Renault is the biggest modern day French carmaker. But what do we really know about their history, sporting success and future aspirations? Below we will take a look at some common, and not so common facts that may hold the clues to what the future holds for Renault.
Louis Renault and his brothers, Marcel and Fernand, first established Renault in 1899. The first Renault HQ was located in Boulogne. Louis was the main driving force behind the design of automobiles, whilst his two brothers dealt mainly with business matters.
At one stage Louis Renault had acquired over 700 patents. These where mainly in his own name rather than the companies. His intelligence and design innovation was undoubtedly the main factor in Renaultís early success.
Renault the motorsport pioneer
Whilst they are a familiar name in F1, Renaults motorsport involvement can be traced right back to the beginnings of motorsport itself. It is widely accepted that the first ever Grand Prix took place in Le Mans in 1906. It was a grueling race that consisted of 12 laps spread over two days. Ferenc Szisz who was piloting a Renault AK 90CV won the race.
F1 gets turbocharged
In 1977 Renault became the first team in F1 to produce a turbocharged car. The engines earliest incarnations proved unreliable, which led to two years of Renault struggling to catch every other team. As the engine reliability issues were solved they started to have some successes. Eventually all other F1 teams would follow suit and adopt turbocharged engines themselves.
Renault makes friends
Renault formed an unlikely alliance with Nissan. Jointly this made them the fourth largest automotive group in the world. One of the main goals of this alliance seems to be developing the next generation of electric vehicles. Between them the two automakers have pledged over Ä4 Billion in development funds to be used between 2011 and 2015.
When the Germans occupied France, Louis Renault agreed to use his facilities to manufacture vehicles for the Germans. In 1944 France was liberated from German occupancy. Louis Renault was arrested as an industrial conspirator who aided the Germans. He maintained he made his decisions under threat of his factory being dismantled and moved to Germany. By cooperating he secured not only Renault, but also the continuation and possibly even safety of his workforce. By the time of his arrest his health was already deteriorating, and he would pass away within weeks.
There motorsport success has led to many highly desirable road-going cars. Some of the most popular and dribble worthy are the rally inspired Renault 5 GT Turbo, the legendary Clio Williams, and in more recent times the R26R, which had the option of no rear seats and a full roll cage. There current partnership with Red Bull Racing has led to a specially branded Red Bull Megane. Only time will tell if this new model is to join the long list of super hot hatches.
F1 Ė Success of the highest order
Renault has had more success than most at the pinnacle of motorsport. Whether it is as a factory team or as an engine supplier, they always seem to come good. In an association dating back to 1977 they have contributed to 9 constructors titles with Williams, Benetton, and more recently Red Bull Racing. In this time 8 drivers world championships have been won in a Renault car or using a Renault engine, including the current three times champion Sebastian Vettel.
Numbers to names
The introduction of the Clio in 1990 saw a permanent shift within Renault from numbering their cars, to more traditional names. The Clio successfully replaced the 5. The same period also saw the launch of the second generation of the groundbreaking Espace. This people carrier was ahead of its time, serving a market yet to exist. These models where quickly followed by the Megane, one of the first ever cars to receive a EuroNCAP 4 star rating, the highest available at the time.
What are they called again?
The spelling of the Renault name has led to it being pronounced dramatically differently the world over. After its launch stateside it became known as Ren-ult. Whilst the British favoured a pronunciation closer to the original, Ren-o. The correct French way of saying Renault phonetically looks like Ruh-no.