Louis Renault and his taste for challenge
Back in 1898, the young Louis Renault realized how important sporting exploits were to brand image. Louis Renault demonstrated the superiority of his first major invention, direct-drive transmission, by driving his Voiturette Type A up the steep incline of rue Lepic in Paris on December 24, 1898 – a founding achievement that led to the creation of Société Renault Frères.
Hot on the heels of that initial success, motorsport became the favorite arena of Renault vehicles, which scored a series of Grand Prix wins at the turn of the century, including Paris-Trouville in 1899, Paris-Vienna in 1902 – the Renault Type K powered by the first Renault-designed engine – and the Automobile Club de Dieppe Grand Prix in 1913.
World War One put motorsport competition on ice, but Renault was quick to return to racing afterwards. The 1920s were marked by the overwhelming domination of the Renault 40CV, which claimed its first victory at the 1925 Monte-Carlo Rally and went on to set a number of speed records on track.
Gordini “the Sorcerer”
In 1958 the Italian-born carmaker Amédée Gordini took the helm at our motorsport division. One of his creations, the legendary Renault 8 Gordini, was to become a symbol of success for an entire generation of drivers, excelling in rallies, hill races and track events. The huge popularity of the car led in 1966 to the creation of the Renault 8 Gordini Cup, today considered as the very first single-brand championship.
To mark the launch of the Renault 12 Gordini, Gordini owners came together in droves for the “G Day” at the Paul Ricard track on July 18 and 19, 1970. The spirit of unity shown on that occasion is perpetuated today by World Series by Renault events.
The Renault Formula came into being at the same time, with the first cars powered by the Renault 12 Gordini engine. The debut Renault Formula championship in France was held in 1971.
Alpine moves mountains
In 1973 we became the majority shareholder in a small French carmaker that we had worked closely with for some time: Alpine. That same year would prove a wildly successful one, with the Alpine A110, or “Berlinette”, winning the inaugural World Rally Championship.
In 1978 Didier Pironi and Jean-Pierre Jaussaud won the Le Mans 24 Hours at the wheel of the Alpine-Renault A442B powered by a Renault V6 turbo engine.
Alpine made a triumphant return to endurance racing in 2013, with the Alpine A450 competing in the LMP2 category in the European Le Mans Series.
The creation of Renault Sport and our Formula 1 debut
The official creation of Renault Sport in 1976 was followed in 1977 by our debut Formula 1 commitment as a team. We stood as pioneers in the competition, introducing turbo engines to the event in the shape of a V6 powerplant, at a time when all competing engines were normally aspirated.
We won our first Formula 1 race in 1979 at the French Grand Prix, with Jean-Pierre Jabouille at the wheel of the RS11. We won 15 Grand Prix races in the early 1980s and finished second in the 1983 World Championship thanks to Alain Prost, before pulling out of the competition at the end of the 1985 season. Renault more than succeeded in its challenge with the turbo engine, which no-one believed in at the start.
Renault returned to Formula 1 in the late 1980s but this time as an engine supplier. The illustrious V10 led the Williams and Benettons teams to domination in the event. Unbeaten from 1992 to 1997, Renault engines notched up a long list of victories, among them 85 Grand Prix, 6 Constructors’ titles, and 5 Drivers’ titles for Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve.
We returned once again to Formula 1 in 2001 with the takeover of the Benetton team, which became Renault F1 Team in 2002. This period was marked by our partnership with Fernando Alonso, who won two Drivers’ titles in 2005 and 2006, and by two Constructors’ titles for Renault F1 Team.