Jean-Pierre Menrath, head of dyno testing – Jean-Pierre Jabouille, France 1979:
The first races of 1979 had been disastrous for Renault: in seven races with two cars we had had 12 DNFs and zero points. This is why our management at the time, Gérard Larousse, managing director, and François Castaing, technical director, ordered two test sessions at Dijon. They wanted to create a winning mentality in a company that doubted its own ability.
These private tests went well but still no one knew where we would be on the grid. Then, on Saturday 2 July, our two cars were there, on the front row, ahead of everyone. Everyone knows the story of the race – Jean-Pierre Jabouille made a good start and had a relatively trouble-free race, no refuelling, no tyre change, no telemetry – just a huge amount of stress in the garage as we watched the laps go past… increasing each lap!
Finally we made it and the feeling was indescribable: a huge wave of joy and happiness and the feeling of having achieved something exceptional: the first win for a turbo engine, the first win for a road car manufacturer in F1 and the first win for Renault.
After the race, as if to say 'don't take anything for granted', our friend Ken Tyrrell lodged a protest that our engine wasn't legal. Some of the English were convinced that we had put a two litre Le Mans engine in there instead of a 1,500cm3 F1 engine! We must have done, otherwise, how could we have been that quick? The FIA made us strip the engine, still warm in the car, to check the cylinder head. We had to remove it as their checks weren't designed for such a small engine…which was obviously legal after all that!
Rémi Taffin, head of track operations – Fernando Alonso, Hungary 2003:
The win that stands out for me is Fernando's win at Hungary in 2003. It was Renault
F1 Team's first-ever victory and the first win for a Renault
engine since the Williams
partnership came to an end in 1997.
2003 was the second year of the Renault
F1 Team and the third year that we had worked on the wide angle V10 engine at Viry-Châtillon. From early on in the season it was clear that the car with Fernando at the wheel had potential and we could have a good season in front of us. We had already scored our first pole and podium of the year at Sepang, and then we had other podiums at Interlagos and Barcelona. From that point on we knew that the chemistry was there, we just needed the right combination of elements to produce the first win.
We went to Budapest knowing that the package should suit the track. One of the principal advantages of the engine was that it was very light, had a very low centre of gravity and allowed a set-up that worked well on low speed tracks. We knew it wasn't the most powerful engine in the field but the drivability it delivered could pay dividends on the twists of the Hungaroring.
When Fernando put it on pole on Saturday there was a lot of satisfaction. The next day we had a good start and Fernando had an advantage of 15 or 20secs before his first stop. For about 70 laps my only thought was that the engine needed to hold up. We'd had some engine problems earlier in the year – and some after that race as well – but everything stayed until the end.
The feeling when we crossed the line was just awesome; it was the culmination of three years of hard work between Viry and Enstone. Nicely we also had about 100 people from the factory at the race and they managed to make it to the grandstand opposite the podium to celebrate with us – it felt good to celebrate something that significant together. On a wider scale, it also made people stand up and take notice of Fernando and his prodigious talent; in hindsight it's probably his most significant win.