In the late 1960s, Renault acquired sports car manufacturer and performance tuner Gordini, established in 1946 by Italian-born race car driver Amédée Gordini who was known as “Le Sorcier” (The Sorcerer) for his ability to breath Grand Prix performance into regular engines. By the early 1970s, the new Renault Gordini division had teamed up with oil group Elf to develop a research programme to produce a high-performance engine. The result was a 2.0L V6 turbo that went on to record success with Renault Alpine prototypes and winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1978 with the Renault-Alpine A 442 B. The initial success of the engine meant that behind the scenes, the decision had already been made… to use V6 turbo in F1TM.
The rules of F1 TM at the time permitted 3.0 litre engines of natural aspiration, with a clause for a 1.5 litre supercharged or turbocharged engine – but none of the other teams took up the option before Renault. Motorsport engineer André de Cortanze and driver Jean-Pierre Jabouille were tasked with designing a car based on a 1.5L version of the V6 Turbo. The result, using an aluminium chassis and a cast iron engine block (to withstand the pressures of turbocharging), debuted at the 1977 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, retiring after 16 laps. Initial criticisms were that it was cumbersome and unreliable, but the team continued its development, until success finally came.
Point scoring progress
By the time the United States Grand Prix came around on October 1, 1978, the Renault R.S. 01 bore little relation to the car that debuted at Silverstone. After a tough afternoon’s racing, Jabouille was vying for third position – and it was only brake trouble in the final laps that stopped him from potentially gaining a podium place. Renault had gained its first F1TM points and the turbo era of F1TM racing had arrived.
6 cylinders in turbocharged V, 1492 cc, 525 hp @ 10,500 rpm