In Martinique, my adventures were not yet finished. After speaking for a while that night by the shed with the Fiats , the Patrick and I made arrangements to meet up again. He said he wanted to show me one more car he thought I might really like.
He did not disappoint at all.
For starters, I never saw anything like it in my life. But, I knew the stripe - that iconic Renault offset race stripe. I was in the presence of another legend. He smiled and told me that his was Renault Gordini r8, which he had spent the better part of two and half years restoring to factory conditions. It was well worth the effort.
This car is a lot more interesting than it seems. It looks like a regular sedan, but it's basically a road going rally car. The car's engine is located in the back. It is also rear wheel drive but it still has 4 doors. This layout gives great traction during acceleration but to offset this, the car actually had 2 gas tanks - one in the back and a second in the front that was larger. This, along with the weight of the driver keeps the front wheels on the road and give the traction necessary for cornering.
The heart of this machine is a 1.3 liter engine, which makes about 100 hp, and 86 lb-ft of torque. It is mounted longitudinally in the engine bay. I admired the amount of time he spent caring and repairing this car. What really caught my attention were small things like that tiny bulb in the engine bay or the heat wrap on the exhaust manifold. The latter has a dual purpose of keeping the temps down while adding a great aesthetic within the engine bay. All of these makes these classic cars pretty awesome.
The car only weighs 850 kg. Which means it can take off pretty fast despite its small engine. I don't think I can stress enough how much of a difference weight makes in a car.
What makes this car so special though, is it's rally pedigree. It's a car driven not just in rally, but driven by rally drivers on a daily basis. I had the privilege of sitting in the passenger seat for an evening drive. It's so well balanced, we have to think back to the era when things like traction control and auto braking systems didn't exist, when this machine spoke to its driver through the steering wheel. It was a very visceral driving experience.
He told me that he's been driving rally for many years and his experience has taught him that, "without courage, you will always lose". No matter how fast your car may be on paper, unless you have the courage to drive it to the limit, you can't win.
I believe that was the idea behind this car.
- Alex, until next time, Happy Motoring.