One of the most influential names in recent British motor sport history is making a comeback. Adrian Reynard is launching a road-legal racer with an ‘open source’ business model and a plan to radicalise the club racing scene. Developed in partnership with engineer Andre Brown, the Inverter (right) will be raced by Reynard himself.
The racing driver, engineer and entrepreneur transformed Reynard Motorsport from a backyard hobby into the world’s largest racing car manufacturer. Reynard cars won the Indy 500 twice, but over-expansion and a collapse in the demand for Champ Car chassis saw it go bankrupt in 2002.
Since then Reynard has been building up his Auto Research Centre in Indianapolis. Part-funded by his sale of shares in the BAR F1 team, it boasts a half-scale wind tunnel used by NASCAR and Indycar teams, as well as the likes of Honda, Ford and Chrysler.
The US facility is also developing aerodynamic aids for trucks, “achieving double-digit percentage gains in fuel consumption” according to Reynard.
Against this backdrop, his decision to build a track day special seems perverse. He has “paid for the ﬁrst car and ﬁnanced the project to this point,” but maintains that, “the Inverter is a hobby. It’s a semi-retirement ploy and not a new car company.”
His ‘hobby’ is being led by Brown, an engineer who worked at the Auto Research Centre. “Andre has developed the concept based on my principles,” says Reynard.
The Inverter is a road-legal, £35,000 track car that weighs 440kg, uses suspension derived from the Lotus Elise and is powered by a 180bhp Honda Fireblade motorbike engine. Developed in the Indianapolis wind tunnel, it is claimed to produce 1200kg of downforce and achieve lateral loads of 3g on slick tyres.
Its philosophy is similar to that of the Radical, but crucially Brown has adopted an ‘open-source’ approach. Just as computer software company Mozilla allows developers to contribute to the web browser Firefox, Brown will allow other engineers to develop his car, with CAD drawings posted on website reynardracingcars.com
Brown is in effect giving away the intellectual property rights to his car, something that is usually ﬁercely guarded. Reynard admits he “struggles to ﬁgure the business case” but reckons it’s an important differentiator.
For Brown, it gives engineers the freedom to contribute to the car’s design. He thinks one-make series have become “overpriced monopolies” with “no scope for engineering input”.
According to his model, suppliers will compete to offer the same or similar parts, fostering innovation and promoting value and customer service. If an engineer designs a better rear wing, he can sell it to Inverter owners.
Brown hopes suppliers will retail them through the ofﬁcial website, enabling him to make a small proﬁt margin. With all the components sourced from suppliers, Reynard will have no ﬁxed abode – the company will be ‘virtual’.
The Inverter has been built to meet 750 Motor Club rules, the series in which Reynard ﬁrst made his name. He reckons the enterprise is more difﬁcult now than in the ’70s: “The days when you could chalk up a car in the workshop are over. A different skill set is required and there’s some hard graft ahead.”
Brown is optimistic he can shake up the establishment just as his mentor did. Other ideas include plans for an electric Inverter. If the open source idea works, we may witness the second coming of Adrian Reynard.