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The BBC's Gordon Fahquar
"Buying into a team which is up and running is an attractive proposition"
 real 28k

Thursday, 16 March, 2000, 17:08 GMT
Renault return after Benetton deal

Benetton use ex-Renault engines in their B200 car
The Benetton Formula One team has been sold to French motor giant Renault in a deal worth almost 80m.

The Italian clothing company will remain an official sponsor of the operation for two years.

The entire operation will then be rebranded as Renault for the 2002 season, with a brand new car and engine package.

The return of the most successful Grand Prix engine builder of the 1980s has been rumoured for some time.


Benetton's record
Debut and first race win 1986
Drivers champion, Michael Schumacher 1994, 1995
Constructors' champions 1995
27 Grand Prix wins
This deal allows the French to buy an established team in much the same manner as Ford obtained Stewart last year before renaming it Jaguar for this season.

Renault have not been officially involved in F1 since their engine helped Williams' Jacques Villeneuve win the 1997 world championship.

The same machinery also powered Michael Schumacher to the 1995 world title in a Benetton.


Renault's record
95 wins for engine, 15 of them in Renault car
Six constructors' world championship titles
Five drivers' world championship titles
But the team's recent results with their unofficial Renault Supertec engines have not captured their mid-1990s peak.

And the clothing firm believes it is no longer in its own interests to continue as a team-owner.

"Benetton made a great committment to Formula One racing that has brought us satisfaction beyond our wildest hopes," said chairman Luciano Benetton.

"But to guarantee the team the future it deserves in this new global context, it's better to change driver."

Cross-channel

Renault will build engines in France but the cars will continue to be manufactured at Benetton's current base near Oxford in England.

Long-serving team manager Flavio Briatore will continue in this role as well as leading the chassis-building programme.



Schumacher piloted Benetton and Renault to title glory in 1995
Until 2002 the team will continue to race as Benetton Supertec, while Renault builds and tests a brand new package.

"I said we would return one day to Formula One. It is the pinnacle of motorsport, a school of excellence for responsiveness, agility, technological skills," said Renault chairman Louis Schweitzer.

"I believe today that a Renault team has the capacity to win the world championship and I have every confidence in the men and women of Renault Sport."

The new owners are the third most successful engine-builder in the sport's history with 95 Grand Prix wins.

Most came when powering Willams and Benetton to world title glory in the 1990s but they pulled out three seasons ago citing rising costs and job losses in the French motor industry.

Renault also competed with their own chassis in the late 1970s and early 1980s, handing France's greatest F1 pilot Alain Prost his first drive and winning 15 Grand Prix.


Major motor money
Fiat own Ferrari
Ford own Jaguar
Mercedes have stake in McLaren
BMW invested in Williams
Honda back with BAR team
Toyota to come in for 2001
Peugeot supply Prost's engines
Ironically, Prost's own team is currently powered by Renault's domestic rivals Peugeot, one of a number of major motor manufacturers now involved in F1.

Renault's return allows them back into what is becoming a crucial battleground in the world motor industry.

Many multi-nationals are adding team ownership to their engine supply operations, with Fiat, Mercedes and BMW all owning all or part of leading teams.

Benetton's exit ends an association which began when the clothing company bought the Toleman team in 1986.

They won their first Grand Prix that year and the world drivers title with Michael Schumacher in 1994 and 1995.

The German left for Ferrari in 1996, taking the heart of the team with him, and since then Benetton's decline has seen them fall to sixth in last year's constructors' championship.

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See also:

12 Mar 00 | Motorsport
Schumacher triumphs in Australia
17 Jan 00 | Motorsport
Benetton in backroom reshuffle
09 Mar 00 | Motorsport
Benetton team profile
22 Dec 99 | Motorsport
Toyota wins FIA backing
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