Sam Philip22 May 2012

SCOOPED: Renault’s 400bhp sports car

Alpine A110-50 concept to hit Monaco GP on Friday. And TG has more info than ANYONE else

Renault Alpine

Good news! Renault will unleash this 400bhp mid-engined Alpine sports car concept around the Monaco GP circuit on Friday. More good news! It's going into production. Almost definitely. Probably.

Bad news! At this stage, we can only show you this one grainy picture which leaked onto the internet today. But Top Gear can reveal world-exclusive details on the A110-50, with a whole lot more to come on Friday.

Here's the official line: the A110-50 simply celebrates 50 years since the introduction of the Alpine A110, the legendary Renault-engined sports car of the Sixties and Seventies that won the inaugural World Rally Championship in 1973.

If you've never heard of Alpine, shame on you: founded in 1955, the French company built its name on a succession of beautiful, lightweight sports cars that used Renault engines. Incorporated into the Renault mothership in the 1970s, Alpine won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1978 before the name was abandoned in the early 1990s.

A name worthy of revival then, and, after the marketing flop that was the reintroduction of Gordini - a bit of blue paint and a few decals on RS hot hatches - Renault is determined to treat Alpine with respect.

Which means this is no it'll-never-happen concept: the A110-50 previews a future mid-engined Renault sports car that, with a fair following wind, WILL enter production.

"If we don't succeed in bringing Alpine back now, we will never succeed," a Renault insider told us. "We didn't want a Renaultsport with an Alpine sticker. We wanted to do a proper race car."

And the A110-50 is indeed a proper race car. Our insider confirmed the Alpine concept is based around the Renaultsport Megane race car, meaning a tubular spaceframe, an 880kg kerbweight and a 3.5-litre V6 wedged behind the driver and sending around 400bhp to the rear wheels.

However, we're told a production version would more likely use an all-new platform and some iteration of the Megane RS's 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, producing at least 300bhp. Target weight? Under one tonne. Lively...

If you're getting a hint of 2010's Renault DeZir concept, spot on: the A110-50 takes the DeZir's basic shape and adds lots of tasty race bits - big wing, NACA duct, plenty of carbon fibre - plus some retro Alpine-inspired cues: those LED rings either side of the central badge echo the original A110's inboard headlights.

Renault bosses are desperate to bring the Alpine to the road, but admit they might require another automotive partner besides Nissan to make the sums add up. If given the green light, the production car would likely be built at Renaultsport's Dieppe plant; fittingly, the old Alpine factory.

We'll bring you a whole lot more when the A110-50 takes to Monaco's F1 track on Friday. For now, does the thought of a mid-engined, two-seater, Renaultsport-fettled sports car float your Monte Carlo yacht?

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