Renault F1 driver, Daniel Ricciardo, got more than he bargained for when he consented to take a look at one of the first Renaults built by Louis Renault 120 years ago.
He agreed to have his picture taken with the 110th Renault made, a Type A, for a photograph to be included in a book to be released in December 2019. When he arrived at the photo shoot in Perth, Western Australia, he was offered a drive in the primitive automobile.
His first reaction was: “You want me to drive that?” but he was up for the challenge and was soon being shown the controls of the 120 year old car boasting a mere 1.75Hp compared with the 600Hp of his current Renault Formula One team car. He admitted after driving the car that it was a scary proposition using bicycle-like handlebars to steer and applying brakes which were rudimentary at best.
The photographs and the story of Ricciardo’s first drive of an early Renault feature in the new book: “Louis Renault’s Amazing Type A” by Australian motoring historian Graeme Cocks.
The book documents the story of how a precocious young son of a button-maker from Paris designed his own car and made a prototype in the family’s garden shed at Billancourt in 1898. He saw what other car designers were doing with big, heavy drivetrains and massive engines and he thought he could achieve better performance with a revolutionary approach. His design incorporated a small engine at the front of the car, with a clutch behind the engine running into a gearbox and a tail-shaft driving a differential on the rear axle.
It sounds routine today but Louis Renault’s simple design was to take the motoring world by storm and he couldn’t make his little cars quickly enough.
The Type A was Louis Renault’s, and therefore Renault’s, first race car. In 1899 he competed in a number of sporting events around Paris, winning the Paris-Trouville race. Renault’s love affair with motor sport is still shining brightly 120 years later. Soon he was manufacturing a range of more powerful cars and with his brother Marcel, competing in the great city-to-city races of Europe.
The new book talks about the development of the Type A, its racing successes and the challenges faced by Louis Renault to protect his invention from other manufacturers who were keen to steal his patents. It then looks at the restoration of a Type A owned by Australian car collector Peter Briggs and the trials and tribulations of taking such a primitive machine to the London to Brighton veteran car rally.
Daniel Ricciardo features in the last chapter, completing the circle which began 120 years before in Paris when a 21 year old Parisian was convinced that he could make a better car than anyone else.
“Louis Renault’s Amazing Type A” by Graeme Cocks is 208 pages in colour and is available from the publisher, Motoring Past Vintage Publishing, at www.motoringpast.com.au.