13 October 2020

The 25th anniversary of the Renault Sport Spider: the Spider Trophy, a high-calibre competition

The 25th anniversary of the Renault Sport Spider: the Spider Trophy, a high-calibre competition

Designed as a racing car, the Renault Sport Spider was inevitably at home on the track. As early as 1996, it took to the circuits with the Renault Sport Spider Trophy, a legendary hotly-contested single-seater racing series, often opening the Formula 1® Grand Prix.

The technical design of the road version of the Renault Sport Spider was very close to that of a racing car with its light and particularly rigid aluminium chassis, sophisticated double wishbone suspension at the front and rear, mounted on rigid ball joints to offer more direct sensations. It was carried out by Claude Fior, a specialist in the production of racing cars, including the Renault Campus single-seater. In other words, the car’s genes bore the hallmark of track competition. Naturally, Fior Technologies also developed the Trophy version of the Spider, with a total of 90 cars produced. Lighter - it weighed only 850 kg on the scales despite the presence of a roll cage - it gained a 6-speed sequential gearbox with a Sadev dog clutch. Its engine, derived from the famous Clio Williams, produced 180 horsepower and had a top speed of 251 km/h. Among the many settings available, the brakes could be adjusted remotely. The cars were handmade in Dieppe and the first 40 Trophy versions were assembled on site and their happy owners invited at the same time for the keys to be handed over and a memorable photo session.

 

In the long tradition of promotional races that began with the Renault 8 Gordini, then with competitions such as the Renault 5 Turbo European Cup, the Europa Cup with the Alpine GTA, the Renault 21 Turbo and finally the Clio, the Renault Sport Spider Trophy picked up where the others left off. From 1996, 12 races were organised, including 7 opening Formula 1® Grand Prix, with 40 cars. The very first race took place in Imola at the opening of the San Marino Grand Prix, immediately demonstrating the Spider’s great reliability. The races in Monaco, Hockenheim, Silverstone, Monza held as many fond memories for the regular drivers as for the special guests such as Jean-Christophe Bouillon (Williams-Renault test driver), Jean Ragnotti, David Hallyday, and Claude Fior, among others.

Throughout the 4 seasons of the Trophy, certain names stood out, such as Jason Plato, the future British Touring Car Championship champion, Andy Priaulx, Frank Lagorce, winner of the Spider Trophy the first year, Philippe Gache, and many more. The championship drivers were of different nationalities and they had different levels, from enlightened amateurs to seasoned professionals.

It really was about international races between often very talented gentlemen drivers, mingled with, from time to time, some professional drivers, all in a spirit made even more unusual by the Spider, perhaps because of its special look and its technical characteristics such as its dog-clutch sequential gearbox. We’d set up a catering tent system on all the circuits, where all the drivers and their entourage met for lunch and dinner in a particularly friendly manner.

Bertrand Le Masson Director of Renault Sport promotion at the time

The race was so successful that in addition to the European Trophy, a special championship was also organised in Great Britain.

 

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