07 - The Renault Sport Story

Renault : 40 ans de Formule 1

En mai 1977, Renault dévoile sa Formule 1 très originale puisque motorisée par un petit V6 de 1500 cm3 turbocompressé.
Après ses débuts au Grand Prix de Grande-Bretagne à Silverstone le 17 juillet, la F1 Renault sera surnommée la « yellow tea-pot » tant elle avait l’habitude de finir les Grands Prix dans un nuage de vapeur d’eau.
Enfin, le 1er juillet 1979, Jean-Pierre Jabouille gagne à Dijon Prénoix un Grand Prix d’anthologie avec des derniers tours de folie entre Gilles Villeneuve et René Arnoux.

Exceptionnellement, nous mettons à la disposition du grand public cet article de François Castaing extrait de la revue RH 38.
Un de nos lecteurs nous fait connaitre quelques inexactitudes dans cet article:
il est écrit "1973 A 440/A 441 A 440 : first race at Magny-Cours in early April". Cette première course de l'A 440 a bien eu lieu à Magny-Cours, mais c'était le 1er mai 1973". Nous les avons transmises à l'auteur.

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Yves Dubreil


Renault Histoire a déjà abordé le sujet de la création et des débuts de Renault Sport, notamment :
« Contribution à une histoire de la compétition chez Renault de la fin des années 60 au début des années 80 », Christian Martin dans RH 19, juillet 2007.

« Le rachat de Gordini », Serge Létard dans RH 04, juin 1992.

« Alpine­Renault et la compétition (1968­1973) », Serge Létard dans RH 04, juin 1992.

Nous sommes heureux de publier pour la première fois deux articles de grands acteurs de cette épopée : François Castaing et Bernard Dudot.



Francois Castaing’s career started with Gordini in 1968. After Gordini was taken over by Renault, Castaing advanced to Renault Sport Technical Director. In 1980, he joined American Motors Corp. and was responsible for product engineering and development. After AMC’s buyout by Chrysler in 1987, Castaing was named Chrysler Motors’ vice president for Vehicle Engineering, where he implemented the platform approach. In 1996, Castaing was appointed executive vice president for Chrysler International Operations. Two years later, he became technical advisor to Chairman Bob Eaton until retirement in 2000. By then, Castaing had become chairman of the New Detroit Science Center. In 2010, he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.

Following the 1969 24 hours of Le Mans disastrous performances of Alpine and Gordini, Renault senior management considers abandoning all motorsport activ­ities. Finally, that year, Renault decides to buy Gordini Automobiles from Amédée Gordini, who retires. Under Claude Haardt (Renault Moteur, Renault Marine), Renault Gordini is relocated to a new facility in Viry Chatillon in 1970. New younger engineering team reports to Director Georges Sauvan: Jean­Pierre Boudy, Francois Castaing… Waiting for a new major program, the team developed Renault 12 Gordini, 807 G fuel injected, V6 PRV, prototype of a Renault 5 Gordini 1 600 cc…
In the fall of 1971, Elf convinces Renault to build the new foundations of a motor­sport program by offering to fund at Viry Chatillon the design of a new 2­liter V6 to compete with Cosworth, BMW…
1972 The Renault Gordini V6
Renault OK the project in January; design starts immediately with F. Castaing, JP. Boudy, Giuseppe Albarea et le Moteur Moderne. November, promising first test on dynamometer: power 290 HP at 10 000 RPM. But Claude Haardt passed away in a boating accident. Renault Gordini is now under Jean Terramorsi, head of Renault Marketing. Go ahead given to build a car for the V6: the A440 2­liter Sport Prototype design starts with Alpine in Dieppe (André de Cortanze, Marcel Huber).

1973 A440/441
A440: first race at Magny­Cours in early April, first victory at Croix­en­Ternois in July. More races: Imola…

Alpine Renault A 440,
Trials, Le Castellet,
March 1973.
François Castaing,
André de Cortanze


A441 design starts for a full fledge attack on 2­liter Prototype European Champi­onship.
Renault acquires a majority ownership of Alpine.

1974 2 teams
Alpine Renault (Francois Delfosse): 2 A441 for Jean­Pierre Jabouille and Alain Serpaggi.
Larousse/Switzerland: one A441 for Gérard Larousse and one A440 for Marie­Claude Beaumont.
Alain Serpaggi won the Championship.
Bernard Dudot leaves Dieppe to joins the team in Viry. Soon departs for a USA tour to learn more about turbocharging: experimenting with turbocharging the V6 starts at end of summer

1975 Towards Renault Sport
G. Sauvan leaves, F. Castaing named Renault Gordini Director.
A modified A441 Turbo is tested at Paul Ricard track. In May the A441 T driven by Jabouille and Larousse win the 1 000 kilometers of Mugello, beating the Alfa Romeo TT 3 liter.
The A442, turbocharged version designed to compete in World FIA endurance program, debuts at the 800 Km of Dijon in April. Poor results! Rest of the season shows the car is fast but not reliable enough, team immature.
In the fall, first quiet discussions between JP. Boudy, B. Dudot and F. Castaing about using the V6 to enter Formula One.
F. Castaing with Jean­Pierre Menrath prepares a new version of the V6 to be raced in Formula 2 in 1976.
Elf’s Francois Guiter decides to cover the cost of 2 experimental F1 V6 Turbo 1,5­liter engines.
December 1975: Renault Sport creation is in the air; why?
Renault Senior management, Bernard Hanon and Jean Terramorsi, wants Renault Gordini and Alpine to concentrate on winning the 24 hours of Le Mans.
Note: A 1970 study has pointed out that Renault image would be enhanced only by successful participation in 3 motorsport events: The Monte Carlo Rally, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 hours of Le Mans.
While the new V6 has re­established a sense that Renault and Elf motorsport ambitions were growingly credible, still Renault Gordini at Viry and the Alpine racing department in Dieppe are far from working effectively together as the debut of the A442’s World FIA racing season is showing. Even if Renault owns

Alpine, it has so far not taken control of it. The A442 are entered in racing events as “Alpine Renault” not “Renault Alpine”.

1976 Renault Sport
Announcement of the birth of Renault Sport: it regroups Renault Gordini, the entire Alpine racing organization in Dieppe and other smaller racing Renault activities (Hubert Melot, Patrick Landon). Gerard Larousse has been recruited by B. Hanon to be its President, putting an end to his driver career. Francois Castaing is appointed Technical Director.
Renault first priority, winning the 24 hours of Le Mans, is communicated. As the A442 chassis and bodywork are built and readied for racing under François Delfosse and Marcel Hubert, G. Larousse and F. Castaing commit to travel to Dieppe for a full workday once a week to start pulling the team together.
A new division is set up at Viry to design and develop gearboxes led by a Renault engineer Jean­Louis Coste.
Bernard Dudot leads the A442 V6 Turbo development for the FIA Endurance racing program and Renault Sport first Le Mans’ attempt in June. In May, the first race on the Nürburgring saw the A442 of Patrick Depailler and JP. Jabouille be the quickest in practice but crashed together at the first turn just after the start. In June Renault Sport has entered one A442 Turbo driven by JP. Jabouille, Patrick Tambay and Jose Dolhem plus one A441 for Leila Lombardi and Marie­Claude Beaumont. Against the Porsche’s, the A442 is fast but retired at midnight while the A441 ran out of gas at the end of the first stint! Clearly Renault Sport has work to do to win the 24 hours.
JP. Menrath is responsible for the new F2 V6 program, supporting two teams:
­The Elf Switzerland single seater cars driven by JP. Jabouille and Michel Leclère
­The ORECA Martini driven by Patrick Tambay and René Arnoux.
March has declined to use the V6.
Jabouille won the F2 European Champi­onship in September at Hockenheim, Arnoux, Tambay, Leclère finish 2, 3, 4.
F2, European Championship,
Magny-Cours, March 1976.
Renault Sport Team
(François Castaing,
Gérard Larousse)
With René Arnoux
and Tico Martini


While insisting to make the Mans 24 hours the highest priority, Renault senior management and Elf are curious to see if a 1,5­liter turbocharged version of the V6 shows promises against the Cosworth DFV, Ferrari and Alfa Romeo flat twelve, normally aspirated F1 motors. JP. Boudy has designed and built the two Elf funded prototypes. Soon it is demonstrated on a dynamometer that this new version of the V6’s power and torque are higher than its potential competition. But when tested in great secrecy in one A442 at Paul Ricard, it became clear that, while very powerful, the 1,5­liter V6 was very hard to drive around the track because of turbo­lag. Further tests are made possible by installing the V6 in an Alpine single seater mule called the A500 and using quietly the Nogaro racetrack to test fixes to the turbo lag.
With the unbelievable approval of Renault and Elf’s encouragement, the decision is made to embark in designing and building the novel turbocharged Renault F1 car. François Castaing restructured the technical resources: Le Mans program will continue to be executed in Dieppe while a new F1 design and built team was set up in Viry Chatillon. It included initially André de Cortanze, Hervé Guilpin and Jean­Claude Guénard, with the assistance of Marcel Hubert for the aerodynamics.
Sadly Jean Terramorsi, a key architect of Renault Sport, passed away with heart failure.

Renault Sport F 1 Department, Viry-Chatillon, December 1976.
Formula One, Mock-up.
François Castaing, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, André de Cortanze, Marcel Hubert


1977 Formula One
In May, Renault Formula One RS01 is revealed to the media at the Champs­Elysée’s Renault Pub. In July, first race at Silverstone, UK.

Renault Sport. RS 01 Presentation. Viry-Chatillon, May 1977

1978 Le Mans: Victory!
On June 11, Renault Sport won the 24 hours of Le Mans against Porsche.

1979 Formula One : Victory!
On July 1, just 24 months after its first race at Silver­stone, Renault Sport RS10 won the F1 French Grand Prix in Dijon with its 1,5­liter V6 turbocharged engine.