Newly-crowned Renault Sport Trophy AM champion Fabian Schiller said he was surprised and disappointed by the decision to cancel the single-make series for the Renault RS01 after only two seasons.
In an announcement made this week, Renault offered customers a GT3 body kit that will make the RS01 eligible to compete in other championships including GT Open and 24H Series. However, Racing.GT understands this not thought to be popular with all teams, some of whom joined the RST as an alternative to BOP-based GT racing.
19-year-old Schiller, who has the opportunity to race in the 2017 Le Mans 24 Hours with an as-yet-unconfirmed LMP2 team as a prize for winning the AM title at Spa, voiced his disappointment to Racing.GT ahead of this weekend’s final round at Estoril in support of the European Le Mans Series.
“I was quite surprised because VDS planned the programme for three years and now after one year it’s already stopped and I think nobody knew about it,” said the German, who races with the newly reformed Marc VDS squad alongside team stalwart Markus Palttala.
“It’s sad because the car is really, really good, really fun to drive. Like I already said to some of my friends from racing, it’s a shame they could have never tried this RS01. If you put the GT3-spec on, it’s still a good car and you can maybe win races in GT Open, but the DNA of the car is having good aero, carbon-fibre brakes, proper power and really light. When you put all this GT3 spec on, you don’t have carbon-fibre brakes anymore and you take away the DNA of the car.”
Schiller joined the series after a difficult season in the European F3 championship and found the RST an ideal platform to continue his development, with the PRO and AM drivers working closely together and sharing a car in the Saturday Endurance race. However, with the format discontinued for 2017, he is concerned that young drivers will not have the same opportunity to bridge the gap between single-seaters and LMP2.
“Renault Sport called it the AM class, but for next year they wanted to call it the Young Drivers championship,” he said. “My aim was always to be on the level that the top guys in the Pro class are by the end of the season and I think that’s what we could show in the last few qualifyings.
“Driving style wise, I didn’t have to change anything when I came from F3, so I think the school is really good. I already had an F3 test with Prema at Estoril and when we went there at the beginning of the season with the RS01, we were only 1.5-2 seconds off on new tyres, so I was really surprised. We actually did quicker lap times than the LMP3 at most circuits this year and I think that just shows how good the car is.”
The decision to stop the Renault Sport Trophy also casts a doubt over Marc VDS’s future involvement in car racing. Team owner Marc van der Straten closed his GT operation down after winning the Spa 24 Hours, only to form a new team crewed by graduates of the Monlau Technical School.
“It’s sad for our team as well, because it started as a new team at the beginning of the season and some of the mechanics had never worked on a racing car before,” Schiller continued. “After the disappointment VDS had in GT where he stopped, he everyone was excited about the new programme and the boss was happy because we only had six races.
“During the year we built up a really strong team with strong engineers, strong mechanics, we were competitive and now it stopped again. It’s frustrating, but I’m even more motivated to win the Team championship for the rest of the team – we will try our best in Endurance as well and hopefully it’s a good end.”