Renault’s hardcore, track-focused Megane R26R has just been unveiled here at Excel - and Autocar has a special interest in this scorching hot hatch. Our editor-at-large Steve Sutcliffe played a part in its development by testing the prototype, and the R26R has already proved itself as the fastest front-drive car to lap the Nurburgring. Peering through the R26R’s polycarbonate windows on the stand proves that its cabin is closer to that of a fully fledged racer rather than a road car. It has Sabelt bucket seats with six-point harnesses, a carbonfibre bonnet and an optional titanium exhaust system. In total the changes are enough to shave 123kg off the regular R26’s kerbweight. This stripped-out Megane also loses its sound deadening, carpets and its passenger and curtain airbags. Suspension settings are revised – although they’re no harder than the standard R26, and stopping is assured by grooved Brembo brake discs. Buyers will also be able to specify a competition-grade roll cage, race compound tyres and either red or black 18-inch alloys. The R26R uses the standard R26’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, but its 227bhp and 229lb ft of torque have less mass to work against, resulting in a power-to-weight ratio of 189bhp per tonne. A standard limited-slip diff will help to deliver power. Only 450 R26Rs will be built, and it will be the most serious challenger to the Ford Focus RS.