In this issue we start a series that will go on until, if possible, we have
introduced all of the most popular machines in Groups I & II. We'll try to introduce
both versions of each model at the same time. If there's no Gr. I car available for some
model, we'll test the standard car. We start our series with Renault aka the 'Remington'
aka the 8 Gordini. In other words, the car whose official type is R1135, which really is
used quite seldomly.
The man behind this car's success on gravel roads is the long, thick-haired and ever so
quietly-spoken Jorma Lusenius.
Out of box Group I
What makes the R8 Gordini interesting is the fact that it doesn't require much
work for the Gr. I. And much work isn't even allowed, as just about every part needed and
homologated for the Gr. I is standard from the factory. This of course can be seen on the
car's relatively high price. The only modifications needed after the car has left the
retailer are: fitting of the underbody armors, changing the shock absorbers, fitting of
seat belts and roll cage and installing auxiliary lights. With this work done, the car is
ready for Gr. I rallying.
On good-surfaced roads, the car is excellent to drive and the progress is fast. Even
though the steering is quite slow, it doesn't matter too much because the car is somewhat
keen to oversteer, thanks to the weight distribution. And it's just the oversteering
tendency that demands fairly precise approach at the steering wheel to make the progress
fast and fluid.
Entering bumpy, poor-surfaced roads reveals the car's worst deficiency. The front
suspension easily bottoms out. Longer and stiffer front springs would be required. The
rear suspension with double shock absorbers on each side is very sturdy and good.
And the Group II car?
Cars modified for the Gr. II are quite a thing of their own. The similarities to
standard cars are usually confined to only the body looking standard. Let's take a look at
Jorma Lusenius' car which, unlike many other car makes, differs very little from the
- The differences in the body: Double front inner wings (for added strength) and wheel
- The suspension is completely different, shock absorbers as in the Gr. I.
- Main lights have been changed to halogen units (allowed in the Gr. I as well, but the
standard alternator can't cope).
- A smaller front fuel tank to make the front lighter (standard 25 litres, now 1.5
- Faster steering ratio. Standard car has 3.2 turns lock-to-lock, this car has 2.5 turns.
- A smaller steering wheel fitted.
- Seats changed for bucket seats.
- Electrically heated windscreen.
- All sound isolation has been removed (undersealing, body sealing and sound absorbing
materials under the interior trim).
- The following wheel sizes can be used: 4.5 x 15, 4.5/5.0/5.5 x 13.
- "Rubber bypass pieces" are used for the gearbox mounting. It means that the
gearbox is practically bolted solid to the rear crossmember. This is to prevent the car
jumping out of gear on a bumpy surface.
- Gear ratios have been changed (the new Gr. II regulations allow the ratios to be chosen
entirely to everyone's need and taste).
- A stronger clutch fitted.
- Engine modifications: The crankshaft and connecting rods balanced. Pistons changed for
ones with a larger bore to raise the cubic displacement from 1255 to 1296 cc. The cylinder
head inlet and outlet ports reworked for a better flow. A slice of 0.5 mm taken from the
cylinder head. Camshaft changed. Valves lightened, valve springs changed. The exhaust
header and silencer changed (the header type Alpine). Electric fuel pump. Fan blades
shortened by a couple of centimeters. A stronger alternator fitted (standard 400 W, this
car 750 W).
The feelings after modifications
A Gr. II modified rallycar is anything but an ideal family car for city
commuting. But wait. Let's get out of the town and find a suitable gravel road with no
speed limit. That's where you notice that all these modifications have been made for a
good reason. The car really goes, if you just care to give a slightest of hint to the
engine room. Lusenius has really set up his car's suspension well, it feels like the
machine just loves every bump in the road. After a jump, the car lands evenly on all four
wheels. There are no unnerving movements after landing, the car being perfectly in
control. The brake pressure limiting valve is adjusted so that the rear wheels brake a bit
earlier than the front ones. This is to prevent getting into "panic brakings".
In other words, it is extremely difficult to go out of the road front first. Even in the
tightest of situations, the car turns.
The feeling of the Gr. I and II cars is completely different. A speed suitable for relaxed
traveling in the Gr. II car, means taking quite a risk in the Gr. I car.
If we can test both group R12 Gordinis next spring, remains to be seen.
Above: Gr. I & II cars. Position of cars reveals differences in
suspension. Gr. II front clearly higher than standard.
Above: Standard header (left) differs significantly from Alpine header
used in Gr. II (right).
Above: Only difference at back is silencer. Lower picture shows Gr. II
transversally mounted silencer, upper picture standard car.