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Renault Indycar bound in 1998?

RENAULT Sport boss Patrick Faure said in Brazil 10 days ago that he did not know the company's plans in F1 after 1997 - although most of the F1 circus is assuming that Renault will stay on in Grand Prix racing where it has enjoyed a dominant position since 1992. The Renault Sport men know, however, that their success has already achieved the intended aims, and while continuing to win would be a bonus, there is the chance that a rival manufacturer will, in the end, overhaul Renault.

There is, therefore, a discussion going on within Renault about the value of continuing in F1 in the long-term and risk a performance slide, or to quit at the top and do something else. F1 has proved to be a hugely successful marketing tool for Renault, gaining the company a sporting image. F1 has also been "very useful" for Renault's marketing in Latin America - the company's major target market in the years ahead.

Although initial rumors that Renault Sport might be considering Indycar racing were discounted because Renault has not been involved in the North American market since it sold American Motors to Chrysler in 1987. The market penetration and popularity of Indycar racing in Latin America, however, is growing fast and Renault may decide that a switch to Indycars would prove to be a better marketing decision.

The decision for 1998 is to be made within the next two months - and is likely to be announced at the French GP in early July. If Renault does decide to pull out, Williams, Benetton and Ligier will all be looking for new engines for 1998 and that is likely to shake up the existing market as manufacturers take advantage of the opportunity to work with one of the two top teams.

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