A NEW APPROACH IN AN AGE OLD BUSINESS+44 (0) 1926 691 141
Estimate: £240,000 - £280,000
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For those maybe not familiar with the legendary John Price, see this link to his achievements, a remarkable life devoted to rallying. RIP John. https://www.ewrc-results.com/profile/13826-john-price/
We understood from JP and his son Steve that JP competed in excess of 880 events that required a formal (paid) entry, as well as many more informal events worldwide. So, arguably, JP was the most successful of all British Rally drivers from the late ’70s until his retirement from professional driving after the Prescott hill-climb of 2011, when JP won class honours driving his favourite R5T EXI 1465!
By the summer of 1976, Lancia was already well on its way to claiming its third consecutive World Rally Championship manufacturers’ title, the legendary Stratos having again proven its superiority where it mattered. Renault had topped the manufacturers’ table with its sublime Alpine A110 prior to the Stratos’ arrival, but the A110 was already becoming long in the tooth and could trace its roots back to the late ’50s. The French company wanted revenge and would stop at nothing to return atop the podium.
In order to be competitive, Renault would need a new model. Jean Terramorsi, Renault’s vice-president of production, outlined his requirements. To keep costs down, the new car would need to be based on an existing production model and would need to be small, light, and agile, requiring only minor modifications to go from road-going trim to full rally spec.
The answer came from Bertone’s Marc Deschamps, who penned a radically reworked version of the Renault 5, with the engine mounted centrally (much like the Stratos) and driving the rear wheels rather than the fronts. Terramorsi was sold on the idea and immediately gave the go-ahead for a prototype to be created. Sadly, he passed away soon thereafter, but his successor, Henry Lherm, shared his passion for a mid-engined R5 and ensured that the project went ahead as planned.
With the company’s Renault Sport division busy with Le Mans commitments, the project initially fell to a team of just four engineers, who set about creating the first Project 822 prototype in a small workshop at Renault’s Alpine facility in Dieppe. At first, the plan was to build the car around a spaceframe chassis, but this solution proved far too complex—and needlessly expensive—so a hole was cut in the rear floor of the 5’s monocoque and a tubular frame constructed to support the engine and transmission.
A number of engines were considered. The 2,664-cubic centimetre V-6 from the Renault 30 was dismissed for being too heavy and complicated for rallying; the 1,995-cubic centimetre inline-four from the 20 TS was too long to fit. A turbocharged version of the Alpine A110’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine would have proved perfect—Renault was about to pioneer the use of turbos in F1, so could use its knowledge for the new rally car—but after this engine’s capacity had been multiplied by the equivalency factor of 1.4, it would move the car out of the 2,000-cubic centimetre class and into 2,500, where a heavier minimum weight requirement would ensure the car failed to play to its strengths.
That left the 1,397-cubic centimetre unit from the Renault 5 Alpine (known as the Gordini in the United Kingdom). Using a modified Lancia Stratos as a testbed, work began on increasing its output from a normally aspirated 93 brake horsepower to a turbocharged 162 brake horsepower. The most highly developed “fives”, including the R5 Maxi offered for sale here, would develop well over 350 horsepower, an extraordinary figure, given the car’s diminutive size and weight of only 905 kilograms. Group B regs allowed an increase in track and capacity together so the Maxi has re-worked suspension, different steering, wider wheels, a 1527cc engine with a 78mm bore and 82mm stroke.
The Renault 5 Maxi Turbo remained a potent force until the all-wheel-drive Group B cars arrived, and it would remain competitive in many forms of motorsport for several years in the hands of some incredibly talented racers, perhaps the best known of which was the late John Price.
To comply with the Homologation requirement, just 20 'works' (voitures usine) Renault 5 Maxi Turbos were built in 1985 for 'Group B' rallying as the ultimate 'Evo' version of the very successful Renault 5 Turbo. A considerable amount of Renault Sport's Formula 1 engine and composites technology was applied to the Maxi 5 Turbo and it was almost certainly the fastest (365bhp) two-wheel-drive works rally car of all time. Of the original 20 built,12 remained as 'works' competition cars with the remaining 8 stripped of parts when required to keep the original 12 running.
In the course of his business sourcing Renault rally parts, John Price was a regular visitor to Renault Sport Dieppe, often admiring the new Maxis and, without fail, asking if he could buy one and was always politely declined. Finally, his terrier-like persistence paid off and in 1986 he was offered a choice from the remaining six cars, all up on stands and in various stages of disassembly. Naturally, he chose the best example which was this car Maxi Chassis #201(Car #16 as it became known), missing its engine, gearbox and suspension but otherwise complete. Even with his excellent contacts at Dieppe, it took John a while to source a worthwhile engine for the car so it did not get used competitively until 1988, two years after the demise of Group B.
Although the car came without suspension, his good relations with Dieppe enabled him to obtain most of the correct parts over the following months, but the power unit took longer. John finally produced an engine of 1527cc producing around 340bhp. Technically, it was somewhere between the TDC and the Maxi 5 Turbo units without the complexity of the works Maxi engine with its 'DPV' system and motor-driven Bosch fuel injection as these specially made parts were simply not available. It was mated to a works Maxi 5 magnesium-alloy gearbox with the works special ratios. Fortunately, it remained fitted with its original Matter roll cage, each section stamped #20 1985 Matter.
The Renault actively campaigned during 1987 and '88 and the story of those two years is told in separate documents within the car's history file but by 1990 John's rallying exploits were based around his four-wheel-drive 6R4. Consequently, the Renault was offered for sale in the early nineties and was purchased by R5 enthusiasts Mike and Jill Oates who registered the car as 80 MJO, barely drove the car and after about a year it ended up back in John's ownership, which became a bit of a recurring theme. It was subsequently sold to another Turbo 5 enthusiast, Nick Cowan, who re-registered it as A27 MDD and planned to use it in the Le Mans Classic but never did. It was returned to the UK and came back into John's ownership. Unfortunately, during this period the original works dashboard and works seats were removed and have never been traced.
Once again John restored the car to his normal standards and fitted what was then a state of the art Stack electronic dashboard and new blue seats. The next person to join the R5 'Boomerang Club' was Tim Oscroft who bought the car twice between 2000 and 2008 selling it back to John on both occasions. So by late 2008, Car #16 was duly fettled once again and, still registered as A27 MDD, was placed in storage. Intending to rally the car once more and with aluminium cages having been banned by the FIA, John fitted new tanks, seats and an approved steel cage and the alloy cage was sold, however, it was later bought back and is now happily reunited with Car #16.
Finally, back on his favourite EXI 1465 plates, John took the Renault to Dunsfold to be recorded for the Sony Playstation rally game and later, with John at the wheel, it ran as a course car for Epynt 2010 followed by a very creditable showing at the 2010 "La Vie en Bleu" at Prescott. The following year he returned to the same meeting at Prescott on this occasion taking class honours. Sadly this was to be his last outing in Car#16.
Early in 2012, the car was sold to new owners Kevin and Lee Jones who restored the paintwork to John's 1988 livery. They intended to rebuild it as a full Maxi, however, time restraints, as well as the absolute impossibility of obtaining original works engine parts, precluded this. So, late in 2016 having made no mechanical changes, they sold Car#16 to our vendors who have kept the car mechanically as JP built it and in his favourite colours as a tribute to the 12 times Asphalt Rally Champion's tenacity in extracting it from Renault Sport in the first place, his five periods of ownership, his mechanical and engineering standards and finally his class-winning, last ever run in EXI 1465 at Prescott in 2011.
On a visit to JP’s works, he told us in his inimitable way “be careful, boyo, on cornering hard in the wet – she has a desire to step out when the turbo kicks in”! So true and we love the way that the steering goes light on hard acceleration, the front lightens as the car tries to wind up around the rear wheels!
The car was re-recorded at Nicholson-McLaren Engines in 2018 for Sony PlayStation and ran flawlessly up to full load on the dyno, apart from triggering their fire alarms each time the usual Group B flames exited the exhaust on throttle shut-down!
The 5 Maxi Turbo played an important part in the history of Renault Motorsport and this example, Car #16, whilst not totally original now was one of the original 20 and warrants serious consideration from both devoted collectors of Renault’s finest cars and those who appreciate the most outrageous and potent competition machines. However, much more than that, it's synonymous with the late 'JP' John Price, charismatic and talented, a true legend in rallying who campaigned with great success, in a variety of cars including his beloved Renault 5s. Welcome at a wide range of modern events, including Race Retro and Goodwood, this Maxi Turbo offers a variety of possibilities and we invite interested parties to book an appointment to spend some time with this special car.
You can now book a one-to-one appointment (up to one hour) to view this lot at our central location of Stoneleigh Park (CV8 2LG) Monday to Friday, between Thursday 29th October – 12th November. Please contact Harry on 01926691141/ firstname.lastname@example.org to secure your appointment or to discuss the car in more detail. The health & safety of both our customers and team remain the utmost priority, we are therefore operating to strict COVID-19 guidelines and full instructions for arrival and inspection protocols will be given when making your appointment.
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