FEBRUARY 3, 1997

Williams to use Mecachrome V10s

RENAULT says it is to sell its Formula 1 engine secrets to precision engineering company Mecachrome and that these units will be used by Williams in 1998 and 1999. The World Champions will, however, have to pay for its V10s.

"That's painful," admitted Frank Williams, "but it is a reliable product. I hope we will not have to pay for our engines forever."

The deal has all the signs of being a way in which the recently-privatized Renault can save money and thus keep its shareholders and its sometimes difficult unions happy in what are difficult times for French companies - without breaking up the core of Bernard Dudot's Renault Sport technical team at Viry-Chatillon. It must, therefore, be regarded as an indication that Renault intends to return to F1 when the French economy picks up.

Coincidentally, last week Renault chairman Louis Schweitzer said that the company may return to F1 "in three or four years".

Mecachrome is part of the Renault F1 "family" and has been doing sub-contract work for Renault since 1974. Between 1983-86 Mecachrome prepared Renault's V6 turbo engines for use by Renault Sport's customer teams.

When Ligier concluded a three-year deal to run Renault V10 engines in 1992 Mecachrome was called in to prepare these engines and for the last two seasons Williams and Benetton have both been using Mecachrome-built engines as the company has split the work - on a random basis - with Renault Sport.

In fact Renault Sport remains only a part of Mecachrome's business with the company undertaking other precision-engineering projects for customers such as the state-owned aerospace firm Aerospatiale (which makes Concorde, satellites, Exocet missiles and helicopters), the Societe Nationale d'Etude et de Construction de Moteurs d'Aviation (which builds jet engines) and Automobiles Peugeot. It has 440 employees.

Mecachrome SA was founded in 1939 and is owned by Mecachrome (Financiere) SA, a holding company which is 70% controlled by the Casella Family. Mecachrome's current chairman is Gerald Casella.

The company's F1 manager Jean-Yves Houe says that the company is planning to use F1 to promote the company's engineering skills and he is planning to put together a team of engineers to run the V10s at the race tracks and recruit a research & development group to continue the work done by Renault.

Our sources say that the deal involves Renault Sport engineers being seconded to Mecachrome's headquarters at Aubigny-sur-Nere, near Bourges in central France.

Mecachrome says it is willing to supply one other team in addition to Williams - although anyone who wants Mecachrome engines will have to pay for the privilege.

A company selling its engines - or even loaning them - to another operation is not unusual in F1. In 1992 Mugen took over the old Honda V10 engine program (although Honda R&D engineers continue to be involved) and many observers reckon that when Honda is ready it will simply take over the Mugen program once again.