The first major victory of Renault happens already in 1902, with the consecration of Marcel Renault in the race Paris-Vienna. The brand puts three Type K cars and four voiturettes to take on powerful opponents, including Conte Zborowski’s Mercedes and Henry Farman’s Panhard. The itinerary passes steep and winding paths, as well as a terrible alpine pass. The success of Marcel Renault at an average speed of 62.5 km / h marks the birth of an extremely serious competitor in all categories of sports motoring. In 1906, Renault participated in the very first Grand Prix of history, organized on the outskirts of Le Mans. With the Type AK, fitted with a lightweight chassis and a 12.9-liter four-cylinder engine, Hungarian Ferenc Szisz wins at the end of more than 12 hours of racing, in unbearable heat and on a track that seemed to be melting. This victory will contribute to increase sales of the French brand for several years.
The Crazy Years and the achievement of records
In the 1920s and 1930s, Renault focused on speed records and developed the spectacular Renault 40CV Type NM of the Records of 1926. Equipped with a 9.0-liter engine with a single seat, an aerodynamic coupe bodywork and apparent wheels, it ends the 24 hours with an average of 173 km / h. An impressive number for a mass production vehicle at that time.
In the 1930s, Renault produced the Nerva line of vehicles, maintaining its search for records on European and African roads. With its aero-inspired curves and its 8-cylinder inline, the Nervasport lost by two tenths of a second the victory at the 1932 Monte Carlo Rally. Even so, it wins the Monte Carlo Rally and the Liège-Roma-Liège race in 1935, before finishing in second – behind Bugatti – of the Rally of Morocco of 1935. In the Montlhéry circuit, the car is even more effective. In April of 1934, a Nervasport specially prepared for the occasion conquers several records of endurance in all the categories. It travels more than 8,000 km in 48 hours, at an average of more than 160 km / h and a top speed that exceeds 200 km / h. Its dynamic body will influence the design of the future Renault.
The Falling Star of the 1950s
In the 50’s, Renault again showed its pioneering spirit, having new records as a goal. Conceived after two years of wind tunnel testing, the model known as the Falling Star places its wheels in the salty lakes of Bonneville (Utah, United States) in September 1956. Ornamented with a spectacular blue body, this outstanding vehicle counts with a tubular chassis and two large stabilizers, similar to those of an airplane. Underneath the polyester body hides an ultra-powerful turbine, delivering 270 hp at 28,000 rpm and a Transfluide transmission. Referring to the aeronautics, the assembly is fed with kerosene and does not present vibrations, thanks to the rotation of the turbine. From its first laps, its designer Jean Hébert sets a new speed record at 308.85 km / h. A feat that has not been beaten to this day. Then, Renault becomes involved in the rallies. The Losango brand takes the innovative Dauphine with rear engine to take part in several races. He monopolizes the first four places of the Mille Miglia and conquers the Corsican Tour of 1956, before winning the legendary Monte Carlo Rally two years later.
Gordini – The beginning of everything
Creator of the race cars that bear his name, Amedeo Gordini develops a radical version of the Dauphine at the end of the 50’s. The Renault-Gordini association proves fruitful and leads to the creation of the legendary R8, R12 and R17 Gordini. The R8 Gordini shines mainly in rallies, mountain races and circuits. In 1966, his immense popularity led the brand to launch the Renault 8 Cup Gordini, pioneer of the promotion formulas. In 1971, the engine of the Renault 12 Gordini is used in the monopostos of the first Championship of France of Formula Renault. Several first-time champions begin their career in the category, such as Jacques Laffite, Jean Ragnotti, Alain Prost, Sebastian Vettel, and Lewis Hamilton.
Quickly, the facilities of Gordini in Paris prove insufficient for the sports ambitions of the brand. The location chosen for the new premises is in Viry-Châtillon. The factory is inaugurated on February 6, 1969 and becomes the springboard for future successes. Renault initially focuses on a 2.0-liter V6 engine, officially unveiled in January 1973. The block is quickly competitive in the famed 2.0-liter European Sports Car Championship. Renault then participates in the FIA World Championship for Sports Cars and a turbocharged version of the engine appears for the first time. For more information click on ford ranger covers
Renault Sport was founded in 1976 and a single-seat program is launched in parallel this year. First stage: the European Formula 2 Championship, with the V6.
Le Mans victory and the beginning of F1
The turbocharged Renault are diabolically fast in the FIA World Championship Sports Car, with beautiful series of pole positions and best laps of the race. All ingredients were brought together in 1978 when Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud won a historic victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while a second Renault finished the race at the foot of the podium. Following this resounding success in the famous French race, Renault can now focus on the next stage: Formula 1. For years, the use of a turbo engine has already been authorized by the technical regulation of the category, but no one had yet dared to use it for the first time. No one before Renault. Starting in 1976, the French automaker discreetly launches its track tests, with a 1.5-liter version of its V6. Several races are scheduled for the following season.
Propelled by its V6 turbo, the RS01 makes its debut at the 1977 UK Grand Prix. Piloted by Jean-Pierre Jabouille, the ‘yellow kettle’ does not even go through the checkered flag but remains forever in the memory. Four other Grand Prix events take place at the end of that year, allowing Renault to accumulate valuable experience. The apprenticeship continues throughout the 1978 season, until Jabouille scores the first points of Renault in F1 – the first for a turbocharged engine – to claim fourth place in the US Grand Prix. The move to the double turbo at the 1979 Monaco Grand Prix represents tangible progress. The team overcomes the problems of response time and Jabouille wins a first historic victory at home, after starting in pole position in Dijon.
Wins on Rallys
In parallel, Renault continues in the rally. In 1977, Guy Fréquelin was awarded the French Rally Champion with the Alpine A310 Group 5. The Renault 5 Alpine became equally famous, thanks to Jean Ragnotti, second of the Monte Carlo Rally of 1978, then winner of the race in 1981 and the Tour of Corsica in 1985, with the Renault 5 Turbo. Renault also ventures into rally-raid, like the Paris-Dakar. Participating with a particular structure, the Marreau Brothers Renault 20 wins the 1982 edition of the celebrated African safari. In Formula 1 Renault’s investment is starting to bear fruit. In 1983, Renault ran second in the World Championship with Alain Prost, who won four Grand Prix races, but finished the season two points behind Nelson Piquet and his three successes. In the same year, Renault became the first engine supplier of a second team to join Lotus. Other supply agreements are entered into later with Ligier and Tyrrell. At the 1985 Portuguese Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna won his first F1 victory with a V6 Renault. In that season, the Brazilian affirms like one of the revelations of the category. At the end of 1985, the factory team ended its activities to focus on its role as an engine supplier. In 1986, the trio Senna-Lotus-Renault shows the fastest of the grid,
F1, the call of victory
Renault officially returns to Formula 1 in the late 1980s, this time in partnership with Williams. In their first campaign, the new association leads to two Grand Prix victories, followed by two others in 1990. Nigel Mansell, who has known Renault engines since his move to Lotus, joins the team later this year. Then an extraordinary period of success begins. At the end of 1991, Williams-Renault became the duo to be beaten. In 1992, Mansell dominates the season and offers his first world title to Renault already in the month of August. Former rider Renault, Alain Prost arrives at Williams in 1993. He also wins the crown before retiring. Other consecrations follow in 1996 with Damon Hill, then in 1997 with Jacques Villeneuve. Williams-Renault was also established between the manufacturers in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997. In 1995, Renault increased its participation, closing a new partnership with the Benetton team. Michael Schumacher wins the Drivers title, while Benetton wins the Constructors. With its two customer teams, Renault won six consecutive world crowns between 1992 and 1997. Between 1995 and 1997, the diamond brand won 74% of the races.
Renault officially leaves the category at the end of the 1997 season. Like Williams, Benetton and later the new BAR, several teams will use original Renault engines under the brand Supertec, Mecachrome and Playlife. At Viry-Châtillon, a development cell continues to prepare a future F1 program. In parallel, Renault shines on a rally for a decade, mainly marked by the victory of a Maxi Mégane in the Tour of Corsica in 1997. Once again, the official absence of Renault in the starting grids is short-lived. In early 2001, the Losango brand announced the purchase of the Benetton team to return as an independent automaker. That season, Renault supplied engines produced at Enstone, before the rebirth of the structure under the name Renault Team Renault the following year. The chassis plant is maintained in the UK and works closely with the Viry-Châtillon engine department. In 2003, Fernando Alonso won the team’s first pole position in Malaysia. The young Spanish rider arrives even further in Hungary, where he wins the first success of the Renault F1 Team car. The following year, JarnoTrulli offered the win to Renault during the most prestigious race of the year: the Monaco Grand Prix.
In 2005, Alonso is the man to be beaten, becoming World Rider champion, while Renault wins between the Constructors with eight victories for the Spaniard and his teammate Giancarlo Fisichella. In spite of the significant technological turnaround represented by the passage from V10 to V8, Renault continues its triumph in 2006. With eight successes, Renault struggles with Ferrari to win the titles, but the innovation capacity of the French brand achieves another double. No longer providing for several teams, Renault is closing a motors partnership with Red Bull Racing in 2007. The blue ones are quick to prove themselves. In 2010, Vettel is finally the winner and becomes the youngest World Champion in the history of the category. The Red Bull-Renault team wins the Constructors title.
While Renault returns to its engine supply business, Sebastian Vettel is invincible at the World Championship, breaking all records to win four victories until 2013. In addition to Red Bull Racing, Renault provides Lotus, Caterham and Williams teams F1. Throughout the V8 period, the block designed and developed by the 250 engineers of Viry-Châtillon dominated more than 40% of the disputed races, in addition to a record number of poles positions. Renault Sport Technologies continues the development of its range of vehicles for monotype championships, with Formula Renault 2000 and Clio Cup. In rally, the Clio Super 1600 wins quickly with several international titles, between 2003 and 2005. In 2005, the merger between the Eurocup Formula Renault V6 and the World Series by Nissan leads to the creation of the World Series by Renault. Events with free admission, during 11 years the World Series by Renault presented high level competitions, with F1 type tests and shows intended for the whole family. The event especially allows several F1 stars to appear in the world of sports cars.
In 2014, Formula 1 is a real breakthrough with the introduction of state-of-the-art engine technology. The new Renault F1 powertrain combines the architecture of the older generation of supercharged engines, powerful electric motors and a battery with sophisticated energy recovery systems, to reduce fuel consumption by 40% while delivering dynamism and similar performances. Renault continues to supply Red Bull Racing, Toro Rosso’s sister team, as well as F1 Team Lotus, but the battle is cruel. After a complete review of its strategy, Renault announces its return as an independent automaker by the end of 2015.
From 2016, the name Renault comes into action under the banner of Team Renault Sport Formula One. Paying homage to the previous successes, the objective is to revitalize the multiple platforms of the group. With a history as long as rich, there is no doubt that Renault’s achievements will be an extraordinary source of inspiration and motivation for today’s teams.