Corporate | 21 August 2019

From factory to race track: the story of Thiago Cruz and its Renault Sandero R.S.

3'30 min
Who said that Renault’s people couldn’t be racing drivers too… and end up on the podium? Read about the double life of Thiago Cruz, engineer at the Curitiba factory in Brazil, fan and racing driver of the Sandero R.S.
by Abdelhafid Reghis

It was Ayrton Senna who got me interested in Renault’s motorsport activities. I was only ten years old when he died but he is still an icon for me.

From a very early age, Thiago Cruz has been crazy about motorsports and a fan of legendary F1 driver, Ayrton Senna. Like his idol, this Brazilian began karting as a child and he too would become hooked on competing, on the throbbing sound of the engines, the smell of burnt rubber and on trying to be first to the chequered flag.

In 2011, Thiago Cruz joined Renault Brazil as a process engineer for the bodywork department of the … Ayrton Senna factory in Curitiba. He never imagined that working in a plant named after his hero would give him the chance to meet the car of his dreams and satiate his passion.

A real love at first sight

The meeting between Thiago and the Renault Sandero R.S. took place in 2015, when the factory began to produce the sporty city car. He immediately fall in love.

When he bought his first Sandero R.S. in 2016, Thiago was ready for something amazing. Having seen Ayrton Senna compete during his childhood, it was now his turn to feel adrenalin and to know the joy of getting the most from his car’s performance out on the track.


In his first race, he took on other Brazilian drivers at the Autodromo Internacional de Curitiba circuit as part of the Renault Speed Experience created by Renault Sport. He finished in fifth place. A good start but he wasn’t entirely happy with himself.

Competition seals their love

One month later, and he’s back on the track, determined to do better. To resounding effect! In a stern test against 24 competitors on the Curitiba Motor Show circuit, our thirty-something came away from the race with not one but two trophies: first place and fastest lap!

It’s one of my best memories. Not just because I won, but because all of my family and friends were there to cheer me on.

One thing is for certain. Ayrton Senna had transmitted his competitive spirit to one Thiago Cruz. Today, he has five trophies from the five races he has competed in, including two from the same race.

Unerring loyalty

In 2018, Thiago re-affirmed his love for the Renault Sandero R.S. by becoming one of the first to buy the new, even more exclusive Sandero R.S. Racing Spirit (a limited edition of 1,500, available only in Brazil).

I got number 97! This car is even sportier than before, with special race-track tyres, 17-in Grand Prix alloy rims and red inserts that take its finish up to another level. And it’s a unique vehicle because the production number is stamped at the side of the gear lever.

A relationship that’s built to last.

Our champion makes no modifications to his car when racing, it is pure ex-works. Thiago can now count on the Sandero R.S. club of Curitiba with its 3,000 members, who get together every month to talk about their common passion and to pick up information (about the best tyres, upcoming races, etc.).

I’ve had some special times with this car, and not just winning races either. I also used it to bring my wife back from the maternity hospital with our new son. I love it to bits.

Today, Thiago wouldn’t swap his Sandero R.S. for anything and he is already preparing for future competitions in Brazil.

Renault Sandero R.S., an attraction on the Brazilian market



Designed and developed by Renault Sport exclusively for Latin America, the Renault Sandero R.S. is the first Renault Sport model to be built outside of Europe. A 5-door, 5-seater, this sporty city car offers maximum versatility. It features a 6-speed manual gearbox, an ESC with sport mode, specific suspension settings and 4-disc braking system.

This compact city car bears all of the hallmarks of the Renault Sport style, from its grille with the R.S. emblem, to its redesigned front bumper with F1 blade and the rear bumper with diffuser and twin exhaust pipes. The latest version is equipped with black 17-inch rims, red brake callipers and a new rear LED lightning signature. It comes in four colours: red, white, grey or black, with new emblematic Renault Sport side badges.


Performance that matches its design



Renault Sandero R.S. can run on two types of fuel: ethanol and unleaded. Its 4-cylinder, 2.0 litre aspirated engine produces 150 brake horsepower and 205 N.m of torque (ethanol version) or 145 bhp and 201 N.m of torque (petrol version). With a weight of less than 1 tonne, this sporty model can go from 0 to 62 mph in 8.0 sec and has a top speed of 105 mph.

The Dacia Sandero R.S. cabin features elements inherited from the Racing Spirit limited series, such as the black roof and red double-stitched seats. The door armrests are covered with a carbon fibre fabric, underlining the sporty nature of this model. The centre console has a gloss black finish, whilst the interior door handles maintain the red and black harmony of the interior.

It is fitted with ESP, automatic air conditioning, a multimedia touchscreen that supports Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and a reversing camera.

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