The Motor Sport Month - International News

Boost for Formula E
Renault commits to electric racing concept.
By Gary Watkins

Renault had no choice but to become involved in next year's FIA Formula E Championship for electric vehicles, according to chief executive officer Carlos Tavares.

Tavares revealed that the position of Renault and sister marque Nissan as the world leaders in EV sales was the driving force for the technical partnership between Formula E and the French car giant.

"The instructions I gave to the team involved in negotiations were very simple," he said. "I explained that we are the leader in EV sales in Europe and the Renault-Nissan alliance is the worldwide leader in EV sales, so if Formula E exists, we are in.

"I think that racing downtown in cities is going to be very powerful in terms of marketing and communicating to the people that Renault is mastering the technology of zero-emission cars. That's why I was very happy that we could conclude a deal."

Under the agreement, the newfor-2014 one-make Formula E racer commissioned by Spark Racing Technology in France will be known as a Spark-Renault. The French car manufacturer will oversee the integration of the McLaren-developed electric powertrain into the chassis, which is being built by Dallara.

Tavares said: "We are not supplying parts specifically. Our role is to oversee technical management of all the entities involved in the EV powertrain. The objective is to use the competencies of our powertrain engineering division, Renault Sport Technologies [which oversees Renault's non-F1 racing activities] and our Formula 1 department to manage the overall complexity of the powertrain."

Formula E is due to kick off in September 2014 with a 10-event winter series. The organisers have repeatedly made it clear that the category will evolve into a class of racing in which manufacturers can showcase their own technology, and they believe this can happen by the second season.

Tavares explained that this was an attractive proposition for Renault. "Renault, as a company, loves competition, something we have demonstrated during our 35 years in F1 and throughout our history," he said. "If that situation comes up, I do not imagine that we would be insensitive to the opportunity to showcase our mastery of the technology. But so far it is a little bit soon to talk about that."

Images of the definitive Spark Formula E racer were revealed at the same time as the Renault announcement. The new car is powered by electric motors pushing out 200kW/270bhp in qualifying and 133kW/180bhp in the race, with a push-to-pass facility that takes the power output back to qualifying levels.

Each driver will have to make a minimum of one pitstop to change cars during the one-hour race. The first car will then be put on charge, giving the option for the driver to return to it later in the race.

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Rockingham changes loom

The new owners of the Rockingham Motor Speedway might change the Northamptonshire track's name and layout.

New circuit boss Peter Hardman, best known as a sports car and historic racer, said it was important that the venue's name reflected its usage. He added that Rockingham's 1.47-mile quad-oval was not part of its core business.

"Rockingham probably needs to drop the 'Motor Speedway' bit of its name," said Hardman. "We need to change perceptions and make it clear that we are a well-used race track."

Hardman explained that revisions to two commonly used infield road course layouts, which incorporate Turn One of the oval, are under discussion. The addition of a major international race is also a possibility.

"We would look at anything that is commercially viable," he said. "We would like a big international meeting, but we are not going to fund events."

Hardman stressed that motor racing was safe at Rockingham following the acquisition of the circuit — and the site's Priors Hall housing development — by Jersey-based investment group Grey Rock, which is headed by sometime endurance racer Stuart Wright.

"If the property deal wasn't right, Stuart wouldn't have bought Rockingham," Hardman said, "but the track was the icing on the cake for him.

"It is business as usual here at Rockingham, and in the coming months we will be looking at how to develop that business."

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Perrinn joins LMP1 fray

A British Motor Sport engineering company has launched the design of an all-new LMP1 prototype to be built to the 2014 rules.

Perrinn Limited, set up by former Williams Formula 1 race engineer and aerodynamicist Nicolas Perrin, has completed the design of the car and is now looking for a customer in order to start the build. Perrin believes the car can be up and running inside four months from the first sale.

"The car is finished and ready to be built," he said. "The market is small, but we believe there is a market and that we are talking to the right people.

"All the suppliers have been lined up and we know who is going to make what. The building blocks are in place."

The car, which is currently known at the Perrinn LMP1, is pitched at customer teams and has been designed for a variety of engines.

It could race in the non-hybrid sub-class open to privateers, or with energy retrieval, and has been designed to take one of the off-the-shelf systems currently available.

Perrin believes that his customer car is at a more advanced stage than any of the other projects presently in progress. Japanese constructor Dome is also working on a 2014-specification car, as is Honda Performance Development.

Perrin previously reworked the Aston Martin AMR-One into the Judd-powered Pescarolo 03 that was completed just ahead of last year's Le Mans 24 Hours, but that project subsequently had to be abandoned through lack of funds.