In praise of the Renaults

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Sir,

Your correspondent Hans Etzrodt criticises your Placing Louis Renault in your top 100 drivers; but he is incorrect in saying that he and his brother Marcel only drove voiturettes – the Renaults in, for example, the Paris-Madrid race of 1903 (in Which Marcel himself was one of several drivers killed) were classed as Light Cars – Voiturettes were a separate category. The Renaults weighed 650kg and were rated at 30hp, as against the 1000kg and 70hp of the fastest Heavy Cars.

What is more to the point, is that they raced head-to-head against the Heavy Cars, and were highly competitive thanks to superior agility and braking. Out of over 300 entries, indeed, Louis was second fastest between Paris and Bordeaux (where the Paris-Madrid race was abandoned), averaging 62.3mph. He was beaten only by the Mors of Fernand Gabriel, who, in one of the great drives of all time,

averaged 65.3mph, having started back at no 168 and passed innumerable other cars, a difficult and dangerous manoeuvre in the thick clouds of dust thrown up by the roads of the day. Renault did at least have the advantage of clear roads for most of the time, having drawn number three.

I hope that Gabriel’s breathtaking performance over 342 miles of unmade open roads will qualify him for a placing in your list (I suggest you take a look at page 69 -ed) yet to be revealed to us. To put it in perspective, compare it with the 65.9mph which SF Edge’s Napier averaged five years later in 1908 around the closed concrete banked track of Brooklands in setting the first 24hr. record. Even in his first six hours, Edge averaged only 67.8mph, including a stop for water.

Arguably, Louis Renault was not the greater of the brothers, as he did not win a major race outright. Marcel’s Light Car did however beat all the Heavy Cars to win Paris-Vienna in 1902, at an average of 38.9mph. And he did not have the advantage of an early number, either, starting back at 147. I look forward eagerly to the rest of your list.

I am, yours, etc. John Brown, Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation, Worcester