Renault UK’s motorsport journey began on 31st March 1974 when the first ever Renault 5 TL race was held at Brands Hatch Circuit in Kent. Maggie Anderson took the historic inaugural win that served as the beginning to what has now become the longest-running success story by a manufacturer in British motorsport.
The Renault 5 TL Championship ran between 1974 and 1976 in the UK, but from 1977 the Renault 5 TS variant was raced up until 1985. During this year, the Renault 5 GT Turbo Championship was established in Britain and ran until 1990.
The following year, the Renault Clio Cup took over and in 1996 this series gave way to the Renault Spider Cup which itself ran for four years. The Clio Cup made its return in 2000 with a new phase of car and is to this day an integral part of the UK’s biggest motorsport package – the British Touring Car Championship’s TOCA Tour.
Jason Plato, the 1996 Renault Spider Cup Champion, went on to become BTCC Champion and is still competing in the series alongside numerous Renault championship graduates up to, and including, current champion Andrew Jordan. In addition, 1999 Renault Spider Cup Champion Andy Priaulx MBE become World Touring Car Champion and is currently competing as a factory driver in the USCC sportscar series in America.
Jim Edwards Jnr went from winning the 1990 Renault 5 GT Turbo Championship to winning the Renault Clio Cup in 2000. From there, he went on to race in the BTCC for several seasons but returned to what he still regards as the ultimate saloon car racing action – the UK Clio Cup. Furthermore, 1994 and 1995 Renault Clio Cup Champions John Bintcliffe and Lee Brookes also went on to carve successful careers in the BTCC.
Twelve years ago Paul Rivett won the first of his three Renault UK Clio Cup titles, with two in the Clio Renaultsport 182 model (2002 and 2004) plus the 2011 crown in the Renaultsport 200 version. He is still in the championship today, racing the latest fourth generation turbo-charged car. The latest incarnation of the Clio Renaultsport has also brought with it one of the golden achievements of the past four decades when Team Pyro’s Josh Files won the Eurocup Clio title in 2013 as well as the Renault UK Clio Cup crown.
Renault’s involvement there isn’t just through past champions though – it also entered the BTCC as a manufacturer in the 1990s, although Renault’s maiden appearance in touring cars was in the late ‘70s with a Renault 5 TS!
The real push for BTCC glory, however, started in 1993 with the Renault 19 but the following year the arrival of the Renault Laguna started to change things and saw Renault finish second in the driver, manufacturer and team standings – a great achievement.
In 1995 the partnership with Williams Touring Car Engineering began but 1997 was the true season of success with Alain Menu winning the BTCC title and Renault earning its second manufacturer’s championship. Renault’s involvement ceased in 1999 but in seven years of BTCC action it built an impressive record of 37 race wins.
The late 1990s also saw Renault become involved in the British Rally Championship. In 1995 the manufacturer made its debut in the BRC with the Clio Williams before switching to a Megane from 1996 to 1999. Martin Rowe and Tapio Laukkenen each won the British Rally Championship for Renault and the marque was also a major points scorer in the F2 World Championship in 1999.
Renault UK Motorsport’s single-seater programme began in 1990 with the multi-chassis Formula Renault UK Championship. Actually, the series first began in Britain a year previously but was then run solely by the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) without backing from Renault UK.
When Renault UK joined forces with the BARC in 1990 it started what became the most popular, competitive and respected junior single-seater formula in the UK. The list of champions Formula Renault UK has produced over the years is impressive with the likes of former Formula One drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Antonio Pizzonia winning the title in 1992 and 1999 respectively. Several notable Formula One drivers have also raced in the series including Paul Di Resta and Heikki Kovalainen
In 1995, Guy Smith – who went on to win the Le Mans 24 Hours Race in 2003 – claimed the Formula Renault UK Championship but the season the series was really put on the map was 2000. Not only was it the first year of one-make competition, it was also when Formula One ace Kimi Raikkonen won the title. Just weeks after winning the Formula Renault UK Championship, the Finn was offered his place in Formula One by the Sauber F1 Team before signing deals with McLaren, Ferrari –where he became World Champion in 2007 – and Lotus-Renault.
Perhaps the biggest global sporting star to graduate from Formula Renault UK, though, is Lewis Hamilton who won the championship in 2003 – setting him on his way to becoming FIA Formula One World Champion in 2008.
In the Noughties, Formula Renault UK undoubtedly became the reference championship for any aspiring young single-seater driver to compete in Europe. Success was built upon the strength and quality of the Tatuus-built chassis as it became the world’s biggest selling single-marque racing car before it was replaced in 2010. Sadly, after a troubled season in 2011 and a lack of potential entries at the start of 2012 the championship came to an end.
Renault UK remains involved in junior single-seater racing, however, through its support for the Protyre Formula Renault Championship which is organised by Grovewood Sport. It started life in its current form as Formula Renault BARC in 2005 and continues to attract strong support from overseas drivers alongside rising British talent. One of its stand-out achievements has been the title won by Alice Powell in 2010, the highest level championship success by a female driver in the UK.
Renault also entered the British Formula 3 Championship during its glory days of the 1990s, giving big breaks to the likes of Nicolas Minassian and current McLaren Formula One star Jenson Button between 1996 and 1999.
Heritage has always been important to Renault UK, demonstrated by its long standing involvement in the world-famous Goodwood Festival of Speed. Having first become involved as an entrant in 1996 with the Le Mans-winning A442B, Renault has twice been the headline manufacturer in 2002 and 2006 and brought an array of Formula One cars and stars to the festival.
In May 2004, Renault UK celebrated its 30th anniversary by staging the ‘last ever’ Renault 5 race at Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire – a wonderfully supported event which underlined the spirit apparent in all of Renault’s championships.
To this day, the name Renault is synonymous with success in British motorsport and if the last 40 years are anything to go by, this will continue for many years to come.
RENAULT UK MOTORSPORT CHAMPIONSHIPS – ROLL OF HONOUR
Formula Renault UK Championship
2011 Alex Lynn (Formula Renault 2.0)
2010 Tom Blomqvist (Formula Renault 2.0)
2009 Dean Smith (Formula Renault 2000)
2008 Adam Christodoulou (Formula Renault 2000)
2007 Duncan Tappy (Formula Renault 2000)
2006 Sebastian Hohenthal (Formula Renault 2000)
2005 Oliver Jarvis (Formula Renault 2000)
2004 Mike Conway (Formula Renault 2000)
2003 Lewis Hamilton (Formula Renault 2000)
2002 Danny Watts (Formula Renault 2000)
2001 Carl Breeze (Formula Renault 2000)
2000 Kimi Raikkonen (Formula Renault 2000)
1999 Antonio Pizzonia (Tatuus RC99)
1998 Aluizio Coelho (Tatuus RC98)
1997 Marc Hynes (Tatuus RC97)
1996 David Cook (Tatuus RC96)
1995 Guy Smith (Van Diemen FR95)
1994 James Matthews (Van Diemen FR94)
1993 Ivan Arias Estevez (Alpa FR93)
1992 Pedro de la Rosa (Alpa FR92)
1991 Bobby Verdon-Roe (Van Diemen FR91)
1990 Thomas Erdos (Swift FR90)
1989 Neil Riddiford (Van Diemen FR89)
Protyre Formula Renault (BARC)
2013 Chris Middlehurst (Formula Renault 2000)
2012 Scott Malvern (Formula Renault 2000)
2011 Dino Zamparelli (Formula Renault 2000)
2010 Alice Powell (Formula Renault 2000)
2009 Kieren Clark (Formula Renault 2000)
2008 Ollie Hancock (Formula Renault 2000)
2007 Hywel Lloyd (Formula Renault 2000)
2006 Richard Singleton (Formula Renault 2000)
2005 Nicky Wilcox (Formula Renault 2000)
Renault UK Clio Cup
2013 Josh Files
2012 Jack Goff
2011 Paul Rivett
2010 Dave Newsham
2009 Phil Glew
2008 Ben Winrow
2007 Martin Byford
2006 Tom Onslow-Cole
2005 Jonathan Adam
2004 Paul Rivett
2003 Jonathan Fildes
2002 Paul Rivett
2001 Daniel Buxton
2000 Jim Edwards Jnr
Renault Spider Cup
1999 Andy Priaulx
1998 Dan Eaves
1997 Bryce Wilson
1996 Jason Plato
Renault UK Clio Cup
1995 Lee Brookes
1994 John Bintcliffe
1993 Matt Johnson
1992 Alastair Lyall
1991 Steve Waudby
Renault 5 GT Turbo
1990 Jim Edwards Jnr
1989 Nikki Phillips
1988 Nikki Phillips
1987 Barrie ‘Whizzo’ Williams
1986 Steve Hine
1985 Rob Hall
Renault 5 TS
1985 Mark Fish
1984 David Kay
1983 John Craddock
1982 Paul Longfield
1981 Terry Blamire
1980 Rob Hall
1979 Jim Edwards Snr
1978 Neil McGrath
1977 Doug Bassett
Renault 5 TL
1976 Neil McGrath
1975 Neil McGrath
1974 Neil McGrath