TOLEMAN + BENETTON = RENAULT
The basis for the Renault F1 Team was Benetton once founded as Toleman
The history of Grand Prix racing in most cases is a labyrinth. And this fact really makes sense because this is an industrial business from it´s very beginning - with some certain elements of sport in it, no doubt. We have to say thank you to the French for giving us the Grand Prix competition. That had been very early in the last century, exactly in 1906, when the first Grand Prix had been started near the town of Le Mans at the 26th, June. The 26th had been a Tuesday and the race consisted of two rounds having six laps each. One lap were about 103 kilometres. 34 competitors came to the grid, 25 of them were French, 6 Italian and 3 German.
It had been not the first ever motor race, but the years before the French had been very frustrated.Those days US American publisher Gordon Bennet had sponsored an automobile race in France each year. But the regulations were not in favour of the French car industry being the strongest that time because only 3 cars per country were allowed to compete in the Gordon Bennet Cup. So the Automobile Club de France (A.C.F.) decided to promote their domestic car manufacturers by creating The Grand Prix. This first event was dominated by Ferenzc Szisz from Hungary driving a Renault with a 4-cylinder-engine of a cubic capacity of nearly 13 litres. It had got 95 bhp at 1200 rpm giving the car a top speed of 150 km/h. At the finish Szisz was over 32 minutes ahead of the next competitor.
Louis Renault was born in the year 1877. At the age of only 21 he had founded his car company at Boulogne-Billancourt later becoming France`s greatest car manufacturer. Louis Renault personally managed his team at the Le Mans track in 1906 having got the numbers 3A, 3B and 3C for their cars competing and the only entrant from Germany had been Mercedes-Benz with Italian driver Vincenzo Florio, the founder of the famous Targa Florio endurance race at the isle of Sicily. When Louis Renault died in 1944 his company had become a little empire. That might be the reason why the enterprise was nationalized only one year later.
In contrast to many other car companies of the post-war era like Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz etc. Renault did not decide to enter the Formula One Worldchampionship that had started with the British & European Grand Prix in Silverstone on May 13th, 1950. Only Gordini in Very-Chattillon (later becoming a subsidiary company of Renault) brought the French colours to the Grand Prix tracks during the fifties but no victory came their way that period. At the end of the sixties Renault started competing in t rallies with a small sportscar produced by another associated company, Alpine in Dieppe. This extremely noisy and very flat mashine had a 1600 ccm-4-cylinder-Gordini-engine making their Swedish star driver Ove Andersson win the European Rally Championship in 1971.Today Andersson is the team principal of Panasonic Toyota F1 in Germany`s Cologne also entering Grand Prix racing with a complete car of their own. Also in the year 1971 Renault entered the international Formula 3 scene with a futuristic designed Alpine Renault using the rally engine as it´s base (The Formula 3 regulations demand serial engine blocks!). This also very small car was driven by Patrick Depailler under the sponsorship of oil company elf as Renault owned by the French state. For 1972 Alpine built a Formula 2 chassis but they were not able to use a Renault engine being not ready at that time. So they decided to buy 4-cylinder-Ford-engines prepared by Brian Hart for the car that was named elf 2 and driven by Patrick Depailler. Another reason for using a foreign engine was that 6-cylinder-engines - and such a one Renault Gordini had designed - had to wait until the beginning of the 1976 season to be allowed by the Formula 2 rules. Meanwhile the 6-cylinder-engine was raced in sportscar racing successfully using Alpine chassis.
In 1973 the management of Renault Sports made their young engine designer Bernard Dudot go to the United States of America for a study trip of several months. He visited the CanAm and Indy Car events to explore the technology of turbocharged engines. When he returned to the Renault Gordini facilities he was fascinated by the idea of constructing a 1500 ccm-turbo-engine for Formula 1 racing. The regulations for the Grand Prix competition had been established in 1966 making the cubic capacity of the normally aspirated engines divide by the factor 2 for those engines being turbocharged. At that time nobody thought of bringing a turbo engine to the tracks because that seemed to be impossible to be realized in fact and so the 1500-ccm-rule had been only a theoretical one for more than a decade. But before the Formula 1 project had got priority the Renault management ordered Alpine and Gordini to win the 24 Hours Race of Le Mans in their homecountry for the glory of both Renault and the Grande Nation. That happened in 1978 when Jean-Pierre Jaussaud and Didier Pironi brought home first place the Alpine Renault A442.
Very early in 1974 Bernard Dudot and Francois Castaing started their design work of 1.5-litre-Grand-Prix-engine they hope to be equal or more to the 12-cylinder-units of Ferrari becoming stronger and stronger. But until the 1978 Le Mans victory the Renault Equipe Formule 1 was very small, only 15 employees had to be paid there. The first engine for research purposes had been built in 1975 followed by a revised version in 1976. The performance of 510 bhp at 10.500 rpm looked very promising to be the engine offered to British team owner Ken Tyrrell, whose team had been sponsored by elf since 1968. But Tyrrell refused a possible contract for free works-Renault-engines, because Keith Duckworth of Cosworth, Tyrrell`s engine supplier, gave him the advice to do so. In the opinion of Duckworth a 1.5-litre-turbo-engine never would be able to bring the 3.0-litre-normally-aspirated-engines into any danger of being beaten. In the year 1985 Ken Tyrrell had to beg for turbo engines at Renault he had to pay huge sums for, being the last user of normally aspirated units ...
For this reason confronted with the fact of having no chassis for the road test of the 1.5-litre-F1-engine only being at test stand so far, Renault decided to construct a complete Grand Prix car of their own. Their first version was based on the elf Renault Formula 2 car Jean-Pierre Jabouille won the European championship with and was presented to the public as formule 1 prototype laboratoire in 1976.
For the first time Michelin tyres were used in Formula One officially during the Renault winter test sessions of 1976/77 bringing the technology of radial tyres into Grand Prix racing. Jean-Pierre Jabouille, who once also had studied modern arts at the Paris university Sorbonne, was an excellent engineer to give enormous progress to the whole project. So the board of directors of the Règie Nationale des Usines Renault decided to bring the Renault RE 01 to the grid of the French Grand Prix at Dijon in July. But mechanical problems with the turbocharger made the scheduled debut impossible so Renault decided to make the first start at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone two weeks later. That was on the homeground of the most, British based, teams their members often were laughing at the yellow car. They had called it "teapot" because of the little smoke often coming out of the turbocharger to make the car retire from race, practice or testing in the early period of development. Former rally- and racing driver Gerard Larrousse was the team principal, Jean Sage the team manager and Marie-Claude Beaumont the press officer for the small team Jabouille was the only driver of in 1977 and 1978. From time to time the car became faster, but the reliabilty problems remained. But in Monza 1978 Jabouille qualified third and took the lead for a few laps and at Watkins Glen the same year he gave the team their first ever worldchampionship points when bringing the car home fourth. I spite that Renault had an image problem in France because on their climax of technical failures the other French national car, the Ligier Matra V12 sponsored by the state owned tobacco campany Gitanes, won it`s first Grand Prix in Swedish Anderstorp with Jacques Laffite in the cockpit. And when they switched to Ford Cosworth power the following year the blue cars seemed to be those to beat.
But Renault reacted quickly. They signed a contract with René Arnoux from France, who had driven for Martini and Surtees in the year before, as the second driver for 1979. The new Renault RE 10 was a wing car like the Lotus 79 and had got a bi-turbo-engine to reduce the immense turbo-delay and to get more reliabilty of the engine itself. Jabouille won the French Grand Prix at Dijon to give the Renault team their first victory in the worldchampionship. From that point on Renault became a respected force in Grand Prix racing again, the Britons stopped laughing and Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, BMW, Honda, TAG and British privateer Brian Hart began to prepare turbo engines of different concepts. The long years`monoculture of the Ford Cosworth V8s, only sometimes challenged by the V12s of Ferrari, Matra, Alfa Romeo and B.R.M., had ended. Renault became the great turbo pioneer creating a new era not only of Grand Prix racing but of the entire world of international motorsport. When Renault signed up with rising French star Alain Prost, who had a frustrating first season with McLaren because of many material breaks, the triumph in the race for the title seemed to have come really near.
From 1981 to 1983 Prost won 11 Grand Prix with Renault but success in the championship did not come their way. In the middle of the 1983 season Alain Prost looked like the secure worldchampion but when he came to the final round, the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, he had only a 2-point-lead ahead of Nelson Piquet in the Brabham BMW. When the Frenchman came into the pits at mid-race he did not do that for fuel and fresh tyres, but because of a broken turbocharger. Piquet brought his car home third place very smoothly to be worldchampion second time. After the desaster of the race on Saturday Alain Prost was fired when back at the Renault headquarters on Monday.
Made Prost and Renault become divorced: RE 40 of the year 1983
For 1984 Renault wanted to make a new start in the fight for the world`s title with Patrick Tambay from France and Derek Warwick from England in the cockpits of the still yellow cars. They also had begun to sell their engines to Lotus, Ligier and later (in 1985) to Tyrrell but the time of the works team winning Grand Prix was over. At the Grand Prix of Portugal 1985 a young man from Brazil celebrated his maiden victory in the heavy rain of Estoril using a Renault customer`s engine: Ayrton Senna. In summer the same year the Renault management decided to withdraw their works team from the Grand Prix circuits after the final round in Adelaide but to remain in the business as an engine supplier of Lotus, Ligier and Tyrrell for another year. With the end of 1986 Renault also retired from this function having won their last Grand Prix of the turbo era with Ayrton Senna in Detroit. The revolution had eaten it`s children and TAG became the most successful turbo engine with 22 wins ahead of Renault (20), Honda (16), Ferrari (12) and BMW (9). TAG became threetimes worldchampion (1984, 1985 & 1986), Honda twice (1987 & 1988) and BMW once (1983).
One turbo engine never winning a Grand Prix was the 4-cylinder-unit of Brian Hart from England, that powered the Toleman cars from 1981 on. Toleman Group Motorsports had been very successful in Formula 2 racing before they decided to enter Grand Prix for the 1981 season. But it took a very long while to see one of their cars on the grid in the first year, Brian Henton qualified last-but-one for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza. To be qualified also had been a problem in the 1982 season but the situation changed rapidly when the team switched directly from the TG181 to the TG183 type at the end of the year. For the 1983 Grand Prix season wing cars were banned and Toleman designer Rory Byrne had to modify his brandnew car to fulfill the new regulations. But the funny-looking TG183 B with it`s double rear wing and radiators in the front (like the Brabham Alfa Romeo BT46 of 1978) was several times quickest in pre-season testing at Rio-Jacarepagua to beat the works Renaults. When the team had solved their reliabilty problems at mid-season their driver Derek Warwick, who had joined the Whitney based company already in their early Formula 2 days, became able to drive regularly into the points. At the end of the year Warwick decided to join Renault for 1984 but he was replaced by rising star Ayrton Senna from Brazil having just won The British Formula 3 Championship. During the winter he had been able to test a Williams, a Brabham and a McLaren but he prefered to enter Grand Prix racing in a team at the middle of the grid to learn without unnecessary pressure. With the Toleman Hart TG184, now in conventional design, he came pretty near to victory in only his 6th Grand Prix overall, the Monaco Grand Prix being stopped early because of heavy rain. In spite of Senna scoring 13 points and the team becoming 7th in the constructors` championship Toleman ran into political troubles. First they switched from Pirelli to the worldchampionship-winning Michelin tyres, not knowing that the French rubber company had decided to retire from Formula One for a long time. Second the team did not find a possibility to make Ayrton Senna fulfill the second part of his two-year-contract; the Brazilian was on the jump to JPS Lotus to win there his first ever Grand Prix in 1985. At the beginning of that season the Toleman team, owned by transportation and insurance millionaire Ted Toleman, had neither a tyre contract nor sponsors but with John Watson from Northern Ireland and Stefan Johansson from Sweden two star drivers. So they had to leave out the first races of the year. Meanwhile Johansson took the chance to replace Frenchman Renè Arnoux, who had been fired by some private difficulties, at Ferrari. Watson became a private person for most of the year only once standing in for Niki Lauda (hurt at Spa) in the McLaren TAG at the European Grand Prix in Brands Hatch. But then Benetton, the present sponsors of Alfa Romeo entered the Toleman team, bought 50 per cent of their shares and also the Pirelli-partnered Spirit team once being the test object for the return of Honda. The tyre-contract of Pirelli was transfered to Toleman (the Spirit team disappeared as the logical consequence) and Teo Fabi was able to qualify the sole TG185, now sponsored by United Colors Of Benetton, for the Monaco Grand Prix 20th and last. But meanwhile the Toleman chassis designed by Rory Byrne, as former Brabham designer Gordon Murray coming from South Africa, had risen to the top ones in the whole business, so the grid positions became better and better. At the Nürburgring Fabi fought successfully for pole position of the German Grand Prix after all. A second Toleman Hart TG185 came to the grid of round 10 of the championship, the Austrian Grand Prix at the Österreichring of Zeltweg, driven by Italian Piercarlo Ghinzani, who switched from the Osella team. It was only a question of time when sponsor Benetton bought the second half of the shares from the Toleman Group. The Italian leisure wear company signed a contract with BMW in Munich for their mighty 4-cylinder-turbo-units and Toleman Hart became Benetton BMW for 1986.
Benetton had entered the Grand Prix business as the main sponsor of the Tyrrell team for the 1983 season with Michele Alboreto from Italy and U.S.-American Danny Sullivan driving for the former woodcutter. Alboreto won the United States Grand Prix at Detroit in a Benetton Tyrrell Ford 011 and created the last victory of a car with a normally aspirated engine before the total domination of turbo power came into action. But Tyrrell was not able to stay with his Italian sponsor who gave their backing to the Alfa Romeo team of Milano for 1984 and 1985 taking them over from Marlboro. But the quintessence of the two seasons with their fellow Italians and the duo of Riccardo Patrese / Eddie Cheever driving for them was not encouraging. In 1984 Benetton Alfa Romeo only finished 8th in the constructors` worldchampionship; in 1985 Patrese and Cheever did not score a single point. That had been enough for the management in Milan, they did the same what Renault did that year and retired from Grand Prix racing. Benetton had been on the way to establish theirselves as constructors to see a good future. In their first season they scored their maiden victory with Austrian Gerhard Berger in the cockpit of the B186 at the Mexican Grand Prix. After the retirement of the Bavarian motor company Benetton switched to Ford turbo engines (coming from Beatrice Lola Haas) to be the official works team of the second biggest car manufacturer of the world from 1987 on. Thierry Boutsen from Belgium replaced Gerhard Berger, who accepted a contract offered by Ferrari, with Teo Fabi still in the team and Australian Peter Collins (before working at Team Lotus) was appointed team boss instead of Davide Paolini from Italy. The cars were still designed by Rory Byrne. In the years 1987 to 1989 Benetton established theirselves in the top of Formula One by regularly driving into the points. So a second win had to come their way but it took three years to achieve it. That had been a lucky punch for Alessandro Nannini when Ayrton Senna was disqualified from the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka after crashing his team mate Alain Prost in the chicane during the battle for the world`s title. For 1990 threetimes world champion Nelson Piquet joined the Benetton team with a contract guaranteeing him 50.000 US-$ per championship point - he scored 44 of them including the wins of the last rounds in Japan and Australia. Meanwhile Flavio Briatore, who once had been the Benetton representative in the USA, had taken the job of the team boss and Rory Byrne had left the team to join Reynard. (When Reynard had to recognize there would be no works engine available they stopped the Formula One project and sold the their blueprints to French Ligier. Byrne later returned to Benetton). Former McLaren and Ferrari designer John Barnard gave a short guest performance at Benetton creating the B191 making Piquet win the 1991 Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve of Montreal (after a mistake of leading Nigel Mansell on the last lap!). Until the year of 1990 Benetton
Won three worldchampionships with Michael Schumacher and Benetton and made the Enstone company fit for being renamed into Renault: Flavio Briatore
got sponsorship of a lot of different companies like Riello (burners), Gillette (razor blades, steel products), Gancia (wine), The European (weekly newspaper), Autopolis (Japanese race track) and many others. The dominating colours were those of Benetton theirselves. That situation changed in 1991 when the team signed a contract with their first commercial sponsor Camel. After the Grand Prix of Belgium Benettons second driver Roberto Moreno was fired to clear the cockpit for a young German having driven only that single race in a Jordan Ford: Michael Schumacher, who should become the dominating figure of the nineties. Exactly one year after his debut Schumacher won his first ever Grand Prix after having driven regurlarly into the points and to podium finishes before. After another excellent year in 1993 with a second win to his credit Schumacher started attacking for the title in 1994 with 4 victories in a row at the beginning of the season with the Benetton Ford now sponsored by Japanese cigarette brand Mild Seven. But that year was not only overshadowed of the fatal accidents of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna but also by further big crashes (Wendlinger in the Monaco practice, Lamy in Silverstone testing) and political quarrells the Benetton often stood in the centre of. In spite of having won 8 Grand Prix that year (from the 9th, that of Spa he had been disqualified because an irregular wooden floor) Schumacher had to fight for the title against Damon Hill in the Williams Renault until the last race, the Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide. When both the competitors collided at mid-race when fighting for the lead Schumacher won the championship one point ahead of the Briton. For 1995 Benetton exchanged their Ford Cosworth V8 engines against the V10 units of Renault and became the French manufacturer`s second works team (together with Williams). That year Michael Schumacher won 9 out of 17 races and became world champion at the Pacific Grand Prix at Japanese Aida two rounds before the end of the worldchampionship. Benetton Renault also won the constructors`title that year. Michael Schumacher searched a new challenge for 1996 making him leave Benetton after that to join Ferrari. In the return for that the former Ferrari drivers Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger came to the Enstone based team. But meanwhile also technical director Ross Brawn and designer Rory Byrne were on the jump to Maranello to hand over their jobs to Nick Wirth, the former head of Simtek, and Pat Symmonds, the race engineer of Schumacher belonging to the team for the old Toleman days. Berger and Alesi had a hard work to bring the Benetton types B196 and B197, designed for Schumacher`s style of driving, under control. Renault announced their retirement from Formula One in mid-season 1996 for the end of the following year, but Berger and Alesi were able to give Benetton third places in the constructors` championship both in 1996 and 1997. In that year Berger suffered under a serious desease of his maxillary sinus (making him leave out 3 Grand Prix where he was replaced by fellow countryman Alexander Wurz) and the loss of his father, a transportation enterpreneur, being killed in an air-crash. When Berger came back to the tracks he immidiately won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, but it was the Austrian`s 10th and last triumph because he retired from active competition at the end of the year. It was also Benettons only Grand Prix win in two years. After the retirement of Renault their engines were sold to Williams and Benetton now as their paying customers as Mecachrome-units; at Benetton they were called Playlife, one of their subsidiary companies. The Benetton drivers Alexander Wurz and Giancarlo Fisichella had to watch their team fallen into deep technological and psychological crisis in the years 1998 and 1999. They were far away from a win and making points became a problem very often. At the European Grand Prix in autumn 1997 the lead in the management of Benetton Formula 1 Ltd. had changed to Dave Richards from Britain. But his period of office ended after only one year. Richards wanted Benetton to be related with Ford again but the Benetton family wanted to stay with Renault, so the Briton was made to retire from his job. Rocco Benetton from the owner family in Italy, as Briatore many years before, never having experienced the Formula One business before, was appointed managing director of the Enstone company. Nick Wirth, who had made been responsible for the bad designs of the B198 and B199, had to leave the team in winter 1999 and was replaced as chief designer by Tim Densham, who had worked under Dr Harvey Postlethwaite at Honda Racing Developments before. Densham modified the design of the B200 that`s main components had been constructed by Wirth to make it a lighter and more effective car. In winter 1999 Renault had declared publicly that the French car manufacturer had decided to return to the highest class in motorsport at the moment not knowing exactly when and with whom they wanted come back. The same time rumours did not stop that Renault were in negotiations with Benetton and most of the observers thought there would be an exclusive engine deal with a share like Mercedes-Benz had done it with McLaren before. But shortly before the Brazlian Grand Prix 2000 it was announced that Renault had bought the Benetton team 100 per cent shortly before this event to establish theirselves as constructors of their own rights by overtaking the high standard Enstone facilities at the beginning of the 2002 season. Flavio Briatore, who had been the head of the Supertech operation that sold the Mecachrome engines to Williams, Benetton, BAR and Arrows in the years 1999 and 2000, was reinstated as managing director of Benetton Formula 1 Ltd. to give the team that performance that will be expected to be Renault in 2002.
The turbo era had not been over completely in 1988 when Renault made a statement to announce they would make a second attempt to win the Formula 1 Worldchampionship. Bernard Dudot and his staff had constructed a V10 in contrast to Honda designing a 12-cylinder-unit in spite of being so successful with their own V10s.
Power for five drivers` world champions: Mansell, Prost, Schumacher, Hill and Villeneuve won their title with the Renault V10 during the nineties.
For the 1989 season the French car company signed a contract with Williams Grand Prix Engineering Ltd. at Didcot (later they moved to nearby Grove) for an exclusive partnership and the drivers Thierry Boutsen and Riccardo Patrese. At the debut race of the Williams Renault the Italian qualified the car for the front row and took it for a 17 lap lead. Williams did not make any experiments, their technical director Patrick Head had adapted the FW12 chassis, originally designed for the use of Judd V8 engines, to the French 10-cylinder. So it was no wonder that Thierry Boutsen was able to win the sixth race after the first appearance, the Cananadian Grand Prix at Montreal 1989 in the heavy rain, when the leading Ayrton Senna had to retire with a blown Honda engine. It was Boutsens 95th Grand Prix start! At the end of the season the FW13 chassis was brought to the tracks and after curing some childrens` deseases Boutsen was able to win in another event, the last round in Australian Adelaide also influenced by bad weather conditions and a flooded track.
Won two Grand Prix with the Williams Renault FW13 (Australia 1989, Hungary 1990) and one with the FW12 C (Canada 1989): Thierry Boutsen from Belgium.
Won the 1990 Grand Prix of San Marino at Imola in the Williams Renault FW13: Riccardo Patrese (right)
Williams Renault became second in the constructors` worldchampionship 1982 behind McLaren Honda and in 1990 they once again won two Grand Prix, Patrese triumphed in Imola and in Hungary Boutsen lead from start to finish to beat Ayrton Senna in the McLaren Honda. That year Williams Renault finished 4th in the constructors championship. For 1991 designer Adrian Newey (from Leyton House) and Britain`s star driver Nigel Mansell (from Ferrari) joined the team of Williams Renault being now sponsored by Canon (cameras), Camel (cigarettes), Labatt`s (beer) and elf (fuel). Riccardo Patrese remained in the team to support Mansell in the fight for the title against Senna in the McLaren. The Lion gave a good battle to the Brazilian until the last but one round, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka but in spite of having achieved 5 Grand Prix wins that year (Patrese two ones), the Briton became only vice champion (Patrese scored 3rd place) to make Williams Renault being second in the constructors`championship, too. The points Williams Renault had lost at the beginning of the year when introducing their semi-automatic gearbox as the second team anyway (the first one had been Ferrari in 1989) were lost definitely. The situation changed the following year. Williams had built the FW15 chassis over the winter but there had been no need to bring it to the tracks because the B-version of the 1991 introduced FW14 was competitive enough giving Nigel Mansell, Riccardo Patrese and Williams Renault an unbelievable season. At it`s beginning Mansell won five Grand Prix in a row to show all the other competitors including Senna and McLaren Honda who were the man and the team to beat. Mansell brought 3 absolute new records to the world of Formula One: He won 9 out of 16 Grand Prix, had his title secure in Hungury in August and scored 108 points overall. Patrese won 1 race and became vice champion with Williams Renault of course winning the constructor`s title. But after Mansell had sure his so long disired worldchampionship he declared that he wanted to leave Formula One to join the Newman-Haas team of U.S.-American Indy Car series.
The Lion: 1992 was the year of Nigel Mansell in the Williams Renault FW14 B.
It was also in the year when Renault supplied a second team with their powerful V10 units, the French Ligier team sponsored by cigarette brand Gitanes since their foundation in the year 1976. During the turbo era this equipe had Renault engines available from 1984 to 1986. In 1992 the Ligier Renault JS37s were driven by Thierry Boutsen and Eric Comas from France only scoring 6 points in the constructors` championship to make the team win the 7th place overall. In 1993 things became better with the Britons Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell in the cockpit of the Ligier Renault JS39s with totally 23 constructors´ points (5th place). For their semi-automatic gearbox they were given assistance by Williams. The following year, 1994, the Ligier drivers Eric Bernard, Johnny Herbert, Franck Lagorce and Oliver Panis drove their JS39 Bs to 13 points and 6th place overall. Meanwhile the team had been bought by Benetton boss Flavio Briatore and for 1995 the Renault V10 engines were transfered to Benetton to make Micheal Schumacher win 9 of 17 Grand Prix, becoming a dominating worldchampion and giving also Benetton Renault the triumph as constructors.
1994 had become a very sad year both for Renault and Williams, who had been so full of enthusiasm for their common future they wanted to share with Ayrton Senna. But instead of victory only death and destruction was brought onto them all. Damon Hill tried to fight against Michael Schumacher for the title but missed it for only one point at the last round in Australia. In 1995 Hill became vice champion again but the following year it was the season of the popular Briton followed by his new team mate Jacques Villeneuve from Canada coming home second overall in their Williams Renault FW18s. One year later the Canadian became Renault`s 5th driver´s world champion before their decision of retirement from the year before was realized. Now Renault is back to be a champion in Grand Prix Racing, as a great works entrant with a complete car of their own but always keeping a lot of Toleman and Benetton in their minds. Welcome back great champion Renault!
Photos: Renault Press Office, Ford Motor Company, Klaus Ewald, researchracing archive
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