“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 makes its first commercial flight, Claude Lelouch crosses Paris in a few minutes aboard his Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 to carry out « It was a meeting » and, in Boulogne-Billancourt, Renault is about to take an important step in its history.
In 1976, Renault made the decision to close the historic Alpine plant in Dieppe and to merge its two sports divisions into 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 himself worked.
Until the first half of the 1990s, Renault Sport concentrated mainly on motorsport, winning several trophies in the WRC and making its debut in Formula 1 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 bodywork made from composite materials and fitted with the 2.0-liter from the Clio Williams. With its 930 kilos, it is slightly heavier than a Lotus Elise, but thanks to its 150 horsepower, it displayed performance slightly above the English.
The first Clio RS
The first « real » RS flanked car appeared only two years after the Spider. In 1997, the Clio II Renault Sport 172 appeared, a model 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-litre F4R, which will accompany, with various developments (atmospheric or turbo) all the next generations of Clio and Mégane RS, until 2014. It is a four-cylinder 2, 0 liters naturally aspirated 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 down the 0 to 100 km/h in 7.3 seconds and to reach 224 km/h.
In 2004, the car received a restyling and a few changes, with an engine that now increased 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 has also designed another Clio. In 2001, the Diamond firm undertook to produce a limited edition, even more extreme and powerful than the 2.0-litre RS. The recipe is simple: a central engine, propulsion, 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 3000 copies.
Evolution of the species
In 2004, it was the great fashion for sports compacts, with the Volkswagen GTI in particular as a reference, 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 powers the first Renault Mégane RS in history, based on the second generation 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 circuit.
In 2006, still at the Geneva Motor Show, Renault unveiled the Clio III. The RS version was equipped 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, higher and wider body made it slightly less efficient with a top speed reduced to 216 km/h (compared to the 224 km/h for the Clio II RS). Later, the Clio III received a mid-career restyling that didn’t change the interior and exterior significantly, but the power of the naturally aspirated F4R climbed 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, sees its power climb to 250 horsepower 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, a data which notably earned it the record on the Nürburgring 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 pass under 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-litre F4R is no longer in the game since it can no longer be homologated due to the new Euro 6 standards. Thus, Renault Sport will dig into the Alliance’s organ bank and choose the four-cylinder 1.6 liter turbocharged DIG-T from Nissan.
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 230 km/h. Big news also at Renault Sport, the arrival of an EDC double clutch box, but its beginnings were not really convincing with many overheating problems in the event of intensive use.
In 2015, the inevitable Trophy version arrives, with 18-inch rims, an exhaust signed Akrapovič, 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 that 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 had a facelift. The RS receives a new 1.8 turbo four-cylinder shared with the Alpine A110 and delivering 280 horsepower in the « standard » version and 300 horsepower for the Trophy. Engineers added an active front differential with torque vectoring and a rear-wheel steering system that can pivot up to 2.7 degrees.
The result is on par with Renault Sport, with a slew of records. In 2019, the French firm pushed the envelope even further with the Trophy-R which set 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 notably 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 2013 with Sebastian Vettel driving. Renault was then engine supplier of the Red Bull team at the time.
And the Twingo in all this?
It is that we would have almost forgotten in all this! 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-litre 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 at the level of the chassis. Like the Clio IV, it also had the right to its Gordini version.
Renault Sport is no longer, Alpine thus becoming the sporting entity of the Renault Group. It remains to be seen how this will work out. As much 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 a tad sporty Renault again anytime soon.