This Renault Rally Champion Could Be Your Very Own Firecracker
Photography Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
In our youth, my brother and I liked to believe we were professional pyrotechnicians during annual celebrations like New Years and the 4th of July. I can talk about this, now, thanks to the expiration dates on a number of statute of limitations, but my stepfather always hooked us up with some serious firepower for the aforementioned occasions. Roman Candle wars and Bottle Rocket battles were our typical sport during these explosive spectacles, but nothing was more fun than when we got our mischievous hands on the ultimate mini-bomb: the M-80.
The compact dynamite sticks were great fun, and thankfully we were smart enough not to throw them at each other. Typically, we’d chuck them in the pond at night, mesmerized by the underwater detonations lighting up the water like an anti-submarine depth charge. Take it from me: in an odd way, watching a flame-spitting, mid-engined-with-turbos-surely-cherry-red Renault 5 Turbo with Jean Ragnotti behind the wheel at night awakens many of the same vibrations.
Like dynamite, it’s amazing how some of the very best fun comes in such small packages, like this 1982 Renault Turbo 5 Group 4 firecracker.
We. Love. Rally. Cars. Constructed without compromise with performance in mind, they’re the ultimate expression of a proper racing car. Fast, driver-focused, full of palpable feedback, and questionably safe—the sense of danger in a car does add addictive suspense, doesn’t it? This Renault 5 Turbo isn’t a homologation production car like our recent film subject: it’s an actual racecar with a serious pedigree to boot.
This “R5” was delivered new to the Renault Chartres dealer who almost immediately hired French legend Jean-Luc Thérier to sport the car. With Michel Vial as copilot, the duo entered the 1982 French Rally Championship season. Despite a few DNF results, they proved to be an effective force by consistently finishing within the top 5 throughout the season. Ultimately, their talents earned the French Rally Championship season win.
Thérier and Vial raced chassis B0000454 in three 1983 season events and, again, remained a competitive team—most notably finishing first at the Rallye d’Antibes. For 1984, the Renault Chartres group entered the R5 into their most grueling endurance yet: the Rallye Monte-Carlo. The 30-stage rally covered well over 700 kilometers (435 miles) of serious challenges—of the 120 qualified entrants, only 75 completed the race. Blizzards became so severe two of the stages were cancelled. Most impressively, this little white-hot-hatch was the first two-wheel drive racer across the finish line, finishing 4th overall.
For the mid season Rallye Terre de Provence, Thérier handed over the helm to Jean Ragnotti—a man who is credited as one of the greatest Renault 5 Turbo tamers in history after winning the 1981 Rallye Monte-Carlo and ’82 and ’85 Tour de Corse. Ragnotti earned silver overall at the ’84 Rallye de Provence and took gold at the succeeding Rallye de Mont-Blonc shortly after.
In 1985, chassis B0000454 raced its final major competition, this time driven by Bernard Levallois. Bernard took 3rd at the ’85 Critéium de Touraine before being given to novice driver Max Bervile. The car has since been entered in a few historic races with impressive results and was later displayed at the Automobile Museum of Monte Carlo. The car currently wears its 1984 Monte Carlo livery and is noted as recently professionally serviced by Renault 5 Turbo specialists.
Having been raced by some of the sport’s most successful and compelling drivers, with highly respectable results, this 5 Turbo is one of Renault’s most historically significant competition vehicles. With a rich history, squared away mechanicals, inspiring livery, and a 270 horsepower turbocharged fuel-injected race bred four-cylinder amidships, we’re not sure if there’s a better French hatch available.
– The 1982 French Rally Championship-winning car
– Five-time rally winner from 1982 to 1984
– 4th Overall and 1st two-wheel drive car at the 1984 Rallye Monte-Carlo
– Driven by rally legends Jean Ragnotti and Jean-Luc Thérier
~270 horsepower, 1,397 cc turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, five-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel-drive, independent front and rear suspension with anti-roll bars, and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,430 mm.
Chassis no.: B0000454