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Prodrive 'to buy Renault F1 team' in days
08 December 2009 16:27
Prodrive is poised to buy the ING Renault F1 team within days, CAR understands. A deal is likely to be announced to staff this week, as Renault retreats from its Formula One activities – although some sources suggest the French car maker will keep a 25% stake in its race team.
If Prodrive does beat Luxembourg businessman Gerard Lopez to secure the Renault team, it'll bring to fruition Prodrive founder Dave Richards' dream to run an F1 outfit. DR looked at buying the Honda F1 outfit when the Japanese car maker pulled out, but reportedly baulked at the high price that came with a state-of-the-art F1 team complete with sophisticated wind tunnel.
So why is Prodrive hoping to buy the ING Renault F1 team?
The value of the anticipated buy-out hasn't been announced yet, but the price must have been right to open Richards' chequebook. Our senior source, close to the negotiations, said the deal was due to be settled on Wednesday 9 December at a board meeting in Paris, with the deal confirmed publicly early next week.
Prodrive has been searching for a prominent motorsport project, as other areas of its business have wound down.
It no longer runs a WRC team, after Subaru pulled out; one of its engineering sites in the Midlands has closed; and one of the few top-tier projects underway is the Aston Martin Racing team, which is successfully run by Prodrive.
When will the Prodrive-Renault deal be formalised?
It seems likely that Prodrive will run Renault's F1 team for the 2010 season, although some reports suggest the Renault name will in fact continue. It will mark a fresh start for a team rocked by scandal in the past season; disgraced team principal Flavio Briatore was handed a lifetime ban by the FIA for his involvement in the Crashgate scandal, which badly damaged Renault's reputation on the circuit.
A new Prodrive-managed Renault team would inherit Robert Kubica, who's already signed for 2010; the second seat remains open. Would Prodrive strike a deal with Renault to supply engines? That's one of the big questions that will vex F1 fans for the coming months.
Spokesmen at Renault and Prodrive refused to comment this evening, saying they don't comment on rumours. CAR Online will be adding updates to this story in the next 24 hours.
If the deal is confirmed, we can't wait to hear of DR's plans – he used to run the Benetton F1 team before Renault bought it, so he's hardly a newcomer to this F1 lark.
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