Renault engines seem to be everywhere in F1. It is hard to believe Renault has been in it for the best part of three decades although, as this item (below, click image to read) from May 1995 shows, it was in motor sport even before grand prix racing.
Renault set up a commemorative expedition to Le Mans in 2006 with “Agatha”, the closest thing to the 1906 racers, all of which have been lost. One of ten built, at $8,500 each for William Kissam Vanderbilt Jr to compete in the Vanderbilt Cup races on Long Island in 1908, Agatha is only 7.4litres but as I discovered aboard the venerable racer leaps off the line with astonishing vigour. With pistons the size of biggish teapots, the crankshaft turns at between 1,200rpm and 1,800rpm, yet pulls with the low-speed strength of a steam engine. Changing gear is ponderous, accomplished with a certain amount of clunking and heaving of the big lever, even in the practised hands of owner German Renault dealer Wolfgang Auge.
Renault Director of PR Tim Jackson lends a hand
The great car’s first owner was Harry Payne Whitney, Vanderbilt’s cousin and heir to a cotton gin fortune. It then passed to mining millionaire Robert Guggenheim, before coming to Britain before the first world war for Lord Kimberley, famous surgeon Sir Harold Gillies, then collector Marcus Chambers of Clapham. The value of all old racing cars collapses when they are no longer eligible for competition, and Chambers, later motor sport manager of the British Motor Corporation (BMC), bought it at the bottom of its cycle. He advertised it in Motor Sport of August 1935 under Veteran Cars as: “1907 Sports Renault, £30 or offer.”
Brothers Anthony and John Mills, named it Agatha, and when Anthony a Royal Air Force squadron leader was killed soon after D-Day it was sold to Charles Dunn until auctioned in 1992 to Wolfgang Auge. It is now almost priceless.
Newly created Renault Sport F1 will supply engines and technology again for 2011. As well as engines it will research transmissions and kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS). The new division is Renault’s response to changing engine regulations, operating from Viry-Châtillon and will supply engines to Red Bull Racing. The 2010 drivers’ and constructors’ world champions has used Renault engines for four seasons and has extended the partnership for a further two. Renault will equip Lotus Renault GP, previously the Renault F1 Team that won world championships in 2005 and 2006 and 1 Malaysia Racing Team (UK) Ltd, a new customer, which made its F1 debut this year. It will have Renault engines and Red Bull Technology transmission.
Renault took part in 29 Formula 1 World Championship seasons, winning nine Constructors’ world champion titles including Red Bull’s this year. Renault engines achieved 23 podium finishes in 2010, including the first three at Monaco and they have won three of the last six world championships.