Suisse dreams in an R5T

Classic Cars (UK) - - Our Cars -

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

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