Formula1 | F1 News 2006

Formula 1 News and Photo Galleries Live

Monday, June 26, 2006

Renault celebrates a century of GP success

From 1906 to 2006!
26 June 2006 marks the centenary of the first ever Grand Prix - won by a Michelin-shod Renault!
The morning of 26 June 1906 dawned still and warm in the French city of Le Mans. The Sarthe region was basking in a heatwave, and temperatures would exceed 30°C in the mid-day heat. Yet at 06:00 AM, in the early morning light, the flag fell to begin the first ever Grand Prix: the 1906 Grand Prix de France, organised by the Automobile Club de France.

The Grand Prix was organised on a circuit of 103.18 km laid out on the roads east of Le Mans. The distance was a world apart from current Grand Prix racing: not two hours, but two whole days of racing, with the competitors having to complete six laps on each day. Overnight, the cars were held under strict guard, with no changes permitted to them: the very first parc fermé in Grand Prix history! The total race distance was just under 1240 km, a true test of the speed and reliability of the fastest automobiles of the time.

Third away on the morning of 26 June was the Renault of 32 year-old Ferenc Szisz, car number 3A. Hungarian-born Szisz had begun his career as riding mechanic to Louis Renault in the great city-to-city races of the early 1900s. These competitions, held over open roads, ceased in 1903 following fatalities in the Paris-Madrid event – including that of Marcel Renault. His brother's death led Louis Renault to retire from driving, so when Renault returned to competition in 1905, Ferenc Szisz took became the firm's lead driver.

The AK-type Renault was built to a maximum weight formula of 1000 kg, with engine capacity unrestricted.
The Renaults featured a 13 litre engine developing 105 bhp, while the field saw engines of up to 18.3 litres (Panhard) and power outputs hitting a maximum of 130 bhp. The lightweight construction of the Renaults, though, allowed them to fit a last-minute innovation that would prove decisive.

Michelin's jante amovible (detachable rim) allowed a new wheel rim and pre-inflated tyre to be fitted in under two minutes, against the five to fifteen minutes required to replace and inflate pneumatic tyres on the solid artillery wheels that were standard at the time. The penalty was extra weight, but the Renaults – and FIATs too – were able to fit the new technology.

Crowds of 180,000 flocked to the event, including high society that made the journey from Paris. The cars were started at 90 second intervals, and by lap 3, Szisz's Renault had seized a lead it would never surrender. The Renault was clocked at a top speed of 148 kph as it passed the start and finish line, and after two gruelling days of racing, it completed the distance at an impressive average speed of 101.20 kph. Following him home in second was the FIAT of Felice Nazzaro after a race-long battle with the Clément-Brasier of Albert Clément – which did not use Michelin's new rims. A distraught Clément lost out on second place by a mere matter of minutes after two days of racing.


Post a Comment

<< Home