Bob Bell took over as technical director (chassis) at Renault after the departure of Mike Gascoyne and had previously been deputy to Gascoyne so his promotion was not a big change in responsibilities. Executive director of engineering Pat Symonds...
Bob Bell took over as technical director (chassis) at Renault after the departure of Mike Gascoyne and had previously been deputy to Gascoyne so his promotion was not a big change in responsibilities. Executive director of engineering Pat Symonds has held his position for three years and Bernard Dudot is the deputy managing director of the engine facility at Viry-Châtillon, France.
Working long distance between Viry and Enstone in the UK is not a problem for Bell.
"It's never been better," he said of the relationship between the two. "Communications are excellent and our work together is generating interesting technical concepts: the relationship is exemplary and this has played a part in creating the R24. Furthermore, we benefit from working with a major manufacturer. Renault took the right approach letting Enstone work as a Formula One team but making their skills available to us. It's an ideal situation."
There has been much discussion in regard to the one engine per weekend rule and Symonds explained how things will evolve over the coming season. "The single engine per weekend regulations will make reliability extremely important during the season," he started. "Previously a failure during practice only meant the team's programme was delayed. Now it will either result in a penalty of ten positions on the grid, or being forced to start from last position, according to when it occurs."
"We are therefore concentrating on this area: we will be doing a large number of of race simulations during testing and more endurance on the dyno than before. During the race weekends we will also use the spare car differently. As for testing, it is a little bit like going back to 2002. We will deploy a 'traditional' testing programme so Franck (Montagny, test driver) has a lot of work ahead of him!"
As for the RS24 engine, Dudot explaied why Renault opted for a traditional 72 degree angle rather than continue with last year's wide-angle. "Our choice of engine was necessitated by the new regulations, which require the engines to last at least 800km, from Friday to Sunday at every race weekend. Our priority has therefore been zero-defect reliability."
"We decided to use a known quantity by adopting an architecture with a V angle of 72 degrees. This meant that there were no nasty surprises for us during development and allowed us to innovate where necessary. For example, the cylinder heads and a large number of the internal components of the RS24 are completely new. Finally, we haven't neglected performance: the level we have attained for the start of the season is very reassuring."
Like many others, Symonds predicts 2004 will be a closer fought season than ever: "From a general perspective, I think the battle for victory will be even tighter than in 2003. The teams will be closer in terms of performance; McLaren will be racing a new car and Williams are unlikely to have the same problems as they did in early 2003."
"Here at Renault we are confident. We know there are a few teams who will want to make life difficult for us, such as BAR or Jaguar, but we also know the progress we have made. This new car should allow us to continue our climb towards the top step of the podium."
Dudot is a hard task master but the team at Viry have met his demands: "I must admit I'm not easily pleased and I tend to be always wanting more but the 300 people involved in the RS24 project have done a good job. Our approach will be one of constant progress. The organization, our reactiveness and the quality of our work from the very start of the project, we are working in a good atmosphere. By April we will have achieved aq way of working which better corresponds to our objectives."
Bell knows that to achieve those objectives, a zero-tolerance stance to weakness must be made. "For 2004 we will not accept weakness in any areas," he declared. "If we want to compete for the World Championship, this is the philosophy we must abide by. Our people have always worked as hard as possible and they know that this needs to continue in the future: our performance relies on every individual's work."