What Makes Renault Racing Colors So Striking?
Photos Courtesy of Renault
Back in 1976, Renault merged its performance divisions Gordini and Alpine to form Renault Sport. The factory has since entered in, created formulae, and supplied engines to every matter of motor sport you can think of.
Still, when one thinks of Renault, you’re forgiven if “racing prowess” doesn’t always pop up in your mind first. I have no idea why, for as soon as you delve in to Renault’s history, you realise just how heavily involved in motor racing it’s been. The company can lay claim to not only endless firsts on all kinds of podiums, but also plenty of innovation firsts from Dakar-winning buggies to the pinnacle of Formula 1.
The same level of acclaim can also be attributed to the liveries, as for the next decade we saw the black, yellow, and white colour scheme adorn every factory-entered car. No matter what the make and style, and no matter how little or much you re-arranged those colours, every example looked fantastic.
To help prove this point, I’d like to present the 1978 Le Mans winning A442B, an absolutely horrendous, ugly-duckling of a barge with scarcely a nice line on it.
Anyway, try to imagine that car without the black, yellow and white livery. Actually don’t—it will give you nightmares. That smackdown of yellow, white, and black to your eye certainly ads some deep polish to this inside-out hot tub. Testament to the effectiveness of these colours, even a set of Martini stripes couldn’t save the rival Porsche 936s of the era.
When these colours are applied to a great-looking car—and a winning car at that, it’s even better. For example, the 1981 WRC Renault 5 Turbo, a car that totally amazes the eye, even in basic road trim. In race trim, we see the black surround of the windows work as beautifully as the mascara around Brigitte Bardot’s eyes.
Bright yellow wraps around the body and hugs those wide hips like the hottest of hot-pants, and the white strips act as perfect flashes-of-flesh. It is one sexy little box flare’d car. There are many copies and replicas of this iconic rallying hot-hatch, offering plenty of chances to mess things up. But each time I come across one—be it home-built or tuner-built—the three simple Renault colors makes it look amazing.
You would be forgiven in thinking that as a designer, having to stick with these three colours, year after year, would become a bore—but not so, it seems. No matter where you look, every incarnation was refreshingly different, yet well-related to those that had gone before. This is where F1 enters the story, again, it’s during a period in motorsports history when many of the cars competing were ugly.
But not the Renaults. When the operation pulled out of F1 as a constructor at the end the 1985 season, we lost an iconic racing livery forever, as what came next, after its return in 2000 was a string of messy designs everyone wishes would never return—there’s a reason “ING orange” doesn’t look fantastic on a race car.
There was a black, yellow, and white flash of hope back in 2010, when the factory actually painted that year’s car in a retro black, yellow, and white colour scheme. It wasn’t the team’s best season, but I for one cannot wait to see what Renault turn up with for their latest return to F1 this year.
It’s been far too long of a gap since those legendary racing colours—so even if the car isn’t that fast or attractive, at least let’s hope it’s dressed properly, like only the French can.