While the Renault test team is hard at work in Spain, the engine technical group at Viry is gearing up for 2007 -- and a special anniversary.
The 2007 season will mark a significant change in working practice for the engine development groups throughout Formula 1. With the pending introduction of engine homologation rules, the teams will, for the first time in many years, not be designing a brand new engine for the coming season. Instead, all teams will run with versions of their 2006 engine, modified to meet the new 2007 rules. Rob White, technical deputy managing director at Viry, explained how work is progressing.
Q: Rob, the team at Viry-Chatillon has won consecutive world titles with two very different engines. How big a source of pride is that?
Rob White: Every single person at Viry is extremely proud of what we have achieved over the past two seasons. To become the final champions of the V10 era, and the first of the V8 period, is a unique achievement. Some elements of our approach for 2006 were criticised, but the engine won its first race. That was a powerful statement. And by the end of the year, the RS26 had proved itself to be a top-line F1 engine in the only way that matters: by scoring more points than any other during the season. That reflected not only the hard work we had done at Viry, but also the constant improvements in communication and collaboration with our colleagues at Enstone.
Q: The focus is now firmly on 2007. How is the programme progressing?
RW: The programme for 2007 is significantly different to previous years. It will be year two of the V8 engine regulations but most importantly, we will not be designing a brand new engine.
Q: Is that a major change for you?
RW: Very much so. Since 2001, Viry has produced a significantly different engine each season. For 2007, though, the regulations impose the use of the unit we ran in China/Suzuka as the basis of our new engine, with a rev limit fixed at 19,000 rpm. Initially, our task is to re-optimise the RS26 to meet this new restriction. Subsequently, we are allowed to work on optimising the engine's installation in the chassis.
Q: What are the major milestones for this project?
RW: There are two. By 15 December, all the engine manufacturers must submit to the FIA a declaration of the modifications to their engine relative to the Suzuka 2006 version. Then, by 1 March 2007, they must supply the FIA with an example of the modified engine. We are working with these two key dates in mind.
Q: The team will also supply Red Bull with engines in 2007. What impact has that had?
RW: It is a positive move for Renault, and for the team at Viry. Firstly, it will reinforce Renault's presence in the sport in association with a high-profile competitor. Secondly, it allows us to compensate for some of the impact of the reduction in engine development activity brought about through the regulations. Obviously, the agreement has also had an impact on the structure of our trackside support operations, as we prepare to run four engines at every race and test rather than just two. Those changes are now being finalised, with a view to the beginning of our engine supply agreement in January 2007.
Q: Will supplying two teams be an extra burden for the team?
RW: No. The teams at Viry have extensive experience of supplying multiple teams, and it forms part of Renault's F1 tradition as well as our core skills. Our customer engines have won 80 Grands Prix in the past. Red Bull will use units to the same specification as the works team. We will seek to take advantage of that during our pre-season preparations, as we will have twice as much data from track testing than we would otherwise have had.
Q: Finally, Viry-Chatillon celebrates its 30th anniversary this week...
RW: There is great pride in the heritage of Viry-Chatillon and its achievements over the past thirty years. This is the place that introduced the turbocharged engine to Formula 1 in 1977, took six consecutive constructors' titles from 1992 to 1997, and has become only the fourth driver-team combination in history to achieve the 'double double' of world championships. Looking back over the last thirty years, Renault has won eight constructors' world championships -- second only to Ferrari. It is a formidable achievement that commands real respect, and a testament to the hard work and competitive spirit of all our personnel.
30 years of innovation and expertise
This week, the Renault F1 Team's engine factory in Viry-Chatillon celebrates thirty years in Formula 1. Sitting proudly above the A6 autoroute just south of Paris, the site welcomed Renault Sport in 1976. Before than, the sporting arm of the French manufacturer had been based in Dieppe, in western France.
In its first years, the factory -- which was significantly smaller than now -- produced both the chassis and engine of the Renault Turbo cars, which were driven by Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Rene Arnoux. These walls housed the knowledge and determination that earned Renault its first successes in Formula 1. Driven by innovators such as Bernard Dudot, Gerard Larrouse, Francois Castaing and others, the story had begun.
As the 1990s approached, the Viry-Chatillon site became home to another technology that Renault would make its own: the V10 engine. This famous unit won drivers' world championships in the hands of Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve, and took six consecutive constructors' championships from 1992 to 1997 with the Williams and Benetton teams.
Today, after two consecutive world title successes in 2005 and 2006, the Renault F1 Team's engine base is proud to have won eight constructors' championships in its twenty five seasons in the sport. During the thirty years since Renault's F1 debut, only Ferrari has won more titles, and this exceptional track record is testament to technical expertise of the highest order.
"Renault has been a benchmark in Formula 1 for thirty years," commented Rob White. "Our successes today are built on the foundations laid by the turbo pioneers three decades ago, and supported by the might of the entire Renault Group. We are proud to be the guardians of this heritage, and are working flat out to ensure we can continue our success in the coming years."
A selection of high-resolution photos from the past 30 years of Renault F1 success can be downloaded by clicking on this link. Login: mediaf1; password: mediacentre.
To the victors, the spoils
After a season of world championship success, it is only appropriate that the men and women responsible should receive recognition for their achievements. Race Engine Technology magazine has elected the RS26 V8 engine as its 'Grand Prix Race Engine of the Year 2006' while Rob White was named '2006 Race Engine Designer of the Year' by RaceTech magazine, during a ceremony held this week in London.