“It was a crazy race! On behalf of the entire Renault Sport team, thank you for following us on this adventure.“On December 31, 2021, it was with a post on its Instagram page that Renault Sport said goodbye to its fans. This marks the end of an era of competitions, victories and sportswomen who, in a way or another, have delighted many fans around the world.
We are in France, in 1976, the Concorde made its first commercial flight, Claude Lelouch crossed Paris in a few minutes aboard his Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 to achieve “It was a meeting“and, at Boulogne-Billancourt, Renault is preparing to take an important step in its history.
In 1976, Renault decided to close the historic Alpine factory in Dieppe and to merge its two sports divisions under a single entity, which produced the chassis and the engines separately, the latter then being managed by Gordini. This is how the Renault Sport division was born, based in Viry-Châtillon, the former factory where Amédée Gordini worked in person.
Until the first half of the 1990s, Renault Sport focused primarily on motorsport, gleaning several WRC trophies and making their Formula 1 debut with a dedicated team. In 1995, at the Geneva Motor Show, the French brand presented a surprising car: the Renault Sport Spider. It was a small two-seater roadster with a body made from composite materials and fitted with the 2.0-liter Clio Williams. With its 930 kilos, it is slightly heavier than a Lotus Elise, but thanks to its 150 horsepower, it posted performance slightly above the English.
The first Clio RS
The first “real” RS flanked car did not appear until two years after the Spider. In 1997, the Clio II Renault Sport 172 made its appearance, a model also nicknamed simply “172” by enthusiasts. Aesthetically, it differs from the standard versions by dedicated OZ F1 rims and a small body kit. But it is under its hood that all the interest of this Clio RS lies.
The “172” features the new 2.0-liter F4R, which will accompany, with various evolutions (atmospheric or turbo) all the next generations of Clio and Mégane RS, until 2014. It is a four-cylinder 2, 0 liter atmospheric with 16 valves, with variable valve timing and a multipoint injection system, developing 172 horsepower (hence the nickname of this Clio) and 200 Nm of torque. It allows the French sportswoman to shoot 0 to 100 km / h in 7.3 seconds and reach 224 km / h.
In 2004, the car was entitled to a restyling and a few changes, with an engine now upgrading to 182 horsepower thanks to a slightly revised compression ratio. The car also gains new rims and xenon lights.
The experimental version V6
With the success of the Clio “172” and “182”, Renault Sport also designed another Clio. In 2001, the Losange company set out to produce a limited edition, even more extreme and powerful than the 2.0-liter RS. The recipe is simple: a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, manual gearbox.
The engine chosen is the new 3.0-liter ES9 V6 from the PSA group, built entirely in aluminum and equipped with 24 valves. Heavy and with generous cubic capacity, it is a real challenge for engineers to fit it into a city car originally designed for the city and with a front engine. The only viable solution was to place the engine in the passenger compartment, instead of the rear seats. Thus was born the Clio V6, a now legendary car and in some respects unique in its kind, produced in just over 3,000 copies.
Evolution of the species
In 2004, it is the great fashion of sports compacts, with in particular the Volkswagen GTI as a benchmark, or the Audi S3. And to compete with these models, Renault Sport engineers had to review the famous F4R. They changed the camshafts, installed a new, lighter crankcase and further reduced the compression ratios. This “new” engine equips the first Renault Mégane RS in history, based on the second generation of Mégane.
With 225 horsepower and 300 Nm of torque, thanks to the adoption of a Twin Scroll turbo, the Clio’s big sister immediately won over enthusiasts, so much so that, a few years later, it was offered in an R26 version. .R, lighter, and even more comfortable on the track.
In 2006, still at the Geneva Motor Show, Renault unveiled the Clio III. The RS version was fitted with the new 2.0-liter F4R, but in atmospheric. It originally developed 197 horsepower, 15 more than the second generation, but its less aerodynamic, taller and wider bodywork made it slightly less efficient with a reduced top speed to 216 km / h (compared to the 224 km / h for the Clio II RS). The Clio III later got a mid-career restyling that didn’t significantly change the interior and exterior, but the power of the naturally aspirated F4R climbs to 203 horsepower.
In 2008, the third generation of Mégane arrived on the market, with the presentation of the new RS version in 2010. The now famous 2.0-liter F4R, with a sudden turbo, saw its power climb to 250 hp and 340 Nm of couple. The engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. The car is capable of reaching 100 km / h in just 6.1 seconds.
In 2011, Renault Sport presented the first “Trophy” variant with 265 horsepower under the hood thanks to a new intake and increased turbo pressure. The car can reach a top speed of 254 km / h, something that notably earned it the Nürburgring record in the traction category at the time, with a time of 8’07 “970.
During the restyling of the Mégane III, the RS version receives a few additional horses with 275 horsepower, enough to drop below the symbolic threshold of six seconds from 0 to 100 km / h.
Equipped with a “Cup” chassis for those which were fitted with the option, these versions are today particularly sought after by enthusiasts, in particular those followers of the “track day”, with revised ground connections and a chassis optimized for Track.
The era of downsizing
In 2012, the Clio IV made its debut at the Paris Motor Show. The 2.0-liter F4R is no longer in the game since it can no longer be approved due to the new Euro 6 standards. Renault Sport will therefore draw from the Alliance’s organ bank and choose the four-cylinder Nissan’s 1.6 liter DIG-T turbo.
With 200 horsepower and 240 Nm of torque, thanks in particular to the addition of a variable geometry turbocharger, the Clio IV RS displays interesting performance with a 0 to 100 km / h shot in 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 230 km / h. Also big news at Renault Sport, the arrival of an EDC double-clutch gearbox, but its beginnings were not really convincing with many problems of overheating in the event of intensive use.
In 2015, the inevitable Trophy version arrives, with 18-inch rims, an Akrapovič exhaust, and 220 horsepower under the hood … This will be the starting point for the creation, in 2018, of the limited series RS 18 , a version which will be produced six months, from March to September 2018 and which will therefore be the last Clio flanked by the RS badge. But at the time, we did not know it yet.
Two years later, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the Mégane also gets a makeover. The RS receives a new 1.8 turbo four cylinder shared with the Alpine A110 and delivering 280 horsepower in “standard” version and 300 horsepower for the Trophy. Engineers added an active front differential with torque vectoring and a rear wheel steer system that can swivel up to 2.7 degrees.
The result is up to Renault Sport with a mess of records. In 2019, the tricolor company pushes the cap even further with the Trophy-R which sets a new record at the Nürburgring in the traction category, still in force today, with a time of 7’40 “100.
Each generation of Clio and Mégane RS has seen a number of special editions. There was in particular the Clio IV RS Gordini, the Mégane II F1 Team R26 or the Mégane III Red Bull RB7 and RB8 Edition, created in tribute to the victories of the Austrian team in Formula 1 in 2012 and in 2013 with Sebastian Vettel. driving. Renault was then an engine manufacturer for the Red Bull team at the time.
And the Twingo in all of this?
It is that we would have almost forgotten in all that! The Clio and the Mégane aren’t the only two cars Renault Sport has worked on. In 2007, Renault presented a Twingo II RS, a car very popular at the time for its excellent 1.6 liter naturally aspirated 133 horsepower. The city car could also receive, as an option, the Cup chassis, with specific settings, 17-inch double-spoke rims and reinforcements in the chassis. Like the Clio IV, it also had the right to its Gordini version.
Renault Sport is no longer any more, Alpine thus becoming the sports entity of the Renault Group. It remains to be seen how this will work out. As the future of the Alpine brand is assured with a future electric A110 designed in collaboration with Lotus, an SUV and a city car, it is not certain that we will see Renault a tad sporty anytime soon.