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Old 23 Dec 2006, 16:13   #1
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Renault in the IMSA series

In the mid-80s, Renault (officially?) ran a LeCar (the american version of the Renault 5 model) in the GTU category of the IMSA championship.

That machine was not very successfull. Maybe is this the reason why we found nothing about it. Does anyone have something about this Renault GTU.

Who developped the car? What's the spec data? How did it perform?
Photos?... Everything you can provide abou this car interests me.
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Old 24 Dec 2006, 16:53   #2
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I do not have facts and figures for you, but I believe the program ended shortly after the death of Patrick Jacquemart (sic) who was the head of Renault's effort here. He was killed in a testing accident at Mid-Ohio, in I believe, one of the turbo models.

I want to say this occured in 1980 or 1981...as the LeCar was replaced (here) by the Renault Alliance shortly after.
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Old 24 Dec 2006, 21:36   #3
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thanks.
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Old 24 Dec 2006, 21:50   #4
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It was 1981. The model I think was a Turbo or Turbo II, it wasn't called a Le Car. It was based on the car Renault built for Ralley, and Jacquemart, who was the head of Renault Sport in US developed it for IMSA GTU. He was indeed killed in testing. The model was not legally sold in US, but some were brought in a federilized. There used to be one in my town.

They had previously run the R5/Le Car in IMSA Radial Sedan. Jacquemart had done well in that series, as had the Archer Brothers, who were dealers (I believe). Renault had paid support. There had also been a Le Car spec series.

The Turbo car was in a feature article in Car & Driver around that time (1981), which you should find if you have the interest in the car.

Cool little car. Mid-engine, the placement being in former rear seat area.
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Old 26 Dec 2006, 14:27   #5
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It was a shame about Jacquemart - he seemed to be a decent shoe and a good representatinve for Renault. They seemed to be trying hard to re-enter the American market at the time.

They had a lot of support for racing the "Le Car" in SCCA's Showroom Stock C class. We racers wondered about the prudence of racing a car with wheels held on by three lug bolts instead of the more confidence-inspiring 4 or 5 found on other cars. They also had these charming wheel bearings that were ball bearings assembled using a plastic retainer. Since the class was "Stock Only" racers found the cars rolled over quite a lot as the bearings would heat/cool repeatedly until the plastic became brittle and failed. The wheel bearings would cease to function and: Voila! Over you go! We called them "Le Rolls" instead of "Le Cars!" The kits for the Renault Cup cars retailed for about $700 at the dealer and could be ordered with your new car. They did the same thing with the Reanult Alliance as well.

The IMSA version was pretty nifty though and the GTU version looked like it could be a real giant killer. That was a cool series, by the way. I loved the Radial Challenge though: nothing like watching an AMC Gremlin duking it out with a Ford Pinto or the odd BMW 2002.

A friend of mine raced his Le Car in Showroom and then in a modified class. I still remember disassembling the left front wheel assembly when he had heard a noise from there. All these little ball bearings just fell out onto the floor of the tech shed. Laughed my butt off! Oh, yeah, his car did eventually roll over too...
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Old 27 Dec 2006, 00:50   #6
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I loved the Radial Challenge though: nothing like watching an AMC Gremlin duking it out with a Ford Pinto or the odd BMW 2002.
I seriously miss the old Radial Challenge series. Upwards of 75-80 cars taking the start at 3 hour races at Daytona and Sebring. They usually raced in late afternoon into the night. Great collection of different makes. Non-stop action.

And not only AMC Gremlins, but Pacers too!

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Old 27 Dec 2006, 11:08   #7
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And the much-maligned Hornet!

I remember being on the pit crew for an RS car and seeing Mazda RX-3's and Buick Skyhawks and Pintos and just all kinds of stuff. Truly, IMSA RS was the last of the "run what you brung" sort of series - although at the time IMSA in general had rules that encouraged quite an eclectic field in both RS and GT/GTU.

The Pacers/Gremlins/Hornets were killers at places like Daytona. Despite being about as aerodynamic as a brick they had those nice, big, reliable straight sixes...

Oh yeah, they used to lean on each other and bang around like crazy! It was the closest thing you could have on a road course to the kind of action you got at the local 1/2 mile dirt oval.
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Old 28 Dec 2006, 23:27   #8
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The Hornet looked like a fairly normal car (compared to a Pacer or Gremlin). The Varde Stealth Hornet that showed at Daytona was wildly fast in those pre-chicane days.

In fact, with the Pacer, Gremlin and Hornet, AMC was a powerhouse of motorsport, and I am sure Le Mans was next on the list

IMSA allowed virtually everything 'compact' at the time, controlling things with various prep rules and weights. Some good teams came out of it too, including Downing who went on to RX7's and then prototypes with the Argos and then the Kudzu line.

Renaults like the Alliance were built at AMC plants I think, wasn't it a partnership of some kind attempting to utlize the plants left over from AMC?


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Old 29 Dec 2006, 11:04   #9
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Yes, in a brilliant decision on Renault's part, they decided to partner with AMC. At the time, the only thing AMC made that anyone really wanted was the Jeep. But yes, the Alliance was made here while the Le Car and the Fuego (a neat little car actually) were imported. At least I am pretty sure the Fuego was.

The RS series was a hotbed of home-grwon racers. Guys like Jim Downing got their feet wet in that era. I had almost forgotten Joe Varde!

What I liked best was that these were just regular cars - not ones that you had to pay $35K to get (see a BMW 3 Series) and then "convert" it to a race car. Nothing like hearing a Mazda RX 3 go by with those ridiculous tuned exhaust systems - you could go deaf if you got too close - literally!
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Old 30 Dec 2006, 01:08   #10
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The Mazdas were required to be muffled in the paddock, which meant people took a large street muffler and stuck it over the exhaust, which meant you had something like three feet of muffler trailing around behind.

The most painful car in my experience was an IMSA RS Cosworth Vega. It knocked me off the pit wall and caused serious pain, when it went past at redline. Nothing else has ever come close to that, including open pipe two stroke Maicos in a small shed.
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Old 30 Dec 2006, 01:14   #11
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Never heard a Cosworth Vega that close, but I had an Rx-3 go past me going out onto the track via pit lane: Ouch!!
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