Having won the World Rally Championship in 1973 with the amazing RWD, rear-engined Renault-Alpine 110, it was a bold move by Renault to develop a high-performance version of the R17 TS. The Alpine Competition Factory modified a 1795cc engine with two twin-choke Webers, a hot cam, an 11.5 compression ratio, big valves and tuned extractor exhaust system. A Bosch D-Jetronic electronic fuel injection system was another innovation and the result delivered more than 185hp.
A LIGHT TOUCH
As important as the extra power was a strict diet for the bodywork. Lightening of doors, boot and bonnet with fibreglass panels, plastic windows and stripping the interior brought the R17’s weight down by more than 25 percent, to just 820kg. Much of this was also achieved by the revolutionary use of many aluminium parts. In all, 14 models were prepared at the factory to represent the R17 on the world rally stage.
PUTTING POWER DOWN
Compared to the “standard” competition Renault 17 Gordini, the weight distribution and the front axle layout on the Group 5 version were optimised in order to gain the most benefit from its constantly increasing engine power. The car was fitted with power assisted steering, a highly innovative twin braking system, and ZF limited slip final drive.
The R17’s most famous outing was at the 1974 “Press-on-Regardless" Rally in the United States. Held on the gravel back roads of Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula, this stage rally was part of the emerging World Rally Championship. The winning Renault 17 Gordini – Renault’s first-ever WRC win – was driven by Jean-Luc Thérier and Christian Deiferrer, with another R17 finishing third, driven by Jean-Pierre Nicolas.
Jean-Luc Thérier, Jean-Pierre Nicolas and Jean-François Piot went on to more successes with the R17 in France. But, despite this, the new Renault struggled to equal the fame of the nimble A110. It still had its fans, however, including such drivers as Hungarian Rally Champion Attila Ferjáncz, who won his national championship in the Renault in both 1976 and 1977.