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July 31, 2023

When 5 were more than 8

The year 1982 reminds us, Ferrari’s first victory in the World Rally Championship. However, the Prancing Horse was tamed by a small French rider aboard one of the cars most loved by the Squadra Lupo team: the Renault 5 Turbo.

The 1982 World Rally Championship season marked the debut of the new Group B regulations and the definitive arrival of the all-wheel drive developed by Audi for its Quattro model. It was a season of transition between the new mechanical monsters and old-school Group 4 vehicles, such as the Porsche 911 SC and Renault 5 Turbo.

It is undeniable that Audi’s all-wheel drive was unbeatable on surfaces with little grip such as snow, ice, mud or gravel. Some asphalt sections of the Monte Carlo and San Remo races still gave some hope to the rear-wheel drive cars, but without a doubt the competition that took place in Corsica -with a completely asphalt surface- represented the best opportunity for the RWD to beat to the German monsters.

Team Renault knew from their own experience that their spectacular 5 Turbo had a good chance of winning in Corsica. The victory achieved by Jean Ragnotti in Monte Carlo 1981 held out hopes of placing the model back at the top of a World Rally classification. But he also knew that the undertaking would not be easy. There were experienced French tarmac specialist drivers aboard true racing thoroughbreds such as Porsche 911 SC, BMW M1 and even a Ferrari 308 GTB! As if that were not enough, Lancia had chosen this rally to debut the beautiful rear-wheel drive 037 Rally.

Shortly after the start of the competition, Bernard Darniche’s powerful BMW M1 – absolute winner of the 1981 edition – had lubrication problems and had to withdraw. This concentrated the fight for victory between Ragnotti’s Renault 5 Turbo, Jean-Claude Andruet’s Ferrari and Bernard Béguin’s Porsche. The little Renault moved with ease on the devilish French routes, tracing the curves with great precision and favored by its agility and low weight. The Maranello car bet on the power of its V8 engine, literally flying through the speed sections and on the straightaways. The Audi Quattros were out of the fight and were struggling on terrain that was unfavorable to them.

Andruet’s Ferrari led the race but on the second day of the race, the rain changed everything. The team did not have anchored tires ready and the driver had no choice but to continue the remaining stages on smooth tyres. Team Renault, more organized and attentive to the weather, took advantage of the carelessness of its main rival, took a few minutes ahead and at the end of the second day rose to the top of the general classification.

Jean Ragnotti, faithful to his style, extracted the maximum performance from the small Renault 5 Turbo during the last day of the race and finally obtained the victory, the first of the two that he would achieve in Corsica -the other would be in 1985- and the second for the R5 Turbo. Jean-Claude Andruet eventually finished second, taking Ferrari’s first and only podium finish in a World Rally Championship race. The podium was completed by Bernard Béguin’s Porsche 911.

The Renault 5 Turbo would later achieve two more victories: Córcega 1985 and Portugal 1986. It never needed all-wheel drive to scare the competition.

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