Here is the remarkable thing, this tiny development team put together a R&D exercise that would have been daunting even for a manufacturer …and with limited resources managed to get the machine to the track by 1970 (and a few appearances in 1969),. In reality and by what we know today… it should not have worked as well as it did. The Renault transmission design engineer would, for a start, have had a heart attack when confronted with a 40% increase in torque…yet the team managed to get the gearbox to survive that…but not the huge gearbox oil temperature issues which did cause havoc.
As we know well, the mechanicals were transferred to Jody Scheckter’s Gordini and he was able to show the potential of the package lapping Kyalami for the first time in under 1min 40’s. Like any radical development however, reliability became an issue and this exercise really required fundamental design changes from the mothership updating the Homologation docs… but not forthcoming from Renault. In Adler’s own words he describes the engine Power loss issue that had returned…again simply not being able to purge the heat generated by the supercharged engine. As a consequence, racing during 1970 was patchy for both the S/charged Gordini and the Turbo’d Escort with both teams confronted with development challenges which would take time to resolve. (We will do some research on this and see if we can bring some accurate history to the table)
We tend to forget that the ‘blown’ Gordini, along with the turbocharged Escort represented leading tech in this field and that during the late 60’s local saloon race car engineering was on par with the best anywhere in the world. (from memory only BMW Germany were involved in turbocharging the 2002 in the late 60’s) When 1971 arrived, with the group 2 regulations terminating the high tech group five stuff, we unfortunately did not get to see the final outcome of these two developments.
Who won the battle between these two machines that year?… Pretty even I would say and difficult to do a direct comparison because of odd appearances at different tracks and reliability niggles. The two cars seldom ran against each other conclusively… but lap times suggest very similar performance. The Escort just edging the Gordini at Kyalami, holding the 2 litre lap record in around 1min 38sec, half a second quicker by the end of the year.
A FINAL WORD
The story of the Gordinis would not be complete without commenting on the culture within the Renault Team established by Scamp in his involvement with the car. The first, which comes over very powerfully in the Adler story is the selfless nature of the man. I have been involved peripherally in the tech side of motor sport over the years and the one thing that is a given, is how most development folk keep their secrets well locked away. That is normal in this very competitive environment and absolutely nothing wrong with that, particularly when those race secrets are part of a business.
The breath of fresh air that was Scamp, however, turned this upside down and his sharing of information amongst the Renault racers set in motion a wave of competitive Gordinis across the country. We were all stunned by the rapid rise to fame of Jody and his Gordini. The car came out of nowhere and whilst most credit goes to Scamp for freely sharing the tech detail with Jody, we soon learned that Scheckter was his own man, the car very much a product of his hard work, quite surprising drive and competitive spirit. It did not take long for Scamp, the master, to be caught by this young man and let’s face it, the rocket start given Jody by this early involvement put him on course for greater things a lot sooner than he would otherwise have done. Since that time there have been many cars run in the Transvaal, Natal and Western Cape and we will put together a second edition to this story once we get through the top ten.
But there was another indelible impression left on me by the Renault team during the 60’s and this was the high standards applied to their preparation of cars destined for the media. Not many companies took it seriously and one could see this from the comments by test crews and the inconsistency in the performance of many products. Renault made sure their performance oriented R8’s & R10’s were properly set-up, presented at road tests by their tech staff and their tuning expertise absolutely first class. Comparative results were often tabulated giving readers easy reference to information and importantly… made sense.