Renault celebrates 30 years of turbo power in Formula One at British Grand Prix
Formula One has always been an arena for innovation and 30 years ago, Renault’s foresight heralded a new dawn in engine technology. At the 1977 British Grand Prix, held on Sunday, 14th July, Jean-Pierre Jabouille raced RS01, the first car to feature a turbocharged engine, a 1.5-litre V6 that broke new ground. Thirty years on, to celebrate this historic milestone, a one-off version of R26, the 2006 double World Championship-winning car, has been created with matching race livery to the original RS01 from 1977.
Although early reliability issues proved frustrating for Renault in its first season, the work done on the turbo engine led to significant success in later years. Former engine chief Bernard Dudot commented that the five Renault world titles of the 1990’s were, “built on the school time of the turbo programme.”
Success has continued into the present day as Renault returned to Formula One with its own chassis, engine and team in 2002. Back-to-back World Drivers’ and World Constructors’ titles in 2005 and 2006 prove the expertise of those early seasons has been retained and developed.
Dubbed ‘The Yellow Teapot’, RS01 has been a favourite with British crowds for three decades. Between 2000 and 2005, the car was a fixture at the Goodwood Festival of Speed where René Arnoux piloted the car on the famous Goodwood Hill.
A special event occurred at the Goodwood Festival of 2004 when Jabouille drove the car for the first time since it last raced competitively in 1979. Arnoux and RS01 also thrilled crowds at the 2005 World Series by Renault meeting at Donington Park with a string of demonstration laps at the Leicestershire venue.
In the late ‘70s, development work continued on RS01 with Jabouille playing a key role. In 1978, it recorded five finishes from 14 Grand Prix starts with Jabouille scoring Renault’s first points in the 1978 US Grand Prix. The first pole position came at the Kyalami circuit in the 1979 South African Grand Prix.
The defining moment for turbo engines arrived, fittingly, at the 1979 French Grand Prix when Jabouille won the race at Dijon from pole position in RS11, a later evolution of the car, while Arnoux was third in RS12 after his epic wheel-banging duel with Gilles Villeneuve.
Other teams soon realised that turbo engines were the future in Formula One and strived to follow Renault’s lead. Meanwhile, RS01’s place in motorsport history was confirmed as the ultimate fore-runner to modern Formula One cars.