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The History of F1 Auto Racing
Part V: Renault introduces turbo engines
March 12, 2005

The French company – Renault – is dubbed to be one of the leading car manufacturers in the world. It all started in 1898 at the Renault home when Louis, seduced by experimental motorized tricycles, decided to jump in and attempt to create a new machine. Finally he created a car model that launched Renault.

107 years later, Renault is leading the way with innovations. Going back to the history books, Renault actually won the first Grand Prix held in France in 1906.

The Renault team joined in 1908 but left the world of motorsports for over 70 years to return with a vision and power to win. The reentry of Renault into the world of international motorsports in Formula One was during the British Grand Prix on July 16, 1977. On that day French driver Jean-Pierre Jabouille drove a Renault with an engine that emitted a sound that has never been heard before – the Turbo engine. Renault was a pioneer in the birth of Turbo.

The revolutionary engine was produced by the specialized engine tuners – Gordini – that headed the sports department at Renault. The car named “RS 01” was designed by engineer Andre de Cortanze. It used a six cylinder turbocharged engine with a horsepower of 500 at 11,000 rpm.

However the 'revolutionary' Renault engine did not produce immediate positive results. The car began its glory during the American Grand Prix in 1978 when Jabouille clinched sixth position and one point for the team. During the French Grand Prix in 1979, Renault achieved its first victory with Jabouille while its second driver Rene Arnoux took third place. With that victory, the turbo era kicked off.

During the next season, the French manufacturer entered the championship with its RS20 and RS25 with high hopes of winning the constructor’s title. However their hope diminished quickly, Renault only won three races. In 1981, the old car was exchanged for the new RE30 that was light in weight and had a strong engine that produced 540 horsepower. Jabouille was replaced by a new driver, Frenchman Alain Prost who won three Grands Prix.

In 1982, Renault had high hopes on winning races – Prost and Arnoux won four Grands Prix. In 1983, the manufacturer produced a new car the “RS40’ that was made out of carbon fiber. Its engine produced 650 hp at 12,000 rpm. The car allowed Prost to win four Grands Prix but he didn’t clinch the title – Brazilian Nelson Piquet won that year making him the first driver to win a title using a turbocharged car.

Renault dismissed Prost by the end of the year and in 1984 brought on new drivers – Frenchman Patrick Tambay and Briton Derek Warwick who drove the RE50 and did not win any races. The results pushed the team principal and team engineer to resign.

By the end of 1985 during the Australian Grand Prix, the French company withdrew from the championship but continued to power teams such as Lotus and Tyrrell. The Renault powered team went on to win races during the 1985 season including two for the late Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna in the Portuguese and Belgian Grand Prix.

In 1986, the turbo era was concluded with Senna winning the Spanish and Detroit Grand Prix. By the end of 1987, Renault withdrew from the championship as an engine supplier to come back in 1989 with the Williams team. The agreement started off a new relationship with the Williams team using a normally aspirated car.

In 1991, the Williams team went on to win seven races including five with Briton Nigel Mansell. In 1992, the team won the driver’s title with Mansell (108 points) and the constructor’s title with 164 points while McLaren won second place with 65 points. Williams-Renault had another victory by taking the driver’s title with Prost and British driver Damon Hill clinching third position. The team also won the constructor’s title.

However tragedy struck in 1994 when Senna lost his life during the third race of the season.

In 1995, Renault powered the Benetton team and led it to win the constructor’s title and the driver’s title with German Michael Schumacher. In 1996, the Renault engine went back to Williams and it won the constructor’s title while Damon Hill won the driver’s title. In 1997, Williams-Renault won the constructor’s title and driver’s title with Jacques Villeneuve.

Renault again decided to withdraw from the championship by the end of 1997 to appear again in 2001 with the Benetton team. However no success story came out of the collaboration – the team finished seventh with only ten points.

Based on that poor result Renault agreed to enter the championship as a team after it bought out Benetton’s share and kicked off a new team with Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button as their drivers. The team won fourth place with 23 points. In 2003, the team finished in the top four teams behind Ferrari, Williams BMW and McLaren-Mercedes. That same year, the team won the Hungarian Grand Prix with Spaniard Fernando Alonso making him the youngest driver to win a race.

In 2004, Renault challenged its competitor BAR Honda but went on to take third position. However Trulli won the Monaco Grand Prix for the French team.

Press release
Bahrain International Circuit

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