Suisse dreams in an R5T
Departure time and with about 750 miles ahead of us our chills, if not multiplying, were definitely building – everywhere that is except in the air as El Scorchio arrived with 32 deg C weather. Cue some nervous fretting about the R5T keeping its cool – which on the spin from London to Ashford I’m pleased to report it did.
No, it was the ever-worsening lack of power that had us losing self-control and threatened to turn destination Geneva into a pipe dream. Articulated lorries battered past us at a lofty 35mph on the M20 as we begged the Gallic motoring gods in vain for access to all the Turbo’s horses.
Cue a quick service station stop, where we found an HT lead had worked its way loose. After an easy fix all was well with our world again. Thankfully, the rest of our journey in Blighty proved as pleasurable as the first section had been excruciating.
Once through the Channel Tunnel we were released into the R5T’S natural habitat. Visiting France always seems like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland – surreal, as the UK’S pitted, angst-ridden and overcrowded motorways fade to memory, replaced by kilometre after kilometre of smooth, empty autoroute. At Saint-quentin we left the A26 for a cross-country play before arriving in Reims in the early evening.
Next morning we took in the grandstands of the old Reims-gueux motor racing circuit, attempting communication in our finest Franglish with local petrolheads and admiring their cars, including an Alfa Romeo SZ, Merc 190 SL, Porsche 356B and Corvette Sting Ray.
Biding them adieu, we drove due east to the WWI citadel city of Verdun for an eerie and chastening visit. Tickling the western fringes of the Parc Naturel Regional de Lorraine, we then spent a memorable afternoon barrelling along majestic D-roads via Neufchâteau and Langres to Dijon. Our journey could best be described as a hazily pre-defined zigzag, but we’d allowed ourselves plenty time to test the rebuilt engine and suspension in our empty European playground.
The best, though, was reserved for the final day and an epic climb over the Jura Mountains. Driving nirvana with even the ever-rising temperature failing to dampen our spirits, if not our backs.
Then came the reality of rush hour traffic in Geneva where despite only having a single fan – many upgrade to a twin arrangement – the R5T admirably maintained its cool. While there we popped into Kidston SA where I interviewed managing director Emanuele Collo for this month’s Hot 30 and shared a cup of tea with him and proprietor-cum
Classic Cars columnist Simon Kidston. The contrast couldn’t have been more striking – two debonair gents and two sweaty growlers who had spent three exceedingly hot days in a Renault 5 Turbo – the gents’ envy was palpable.
Empty French roads give Ross and Richard a great chance to test the car’s rebuilt engine and suspension
A quick pitstop at the old Reimsgueux circuit