Though the name “Renault Sport” came into being in a 1975, it was not applied to any of the marque’s cars until the arrival of the second-generation Clio in 1999. Handed the onerous task of following the iconic Clio Williams, the Renault Sport would lay the foundation for a new family at the heart of the Renault range.
Renault’s dynamism was clear for all to see in the early Si and Sport versions of the revamped Clio, though it was the marque’s intention, right from the very start, to come up with a powerful descendant to the Clio 16s and the Williams.
The Clio Renault Sport 2.0 16V was unveiled at the 1999 Geneva International Motor Show with the ambition of leading the range. It was clear from its specifications that it was designed to be a benchmark: weighing 1,035 kg, it was powered by a four-cylinder, 1998cc, 16v engine delivering 172bhp at 6,250 rpm and 204 Nm at 5,400 rpm.
Like the Clio 16s, it was named Sports Car of the Year by French magazine Echappement and delivered impressive performance: 0-100 kmh in 7.3 seconds and a standing kilometre in 28 seconds.
A year after the car’s launch came a limited-edition metallic beetle-green version with BBS rims and light grey leatherwork.
Like the rest of the Clio range, the Renault Sport was given a makeover in June 2001, with the new version sporting 16” wheels and boasting a top speed of 222 kmh.
With the advent of the Jean Ragnotti series the following year, the Clio Renault Sport took on a new dimension, becoming lighter and more radical and dispensing with ABS. Some 69kg heavier than the Phase 2 version, it covered a standing 400 metres in 14.8 seconds.
A year later the Jean Ragnotti made way for the Playstation 2, which had the same specifications as its predecessor, with the addition of climate control.
The launch of the 2004 Clio Renault Sport saw the introduction of a front end with a new lower trapezoidal grille and a new upper grille, while some of the displays went from analogue to digital. The F4R engine was souped up to 182bhp and delivered the same torque from 5,250 rpm.
In September of that year, a special Clio Renault Sport Team series came out. Available at a lower price, it dispensed with a number of interior options and was a few kilograms lighter.
In promoting the Clio Renault Sport, Renault has also been very visible in track racing and rallies. The Clio Cup has excelled itself in a number of national championships, while the Clio Renault Sport Jean Ragnotti Groupe N has allowed hundreds of drivers to live their passion to the full. Approved from the 1.6L, 16v version upwards, the Clio Cup Rallye has helped several talented youngsters make the breakthrough, while the Clio Super 1600 has proved its worth in the Junior World Rally Championship, the European Rally Championship and in national competitions.