Tuesday, April 23, 2019

BaT’s Renault 5 Turbo 2 on Jay Leno’s Garage

Check out the latest episode of Jay Leno's Garage on YouTube, featuring BringATrailer.com co-founder Randy Nonnenberg and his very special R5 Turbo 2 – one of 200 aluminum-roof "8221" models built for Group B homologation.

The Renault 5 Turbo & Turbo 2

Conceived as a rally car from the start, with the R5 Turbo Renault intended to regain the dominance it enjoyed with the Alpine A110, which at the time was completely outclassed by Lancia's Ferrari-powered Stratos. Over two generations just shy of 5,000 would be built, and while ultimately the car proved only moderately successful in motorsport, the sheer madness of the thing means that it remains among the most iconic and desirable performance machines of the 1980's.

Development began in the mid-1970's at a time when Renault was already heavily involved in Formula 1 and Le Mans racing efforts, and as such "Project 822" initially proceeded with a small budget and as few as four engineers working at Alpine's Dieppe facility. In order to further reduce costs, management dictated that the new car should utilize a modified version of an existing production platform, and following submission of a radical styling proposal from Bertone designer Marc Deschamps, the decision to utilize the R5 was cemented.

Several existing engines were considered, including two newer designs from the R20/R30 line, one an OHC 2.0 liter four and the other an early version of the PRV V6. Eventually someone suggested using a force-fed version of the A110's existing 1.6 liter four, and with the impending 1977 debut of Renault's pioneering turbo F1 car, the company already had more expertise than most in this area. Multiplying displacement by the existing WRC "equivalency factor" of 1.4 would have pushed Project 822 into the 2500cc class however, and so the R5 Alpine's 1.4 liter unit was selected in order for the car to compete in the 2.0 liter formula, better playing to its compact size and lightweight construction.

Fittingly, a modified Stratos was used as an engine test bed, and before long Dieppe had managed to squeeze an extra 70 HP from the hemi-head OHV four, netting a total of 162 thanks in large part to fitment of a Garrett T3 turbo, an air-to-air intercooler, beefed-up internals and Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection–of course competition models often made significantly more. Fitted behind the front seats where toddlers and groceries went in less exotic R5's, the hopped-up Cléon-Fonte rested above Alpine A310-based coil-sprung double-wishbone suspension, in place of the weirdly asymmetrical, torsion-sprung trailing arm setup seen on FWD versions–this made the Turbo the first Cinq with an identical wheelbase on both sides! Standard cars already utilized an SLA front, which was of course retuned for application in the Turbo.

Under a body reworked by Deschamps' more illustrious coworker Marcello Gandini, prototype 822-01 ran for the first time on March 9th, 1978 with Renault Sport director and former racer Gérard Larrousse at the helm. Though much development was still needed, the car was given the greenlight for production, which would begin in May of 1980 at Dieppe. Temporary suspension of A310 production allowed the first 400 needed for Group 4 homologation to be built in time for the model's WRC Tour de Corse debut in October, at which the factory-backed works car piloted by Jean-Ragnotti retired with a failed alternator. Bruno Saby finished fourth in a private-entered example behind two 911 SC's and an Abarth Mirafiori.

Ragnotti would redeem himself and the car at 1981's WRC season opener in Monte Carlo, where the two clinched the model's first major win. Below he and co-driver Jean-Marc Andrie navigate the stage's infamous tourniquets de bayons switchbacks en route to victory.

While competition cars were all based on the partially aluminum-bodied Turbo 1, from 1983-on street cars became known as the Turbo 2. Designed to be less expensive to build, the Turbo 2 utilized a larger content of normal production R5 parts including its steel roof, doors and tailgate. Fortunately performance was largely unchanged, but the now mostly-standard Cinq interior was certainly a letdown compared to the wild Turbo 1 cabin, a vivid postmodern masterpiece designed by the impossibly named Yves Cool.

Most readily-available production figures quote 1,820 Turbo 1's and 3,167 Turbo 2's as being made, for a total just 13 shy of 5,000. Many have been lost to crashes, and whether on road or track a good number of said incidents are likely to have stemmed from uncontrollable lift-off oversteer–these cars have a sting in the tail on par with early 911 Turbos.

Driven with care, they're darty, agile and cover ground very quickly, and much like the whale-tailed Porsche, a somewhat pendulous rear can be used to the great advantage of corner-exit traction once the initial learning curve is mastered. Likewise, manual steering provides lots of detail on what the front wheels are doing, with varying effort useful in judging how hard either end is digging in at any given moment.

In a nutshell, it’s a car that rewards over time, revealing new layers of capability as you learn to identify and adjust to its needs and quirks–challenging, but great fun and anything but one-dimensional.

Source: BringATrailer.com