First up let’s get clear on some details: World Series by Renault is a misleading moniker. It’s a world series not unlike the similarly-named American baseball tournament in that it really isn’t worldwide. In fact, World Series by Renault doesn’t leave Europe. That said its championships are entirely made up of Renaults, so its not all lies.

It’s also worth pointing out that World Series by Renault is an umbrella term for three championships (and a revolving host of guest series) not, as is often stated, the premier single-seater class. This is Formula Renault 3.5 and is the best known; below it is the junior Formula Renault 2.0, whilst out on its own is the Eurocup Megane Trophy. As a raceday package it’s excellent stuff and, if you aren’t already feeling the World Series love, here are some very good reasons to do just that.

It’s FREE to attend!

Everyone likes free stuff, from those rubbish toys you get in Christmas crackers to Free Willy, the freedom-loving whale, so it’s rather fantastic that World Series by Renault events are free to attend. We’ll say it again: every race is free. You can apply via the series website, the only downside being that you’re obliged to answer a questionnaire about Renaults (note: I lied in mine – I told massive great big planet-sized lies with bells hanging off them). Still, a small price to pay to watch quality live racing.

It’s produced world class drivers

Since its inception as Open Fortuna by Nissan (the series has since been through several name changes) World Series has been home to some seriously quick drivers. Fernando Alonso took the 1999 championship and was an F1 driver just over a year later; Heikki Kovalainen was 2004 champion; Robert Kubica took the title 2005 and had an F1 seat less than a year hence. Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel was competing in the series when he got his F1 break in ’07, as was Jaime Alguersuari when he was picked up by Toro Rosso in ’09 and Daniel Ricciardo when Hispania gave him a drive this season. The list goes on to include the likes of Tonio Liuzzi, Karun Chandhok, Pastor Maldonado and many more.

Red Bull swear by it

Red Bull no longer fund their drivers to compete in GP2: their focus is solely on World Series, with their young chargers competing in both 3.5 and 2.0. Jean-Eric Vergne races in their colours in the upper tier, and currently leads the standings, whilst Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniel Kvyat are funded for 2.0 campaigns. Now, Red Bull know a bit about developing young drivers – what does it say that this is the place they choose to prepare them for F1?

Photo: JEAN MICHEL LE MEUR / DPPI / World Series by Renault

This year’s 3.5 crop is top-notch…

In fact we’d go so far as to say that they’ve got a stronger grid than GP2 this year. The aforementioned Vergne is just mega – the answer to French racing fans’ prayers – and he leads the championship from team-mate and Virgin Racing young driver Robert Wickens. Then there’s Kevin Korjus, a very special driver who at 18 and in his rookie year has scored three wins and sits third in the standings. Again, he’s special. Add the likes of Alexander Rossi and Albert Costa, the odd appearance from experienced peddlers like Chris van der Drift, Adam Carroll and F1 racer Daniel Ricciardo and you have a field of real quality.

…and the 2.0 grid ain’t bad either

Reigning Formula BMW Europe champion Robin Frijns currently heads the championship with two wins from eight races and a podium at every round. Impressive stuff from the rapid Dutchman. Behind him in the standings are Red Bull drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat with the Spaniard in particular a big threat to Frijns title aspirations. Brit Will Stevens is also enjoying a good season and sits fourth whilst Swede Timmy Hansen has found form of late to sit fifth in the championship. Between these five there’s plenty of potential and we’d expect at least two of them to progress to 3.5 in 2012. And you know what? We’d be surprised if at least one didn’t eventually find themselves on a Formula One starting grid. Like we said, it’s a good field.

This happened at Silverstone last year

Yes, this is just an excuse to show the mad start to last year’s Silverstone race, where Jon Lancaster got a tank slapper than sent him in to Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie came off worst…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6fEw3hShLQ

Garishly-liveried Meganes

Race-modified Meganes: does that inspire excitement? What if we told you they’ve bolted big-ol’ wings to the back in attempt to make them look faster, would that peak your interest? How about if we mentioned their lurid liveries? Ah, now you’re listening.

The Megane Trophy – a single-make series for these 3.5-L V6 versions of the mild-mannered family car – features some of the most garish liveries we’ve seen on a racing grid. Don’t believe us? Check out the stunning effort below (we always knew pink, yellow and aqua green were a match made in heaven) and see the World Series website for more truly mental paintjobs.

Photo: JEAN MICHEL LE MEUR / DPPI / World Series by Renault