Renault 8 Gordini & Alconi fantastic Motorsport results from South Africa

 Results and Achievements of Renault (Africa's) Motorsport sponsorship of Renault R8 vehicles in South Africa, 1962-69

Racing Achievements
Because the public in South Africa were "performance car" mad, successful  competition achievements formed an integral part of the marketing plan for "Alconi" and "Gordini" sales.
This R8 Gordini ( which had many different parts, and could not be fitted as a kit) in 1255cc form had a 5 speed gearbox, and could accellerate about 5% faster than the Alconi, with top speed about 10% higher, and cost about 25% more than it.  For racing purposes its power potential was superior, and racing participants opted for Gordini 1300cc powerplant with many Alconi produced parts in most events therafter. 

An R8 Alconi (1108cc) did win the inaugural 1966 Kyalami Onyx production car championship, with an overall win in the season's final race (ahead of a Sunbeam Tiger V8).  "Onyx" was  a Kyalami (race track near Johannesburg) annual racing series with a number of sprint events for locally made cars,  classes based on retail price. 
(Sunday express, November 1966)
Alconi vehicles also offered superior fuel economy to the standard Renault 8, which was already a class leader, so they accumulated overall wins almost every year in the annual "Mobil Fuel Economy Run". On many sections, more than 60mpg was recorded.

Renault Gordinis, (usually with many optional Alconi manufactured racing parts) were dominant in their class in modified saloon sprint racing (Scamp Porter won nearly every1300cc class race and Geof Mortimer usually dominated the 1000cc class) for the next few seasons. 
And the  Renault 8 accumulated an unmatched endurance record, which no  doubt helped vehicle sales. 

The annual Kyalami International 9 hour endurance events produced:
1963 Renault R8 948cc 4th, overall on distance 1st saloon car, ahead of many outright sports cars  (
1964 Renault R8 1100cc 4th overall, 1st saloon car     "    (                
1965 Renault R8 1100cc 9th overall, 2nd saloon car    "    (                   
1966 Renault R8 Gordini 1300cc  5th overall  1st saloon car      "      (                      
1966 Renault R10 1300 (Alconi entered) 6th overall, 2nd Saloon car  (                     
1967 R8 Gordini 1300                   9th overall, 1st saloon car         "  (                
1968 R8 Gordini  1300                  9th overall, 1st saloon car " (
1969 R8 Gordini 1300                       4th overall, 1st saloon car      "  (

No other vehicle, South African or overseas professional, achieved the R8's endurance racing. proving the vehicle's reliability and startling performance potential, as well as its unmatched reliability and wet weather handling, that gave it the ability to pass nearly all out and out Sports Racers during downpours, as many of the overseas professional drivers will attest. Much of the endurance race competition came from imported  sports racing cars (Ferraris, Jaguars, racing Porsches etc.) as well as saloon cars with much larger engines, including  many with a tried and trusted European racing heritage and  pedigree.(like Alfa Sprint GTA, Lotus engined Escort and Cortina,  Cooper S, Volvo 2000cc, Galaxie 7000cc)

Renault Africa's motor sport program also included participation in Rally events, where the R8 was particularly popular with privateers because of its reliability, inexpensive upkeep, and so much useful preparation information freely available for them from the local Renault factory competition Department. Also, active help was always offered to the privateers during the events by the factory support team if they needed it.

The most important Rally, with international accreditation was the: Total(petrol) LM (Lourenco Marques) Rally.

1962 event  1st overall    Renault Dauphine Gordini.           Phil Porter/Scamp Porter
1964 event        -"-           R8 (with early Alconi engine)                     -"-
1969 event        -"-           R8 Gordini                                    Swanepoel/Craus

After 1969, production of newer and heavier models of Renault, with front engines, started to come off the assembly lines, and the R8/10 model slowly became obsolescent, so factory racing support for these vehicles dried up. But privateers still continued to race for many seasons.

An overall Saloon car  lap record was held  at Kyalami (the only events in which the car competed) during 1968 and shared in 1969 by a 1300cc supercharged Alconi R8 (the engine was a 1296cc highly modified Gordini 1255cc) , and later an R10 when its body styling was upgraded.  

       Supporting race - 1968 S.A. Grand Prix at Kyalami. Supercharged 1296cc R8 (Gordini engined) leads the Modified Saloon Race ahead of a 2000cc Auto Delta Alfa GTA. (Jean Pierre Beltoise really really wanted it after the race!)

Supercharged 1296cc Gordini engined R10 competes for overall victory at Kyalami

Of notable interest to followers of Motorsport, Jody Scheckter, South Africa's only World Formula 1 Racing Champion, started his blossoming career in sprint races with his first car, while a first year apprentice, in a 1300cc Renault R8 with Gordini and Alconi modifications.

 The Alconi factory later supplied the equipment for the supercharged 1424cc engine with which Scheckter was able to compete and periodically take overall wins (in 1969/70) against 2000cc class BDA engined Ford Escorts, 2000cc GTA Alfa Romeo Sprints and a 7000cc Ford Galaxy.

Jody 'Sideways' Scheckter on Hesketh Circuit (Pietermaritzburg), 1969  Note tiremarks on doors (motorprint)

Towards the close of the 1960s decade, it is possible that 1300cc R10s (engine from the R12) might also have been offered from the assembly line.  By then, inevitably, newer and more modern front drive concepts (Renault 12) were in the pipeline to cater to the public's changing tastes.

Looking back at the results, these accomplishments look less than astonishing today.
However, it must be born in mind that Karl Benz, Daimler, Rudolf Diesel, Chevrolet, Peugeot, Louis Renault, Enzo Ferrari, Colin Chapman, even Galileo and the Wright Brothers were all enthusiastic pioneers, using only the really amateur tools at their disposal to make the admirable breakthroughs of their day.

As Carl Sagan expressed so eloquently, all the talented and energetic geniuses of today were able to stand on the shoulders of the originators and developers and see further.

The Renault R8 and R10 Alconi was only marketed off the showroom floor as new vehicles in South Africa.  Renault Africa also supplied conversion kits through their parts department.
It has become quite sought after as a collector car in that market.

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