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Renault plan attacking defence 31 Jan 2006

2006 Renault F1 Team R26 Launch
Grimaldi Hotel, Monaco. 31st January 2006. Patrick Faure and Flavio Briatore, with drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Fernando Alonso and Heikke Kovalainen. © Peter Spinney/LAT Photographic

Renault officially unveiled their 2006 world championship challenger, the R26, in Monaco on Tuesday, with the promise of an aggressive defence of the team's double world championship.

Last year the R25 helped make Fernando Alonso the youngest drivers’ champion in Formula One history and also ensured Renault became the first mainstream car manufacturer to claim the constructors’ crown.

And as the wraps came off its successor in front of world-wide media and VIP guests in Monte-Carlo, those behind the new car said they have every intention of repeating their 2005 successes.

"In terms of performance objectives, there can be only one: to be fighting for the world championship in the final races," explained Renault F1 Team President Patrick Faure. "We enter the year with an unchanged line-up in our management, our drivers and our technical team. Everybody at Viry and Enstone has been working to prepare a technical package capable of keeping us at the top. Complacency has no place at Renault. We are focused on repeating our successes."

The move from 3-litre V10s to 2.4-litre V8s has necessitated the design and development of a brand new engine for the R26 by Renault’s team at Viry-Chatillon in France. This project has been led since its inception in September 2004 by Leon Taillieu, under the leadership of Engine Technical Director Rob White.

"The RS26 is a brand new engine, which has been designed to exploit the new regulations to the maximum," explained White. "The regulations now impose many parameters of engine design, such as a minimum weight limit, a fixed architecture and even the centre of gravity. We have taken a pragmatic approach with the aim of producing a winning engine. The dialogue with our colleagues on the chassis team has been open and extensive, to produce the best possible overall package. We have approached the V8 project with relish, and high ambitions."

The R26 chassis is the work of a team led by Chief Designer Tim Densham and guided by Chassis Technical Director Bob Bell, and the car represents an aggressive evolution of Renault’s design philosophy from 2005. Although the aerodynamic regulations have remained stable, the team has designed a brand new package to further optimise chassis performance.

"We have worked on improving the car in every area," revealed Bell. "We have integrated the challenges posed by the new V8 engine, and continued on our performance development path. The most striking visual difference comes in the smaller sidepods on the car, but the entire aerodynamic package is new. We will also use a 7-speed gearbox, to best exploit the power and torque characteristics of the new engine. Of course, we have also worked to maintain the positive handling characteristics that made the car easy to drive last year. The R26 is an aggressive statement from the team, and it says that we mean to stay on top in 2006."

The R26 ran for the first time in Jerez, Spain on January 10, and has since completed over 2700 km in the hands of both race drivers. Initial indications on both performance and reliability have been very encouraging, leaving the team’s Managing Director Flavio Briatore in optimistic mood ahead of the first Grand Prix in Bahrain in March.

"We have a simple rule: the priority is what makes the car go faster," he concluded. "We are proud of the efficiency of the team. Last year, Renault won the championship with three times' less money than some of our competitors. There is always pressure at the start of a championship, and there is no point hiding from it now. 2005 was an exceptional season for us, and we hope to do it again this year."

Renault continue this season with an unchanged race driver line-up of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella. Finnish star Heikki Kovalainen is the team’s official third driver.