Guest column: Wild in the country
Accidents have been around since racing began, but the BARC’s Chief Executive fears they are…
GREAT RACING MARQUES.
XIV. RENAULT. By E. K. II. KARSLAKE.
IT was towardsthe end of last century when the two ,1;rothers, Marcel and Louis Renault, began to build motor cars, and founded the firm which has now become one of the most famous in the whole.French industry. In those days, however, the Renault brothers had very distinct ideas about the lay-out of cars, and when they began to race, it was with small light machines fitted with quite small engines, in sharp contradistinction from the prevailing practice of that time, when engines were tending to become larger and larger.
It was in the Circuit du Nord Race of 1902 that the Renault began to be noticed as a redoubtable competitor in the big races. This event was actually organised by the French Government, and its object was to prove that motor cars could be run on ordinary home-grown alcohol as a substitute for petrol. The. course was round the Northern provinces of France, starting at Champigny, and going to Arras, where a stop was made for the night, and thence back to St. Germain, and among the starters was Louis Renault on one of his 16 h.p. light cars. During the first day’s racing, he made it quite clear that his car was seriously to be reckoned with, and he finally arrived in Arras third. On the second day, he again started off in good style, but before very long he came to grief on a corner, and the race, as far as Renault was concerned, was over. The Circuit du Nord, however, was merely the prelude to greater things, for a month later the great ParisVienna race was run. Marcel and Louis Renault were once more at the starting line, and again they were setting out to race with their 16 h.p. Voiturettes. The race will g3 down to history as something of a romance, for the fastest time to Vienna was made by Marcel Renault, who
averaged 39.2 m.p.h. for the 620 miles, and arrived 39 minutes ahead of Maurice Farman, who won the big car class on a 70 h.p. Panhard. Renault’s victory, if anyone had understood it at that date, was strangely prophetic ; but it took many years more before the world understood that, with a small engine and a light car, it is possible to defeat heavy, powerful machines.
It was a magnificent victory, and the next year the two brothers again started in the great event of the season, the Paris-Madrid race. Louis Renault had drawn the number three, and his car was, therefore, the third to be dispatched from the park of Versailles on its long journey to Bordeaux, which was the finishing point of the first day’s racing. Twenty miles from the start, however, he had passed the two cars which had started in front of him, and from Rambouillet onwards he was right ahead of the pack.
The fastest time from Paris to Bordeaux was made by Gabriel, who was driving a 70 h.p. Mors, but the second place was gained by Louis Renault, who, on his light car, had succeeded in beating all the other big racers. It was another magnificent performance, but unfortunately Louis’ victory was marred. The number of fatal smashes in that race has become proverbial, and in fact, they were so numerous that the contest was stopped at Bordeaux by order of the French Government ; and among those who were fatally injured was Marcel Renault. The Paris-Madrid race was the last event in which the brothers Renault were to prophesy to the world the advent of the light car. Three years later the firm of Renault returned to motor racing, but the cars which were entered for the first Grand Prix in 1906 bore no resemblance to the 16 h.p. Voiturettes, which had startled the world in
GREAT RACING MARQUES concluded.
1902 and 1903. The 1906 racing Renault was rated at 105 h.p. and had a 4-cylinder engine with a bore and stroke of 165 x 150 mms., giving a stroke-bore ratio of 91.1 and a capacity of 12,975 c.c. This engine size was, however, comparatively moderate for this race, the largest engine in the event having a bore and stroke of 185 x 175 rams. (18,286 c.c.).
But the power-weight ratio of the Renault was low in comparison with its competitors, for the car weighed 19i cwts., as against only 194/5 for the i8-litre Panhard. The cars, however, had a number of unusual features, including high-tension magnetos, which were by no means general, three-speed gear-boxes, and propellorshaft drive, which had been a special Renault feature ever since the days of the old Voiturette racers. Another feature which has become a Renault tradition was that the radiator was placed behind the engine and the cars were almost unique in their employment of thermosyphon cooling. Most important of all, however, was an innovation in Motor racing in the form of the detachable rim, which only two other firms had learnt to use in 1906.
Three cars started in the hands of Szisz, Edmond and Richez, and by the end of the first circuit, Szisz was in the lead, with an advantage of two minutes over his nearest competitor. The race was for 759.9 miles, over a circuit near le Mans, the distance being covered in two days, but the circuit being a long one, the race only consisted of twelve laps in all. The weather was sweltingly hot, and it soon became apparent that tyres were going to be an important factor, and the Renaults were going to score heavily with their detachable rims. Szisz ran with the greatest regularity, and finally finished the first day’s racing in first place with a lead of 24 minutes. In the meantime, Edmond had been put out of the race owing to the fact that be had lost his goggles and the tar dust had. had such an effect on his eyes that he was unable to continue. Richez, the driver of the third Renault, however, finished sixth.
A Great Triumph.
On the second day, Szisz started off once more in magnificent style and, never allowing himself to be headed, finally finished first over half-an-hour ahead of his nearest competitor, having averaged 63 m.p.h. for the full distance.
Thus, Renault had won the great event of 1906, and the first Grand Prix race ever run, from a field of 39 competitors and three cars were again entered for the event in 1907.
This year the race was run on a fuel consumption basis, but the Renaults entered were of exactly the same type as those which had run the year before, though they were not the identical cars, which had been sold. The race was run at Dieppe, and the Renaults again had Szisz and Richez as two of their drivers, but the third car was now entrusted to Farman.
Once more it was soon apparent that, in spite of their comparatively small engines—for although fuel was limited, one of the competing cars had a i9?-litre engine —the Renaults were among the fastest cars on the course. Szisz completed the first of the ten laps in third place, and, after running with great regularity, finally finished second, only six minutes behind the winner, which was a very narrow margin in those days of easy victories.
For the 1908 race, which was again run at Dieppe, the fuel consumption limit was dropped and instead the bore of the cylinders was limited to 155 mins. Most manufacturers, therefore, took the line of building long stroke engines for the race, but the Renault people preferred to get their power from high-engine speeds, and built a set of cars with 4-cylinder engines of 155 x rfio mnis. bore and stroke (12,081 c.c.) with what was then a very high maximum speed of about 2,000 r.p.m., and carefully designed hemispherical cylinder heads. In other respects, the cars were built to the same specification as in the previous two years, but in order to make sure of adequate cooling for the high speed engines, their bonnets were simply made of wire gauze.
Szisz again captained the Renault equipe, but his team-mates this year were Caillois and Dimitri. There was a field of 49, but at the end of the first lap Szisz appeared in fourth place, and it seemed as if he was going to repeat his performance of the last two years. But it was not to be, for on the second lap one of his back wheels collapsed, and, in those days of detachable rims and fixed wheels, this caused his retirement.
Caillois continued well, however, until he, too, was forced to retire on the last lap, and left Dimitri to finish alone in eighth place.
GREAT RACING MARQUES—concluded.
The race was won in overwhelming fashion by the German cars, and the effect on the French was so great that after 1908 motor racing suffered an eclipse. About this time Renault Freres began to concentrate largely on closed cars, and when motor racing was finally revived, they evinced no interest in it. After the war, however, they began to build a big six-cylinder model with a bore and stroke of 110 x 160 mms. (9,123 c.c.), which has been the largest engine in a really standard chassis for some years now. It was soon found that this model was distinctly fast, and the firm therefore began to think of attacking records. A chassis fitted with a stripped and carefully streamlined four-seater body was, therefore, prepared, and in May, 1925, it appeared at Montlhery, and proceeded to capture no fewer than. 17 records at the first attempt, from 500 kilometres to six hours at speeds of 100 to 112 m.p.h.
High Speed Endurance.
Garfield and Plessier, who had driven the car during these records, set out again in June, this time with the intention of capturing the 24-hour record, which at that time stood at about 83 m.p.h. For the first round of the clock the car ran at very high speed, arid for 12 hours it averaged 97.94 m.p.h. Then, however, a nut from an exhaust pipe joint fell off and hit the fins of the flywheel fan, breaking some of them and causing the car to overheat, so that frequent stops had to be made for water. Worse was still to come, however, for a little later on the timing chain broke, and two whole hours were wasted in fitting a new one which had to be taken off another car. In spite of all this, the Renault succeeded in averaging 87.63 m.p.h. for the 24 hours, and thus captured the record. After this performance, Louis Renault had the car compared with a standard model picked at random, and the only departures in the record
breaker that the scrutineers could find were bigger jets with the mouth of the air intake facing forward and a higher back axle ratio.
The record, however, was beaten by the 3-litre Bentley, but, nothing daunted, Louis Renault fitted a single-seater streamlined saloon to the 9-litre car in place of the 4-seater body which had been used before, and in 1926 the car proceeded to give a taste of its quality by taking the Ioo kilometre record at 117.36 m.p.h. In July, however, a new attempt was made on the 24-hour record, and with Garfield, Plessier and Guillon as its drivers, the big Renault proceeded to capture the record at 108.3 m.p.h., as against the previous figure of 95.03 m.p.h., and covered its last lap at 119.2 m.p.h.
The Small Renault.
While the big Renault was thus acquiring the honour of being the first car to average Too m.p.h. for 24 hours, the marque was gaining honours with a very different model. At the other end of the Renault scale to the big 9-litre machine is a small car with a 4-cylinder engine of 58 x 80 mms. (951 c.c.), and it was decided to capture some really long-distance records with this little car. The Renault was, therefore, run for ‘0,000 miles at Miramas, and succeeded in averaging 49.17 m.p.h., for this distance, and ran for six days at an average of 50.4 m.p.h.
This year Renault has again shown the world the value of his standard models by the double victory in the 3-litre and 1,500 c.c. classes of the Moroccan Grand Prix with his Vivasix and Monasix models ; and now that touring car races have become so important, there is not a racing enthusiast who would not like to see the marque which won the first Grand Prix distinguishing itself in the great events of the season.
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