Between the first and second world wars, every self-respecting car manufacturer felt obliged to try and set some kind of speed record. In France, the Linas-Montlhéry track was host to many an attempt and it was at this Île-de-France circuit that Renault held its first campaign in 1925.
Renault had just the car for the job in its quest for speed, the range’s flagship 40CV model with its enormous nine-litre engine! After designing the car, engineers Plessier and Gartfield got behind the wheel and broke the lap record at an average speed of 178.475kph, before then setting a new 24-hour mark at 141.03kph... A substantial difference due in large part to the many pit stops required for refuelling and tyre changes.
Their rivals wasted little time in responding to these new records, but Renault was also quick to make further attempts.
The design of the Renault 40 CV was streamlined and it became the first Renault to be fitted with an open radiator grille! With its single-seater bodywork and the radiator mounted behind the engine, the new car proved to be capable of driving at speeds of close to 200kph. Extensive work was put into improving the pit stop process, cutting the time needed to under a minute.
The changes produced unequivocal results. In February 1926, the Renault 40CV set several new records. It broke more records over other distances before sweeping almost all before it on 9 and 10 July. Gartfield, Plessier and Guillon took it in turns behind the wheel and set a new 24-hour record at an average speed of 173.649kph, whilst also smashing all of the previous records between 500 and 4,000km, as well as the 1,000- and 2,000-mile marks.
A performance that caused quite a stir at the time!