS roster would see Mariano Altuna leave, and Fabian Yannantuoni was in duty of replacing him. The change was small, considering 6 teams set out with a full replacement of all the drivers, some, even pulled out of the series as a whole.
For the 2013 season, the opening race was not held in Alta Gracia, but instead it took place in a street circuit right in the middle of Buenos Aires. To raise attendance, tickets to the event were free, leading a mass of over 1 million people to assist to the race, another national record held by the series.
As expected in Argentina, protesters rallied against closing the streets for this.
Once again, Pernia carried the team and finished 4th, missing out on the podium by just 2.2 seconds. Ortelli followed in 5th, with Yannantuoni and Spataro finishing 12th and 16th, respectively.
The Fluences would continue to sit around in the top 10 for the following races, until as usual Pernia positioned himself as the fastest in the team. Pernia took victory away from ex-teammate Altuna to secure RS's second victory in the Termas De Rio Hondo circuit.
To the side, Lopez's stricken Fiat. At least Lopez progressed to WEC and Formula E
From this race onwards, the Renault drivers started to pick up the pace, and secured podiums in 4 of the 5 remaining races, with the praised Pernia taking two more wins, while Yannantuoni finally proved his worth and finished 2nd in the season ender.
Despite the consistent performances, neither Pernia nor RS were able to clinch any of the championships away from Toyota. Pernia finished 2nd in the drivers' championship, and RS also positioned themselves as runner-ups in the constructors' championship.
The 25-car grid for 2014.
Seemingly unable to maintain a stable calendar, the season opener was moved once again. This time the location was in Argentina's fastest circuit: The Rafaela oval.
The season wouldn't open nicely for Renault, failing to qualify any of the drivers within the top 5, with Pernia unsurprisingly at the top of the team. On race day, however, things were due to change. Emiliano Spataro, who had qualified a miserable 17th place picked up 9 places to finish 8th, three places ahead of Ortelli and four ahead of Pernia. Meanwhile, Yannantuoni continued to not do much, finishing second-to-last.
On to the second race in Viedma, and Ortelli would snag 3rd place by 0.04 seconds, with Yannantuoni and Spataro back in 8th and 11th, respectively. On a low note, Pernia was unable to start the race.
After Viedma, STC2000 headed north, and so did Renault Sport's results. Spataro took top honors, with Yannantuoni accompanying him on the third spot of the podium. For the other half of the team, things weren't precisely good. Pernia finished a lowly 17th, while Ortelli saw himself forced to retire.
For the race at the Juan Manuel Fangio circuit, Pernia would pick up the pace back up to finish a respectable 4th, while Spataro and Ortelli finished 10th and 14th. Yannantuoni, on the other hand, would retire on lap 2.
Pernia's Fluence, sporting a ham sponsorship on the hood.
Pernia was due to take the highest spot within the team for the race at La Pampa, taking 2nd place in the podium. On the midfield battle, Spataro finished 9th, Yannantuoni followed back in 11th place, with Ortelli finishing closely behind, in 13th place.
Two races later and Pernia would once again take 2nd place, with Spataro and Ortelli finishing within the Top 10, with Yannantuoni doing not much, taking 14th place. Pernia would once again finish 2nd in the city of Zonda, San Juan.
Glory had been long awaited for Yannantuoni, and he crowned himself victorious at the Termas de Rio Hondo venue, with Pernia making company in 3rd place.
After Yannantuoni's victory in Argentina's MotoGP venue, the series would take a detour through the Andes and off to Chile, where an exhibition race was held in Codegua. There, Pernia took 2nd place yet again, while the Spataro, Yannantuoni and Ortelli would finish 12th, 13th and 14th.
Wrapping up the season at Potrero de los Funes, things didn't end on a high note for RS. Yannantuoni finished 8th, Pernia followed in 9th, while Ortelli and Spataro took 12th and 14th.
Final drivers' standings saw Pernia take a completely unsurprising 2nd place, behind Peugeot's Nestor Girolami. Spataro finished 7th, Yannantuoni 11th with Ortelli 14th. All in all, Renault was starting to pick up the pace in 2014, picking up yet another 2nd place in the Constructors' championship.
2015 saw Yannantuoni leave in order for Christian Ledesma to replace him, and Ortelli abandoned ship, with Agustin Calamari replacing him, but only for the first 5 races, leaving RS with a three-man strong team.
Unsurprisingly, the season opener was moved once again, this time to Junin, where none of the RS drivers managed to finish in the podium, a situation that repeated in the following races. At the fourth race, however, newbie Ledesma would secure the team's first victory in the season, Spataro finished 7th, while Pernia finished 9th.
Pernia wouldn't take a podium until almost two months later, when he took 3rd place in the night edition race of the Santa Fe street circuit, with Ledesma taking 3rd place duties for the day edition.
Back-to-back special events were held after Santa Fe, with the La Pampa 200km taking place a month later. For this endurance version of an otherwise normal event, teams had to bring a second driver to the race. Pernia teamed up with brazilian kart driver Valdeno Brito, Spataro brought José Di Palma. Finally, Ledesma chose Juan De Benedictis.
49 laps later, the Rossi-Ponce de León match took victory with their Corolla, while Pernía-Brito and Spataro-Di Palma took home a 2-3 for Renault.
Riding themselves on a podium streak, Renault Sport would once again bring home a podium, this time on the shape of a 1-2 (Spataro-Pernía) at General Roca. Not everything was pretty for RS that day, as Ledesma failed to start the race.
Continuing with the streak, it would be Spataro the one that would claim victory at Jorge Angel Pena, with Pernía coming in at 3rd place, while Ledesma would take a respectable 7th place. Renault would run out of luck for the following race at the Cabalen, with Pernía finishing 5th and Spataro some 23 seconds behind him in 7th place. Ledesma, meanwhile, was disqualified product of a dangerous move on Girolami's Peugeot, taking with him a 5 place grid penalty for the next race.
Pernia giving Fineschi a run for his money.
For the season end at San Luis, Pernia would unsurprisingly claim a second place in the podium, a mere second behind Girolami, who got his car back on the top of the podium after the scrap-gone-wrong with Ledesma the previous race. Spataro and Ledesma would finish 6th and 8th.
For the drivers' championship, Pernia took second place, 5.5 points behind champion Girolami. Spataro took 6th place, with Ledesma closing the Top 10 with 92 points.
Renault Sport would have to make do with yet another 2nd place on the constructors' championship, looking up the noses of fellow frenchmen Peugeot.
A racetrack in the middle of nowhere is always a good idea.
2016 would see Renault Sport bring a battallion of drivers to the grid, pulling up to each race with a 6 man army, no privateers, all factory backed. The Pernia-Spataro-Ledesma trio would remain unchanged, while Facundo Ardusso, Ignacio Julian and Germán Sirvent got in the team for the year.
For the season opener in Trelew, Spataro gave Renault an amazing start, claiming victory with a 2.1 second difference to Chevy's Fontana. Ardusso, Ledesma and Pernia would claim 7th, 8th and 9th, while Sirvent and Julian were relegated to 14th and 17th.
On to Rosario, and none of the six drivers managed to get a spot in the podium, with Pernia representing the team coming in 4th place, missing out on bronze by 2.2 seconds. Julián would come last for the team, again in 17th place retiring with two laps to go, while Ledesma once again didn't even start the race.
Things get a bit complicated when you mix 430hp FWD cars with a soaking wet track.
Ardusso is known to excel in adverse conditions, as his 2nd place quali translated into him barely snatching 1st place from ex-teammate Yannantuoni, who finished 0.639 seconds behind in his Peugeot. Fontana completed the podium in his Cruze, while the rest of the RS team was led by a 7th place finish by Pernia.
For the race at the Cabalen, Pernia would take 3rd place, behind Urcera's Fiat Linea and Chapur's Peugeot 408. Spataro finished 6th, Ardusso and Sirvent took 8th and 9th. The following venue took place in Termas de Rio Hondo, where Ardusso would once again lead the team, finishing 3rd. The weekend wouldn't be so nice for the rest of the team: Spataro and Pernia took 9th and 10th, Ledesma and Sirvent finished 20th and 21st, while Julian retired in lap 2.
The RS team would claim zero podium finishes for the event at Oberá, heading into the Buenos Aires 200km with high expectations. And they delivered, with the Ledesma-Giallombardo duet taking 3rd place. The Ardusso-Vivian union took 5th, followed by Pezzini and Ventricelli in 6th. Pernia and Santero would finish 9th, with Sirvent-Santero taking the last spot, in 11th. Spataro-Di Palma retired in lap 24, while Julian-Krujoski retiring in lap 20.
"I've been riding round the city with my squad..."
Onto the double race at the street circuit of Santa Fe, Chevy driver Agustin Canapino snagged both victories, followed by Ardusso and Spataro on the first race, while Spataro upped one position to take 2nd, followed by Pernia on the second race.
Renault Sport wouldn't take any other podium until two races later, when Pernia took 2nd place in Gral. Roca, a feat he would repeat for the season ender in the Cabalen, both times behind Rossi's Corolla.
With the season wrapped up and the 6-man-team doing their task, Renault Sport crowned themselves as champions of the constructors championship. Regarding drivers, Canapino crowned himself champion in the name of Chevy, while Ardusso looked down his nose from the 3rd step while handing the trophies.
For 2017, Renault Sport would ditch Ledesma's efforts for Luis Jose Di Palma's, still retaining the 6 man battallion. Citroen and Ford officially returned to the series, and Fiat got an almost entire stake sale on a team, raising the total number of manufacturers to 7.
Unsurprisingly, the season opener was moved to Buenos Aires, where Pernia took carrying duties once again, finishing 2nd in the opener, Spataro finished 4th, Ardusso 6th with Julian behind him in 7th. Newcomer Di Palma finished 13th, while Sirvent rounded up results for Renault, finishing 18th.
On to San Luis, Ardusso qualified 2nd, but finished 3rd in the race, Di Palma finished 9th, Pernia 11th, Spataro 14th, with Sirvent and Julian taking 19th and 27th. On to Mendoza, Spataro took 4th place, Pernia followed in 10th, Di Palma ended in twelfth, Julian took 14th while Sirvent once again took 18th. Ardusso, sadly, would retire on lap 7.
Next stop: Rosario, where the highlight would be Ardusso taking second place in the second race. For the rest of the season, the RS team would get average results, gathering 5 more wins, together with 7 podium finishes.
Ardusso, with only 3 wins, made enough ground to secure the championship.
All in all, the massive effort put forward by the Renault Sport team paid off, as star driver Facundo Ardusso secured his maiden championship in the series, helping RS take the Constructors' Championship for the second time in the process. Pernia and Spataro, meanwhile, would finish 6th and 7th in the final standings, almost 100 points behind Ardusso.
New year, new season... New drivers? Finally taking some reasonable action, Sirvent and Julian were ditched in place of a full time seat for Spataro and newbie Martin Moggia.
Surprisingly, the season opener remained in Buenos Aires with a two race event, where Renault would kick things off big time.
The changes made were... a new livery.
For the first race at the Gálvez, Ardusso took top honors, with Pernia coming in at 3rd place. A feat that would be inverted at the second race: Pernia finished first, and Ardusso finished behind him, securing a 1-2 for Renault in the first race of the season, and things were shaping up to be better.
Next up, Rosario, where a pattern regarding two races was forming: Ardusso won the first race, and finished 3rd in the second. On to Mendoza, and the now official sprint/race method was well established into the teams' setup. So much so, that Ardusso took first place in both the sprint and the race. Out of 6 races, Ardusso had won 4, and Renault as a team took 5.
Sharing venues with the Blancpain GT3, preparation started for the sprint and race event at San Luis, where Moggia would prove his worth, finishing second in both races. Ardusso, meanwhile, finished 7th and 9th. Now for the Rafaela oval, Ardusso finished 4th in the sprint, and fell down to a retirement in lap 15. Paired with a 10 second penalty for not completing a chicane, this weekend went awful for Ardusso, but not for the team. Spataro was able to bring a smile to the pit garage by finishing 2nd in the race.
Cars got ever so closer to the ground as time went by.
Sadly, no driver got close to a podium finish in Zonda, but that would be reverted by Pernia's 3rd and 2nd place finishes at the sprint and race at Oberá. Ardusso joined Pernía in the podium at the night race at the Santa Fe street circuit, with both drivers taking a 1-2 (PER-ARD) on the sprint, but not showing enough pace on the race to get on the podium.
Going north to Santiago Del Estero, Ardusso took winning duties on the sprint and race, with Pernia finishing 2nd in both events. A nice weekend for the RS team, and with only 2 more locations to go, results were pretty much sealed.
Sadly, no podium finishes were added to the tally on San Nicolás, but the team would have a last shot at winning at the 200km of Buenos Aires.
The double driver setup was back in place, and Ardusso secured the first spot in the grid, followed by Spataro. Pernia took 7th place, with Moggia starting a lowly 20th.
I was lucky enough to go to both quali and race days with a VIP pass. The high note was the paddock food, and also leaving my flash drive 700km away from me. I only have those few pics.
On race day, Ardusso played catchup with Spataro, who lead for almost the entire race and was due to win, until heartbreak struck on the last lap and he was forced to retire because of a broken suspension arm.
Ardusso inherited 1st place, and with that his second consecutive championship and constructors' championship for Renault.
Spataro's machine, looking good on the outside, but not so much on the inside (I'm surprised at the image quality, given I took it on an iPhone 6S)
All in all, Renault got progressively better as the series grew, and with a regulation change scheduled for this year that throws away the 11k RPM V8s in favor of turbo'd Inline-4s, it'll be nice to see how Renault Sport and Ardusso do in this new era.
This was Agus García, and until some 26 more weeks, peace out.