Renault 5 Turbo - the last Renault in elite class of rallying
It was quite a long time ago that Renault was a manufacturer with top results in the world of rallying. The 1970s were marked by the domination of the Alpine A110 which was the winner of the first World Rally Champion in 1973. In the 1980s, the Renault 5 Turbo was the French manufacturer’s representative in elite rallying but after that, there were no more Renault cars which could compete against high-class WRC machines.
It was Renault 5 only by its name
We already wrote about Renault Alpine A110, and now this is the story of another of Renault’s legendary rally cars – R5 Turbo. The Renault 5 Turbo is the racing version of the popular minicar, the Renault 5. However, as was the case with most of the racing cars, they only shared the name. The R5 Turbo had a completely different layout, with a mid-positioned engine and a rear-wheel drive, while the regular R5 was a front-engined front-wheel driven road car.
Public debut at 1980 Brussels Motor Show
The idea of building a car specially designed for rallying came in the late 1970s, when Renault was using the front-wheel driven R5 Alpine against RWD cars like Fiat 131 Abarth, Lancia Stratos and Ford Escort RS1800. Results, of course, were poor, so it was time for something new. The design was ordered by Bertone and at the 1980 Brussels Motor Show in January, the new car was presented to the public.
1.4 Turbo engine was mounted few inches behind driver’s back
They modified the chassis of Renault 5 and put the 1.4-litre Cleon turbocharged engine in the middle, near the driver’s back. All the power went to the rear wheels. The new engine developed about 160hp. For a 970kg car it was a fair enough speed, although various racing versions had 180 or 210 hp, up to 350 hp at R5 Maxi Turbo from 1984.
3576 cars were produced for street use
For the homologation needs of Group N, Renault produced 400 cars. They were produced in Alpine’s factory in Dieppe. Once the homologation models were produced, a second version named Turbo 2 was introduced, with more stock parts instead of light alloy components in the first R5 Turbo. The Turbo 2 was less expensive, but had nearly the same levels of performance— top speed of 200 km/h and 0–100 km/h in 6.9 seconds. In four years of production, 3576 cars came out from the assembly line.
Sensational victory at 1981 Rallye Monte-Carlo
The first competitive outing the WRC event R5 Turbo had was at the 1981 Rally Monte-Carlo. Jean Ragnotti, together with co-driver Jean-Marc Andrie, achieved a sensational win ahead of Guy Frequelin and Jean Todt in Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. That year, Ragnotti participated in two more WRC events. He retired at Tour de Corse and finished 5th at Lombard RAC Rally. Ragnotti finished 12th in the championship and Renault was 7th in manufacturer’s classification. Ragnotti took one more podium at Rallye International du Vin et du Valais in Switzerland, which was the part of the European Rally Championship.
Video : Rally master Jean Ragnotti with Renault 5 Turbo
Second victory at 1982 Tour de Corse
The 1982 season was dominated by 4WD Audi Quattro and Walter Röhrl in Opel Manta 400, but Jean Ragnotti still managed one more victory – at Tour de Corse. Besides that event he participated only at Rallye Cote d’Ivoire and retired after accident, but Corsican victory was enough for 10th place in the championship standings. Ragnotti and R5 Turbo attended two mora races in France and took one win and won third place.
Five drivers with R5 Turbos in 1983
In the following WRC seasons Renault 5 Turbo was fighting against 4WD Group B cars and the only chance to be competitive was with extra-skilled drivers on asphalt roads. During 1983 five drivers competed under Renault Elf colours – Jean Ragnotti, Bruno Saby, Jean-Luc Therier, Dany Snobeck and Francois Chatriot. Four cars participated at 1983 Rallye Monte-Carlo, Ragnotti was best placed at 7th place. Later in the season Bruno Saby achieved season’s best result – 5th place at Tour de Corse.
Six pilots in R5 Turbos during 1984
In 1984 Portuguese driver Joaquim Moutinho was added on the Renault’s list, at his home event in Portugal. Of other drivers Ragnotti again was fastest, with third place at Corsica and 5th in Portugal. Bruno Saby scored his best with 8th place at 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland. Francois Chatriot was the busiest Renault driver in 1984, with five ERC and three WRC events. His best result was 8th place at Tour de Corse.
One more win at Corsica in 1985
The third WRC victory of R5 Turbo came at the 1985 Tour de Corse, again with Jean Ragnoti behind the wheel, this time with a R5 Maxi Turbo. It was the only WRC event for Renault and they competed with three cars. Other drivers were Francois Chatriot and Didier Auriol, both retired. It was the event on which Attilio Bettega was killed in an accident.
Fourth victory at tragic Rallye de Portugal
The fourth and the last WRC victory for R5 Turbo was achieved at the 1986 Rallye de Portugal by Portuguese driver Joaquim Moutinho. It was only because all the factory team drivers decided to withdraw from the race after the tragic accident of Joaquim Santos, who lost control of his Ford RS200 and plunged into the crowd, killing three spectators and injuring more than 30.
Chatriot on podium at 1986 Tour de Corse
Francois Chatriot was the only driver who compete full season driving Renault 5 Maxi Turbo and with four wins he took third place at 1986 European Rally Championship. His only WRC event was 1986 Tour de Corse, where he finished second, behind Bruno Saby with Peugeot. It was the event on which Henri Toivonen and his co-driver Sergio Cresto were killed.
End of Renault in WRC
So many fatal accident caused the ban of Group B cars from 1987. French manufacturer switched to Renault 11 Turbo (Group A) and never again had a car in top level of WRC competition. The concept of a mid-engined small Renault returned with 2001 Renault Clio V6, but that car wasn’t used in rallying.