Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Renault and Caterham join forces to build sports cars


THE problem with Renault's Wind was that it wasn't hardcore enough.

It was my kinda car; small, light, blessed with a clever roof which didn't ruin the shape, and underpinned with the same basic mechanicals you'll find in the Renaultsport Twingo 133. Yet the little roadster always lacked the bite of its hatchback sister, which I suspect is part of the reason why Renault quietly dropped the wind from its range last year.

Luckily, Renault's found an innovative solution to making its sports cars a touch more manic. It's brought its F1 partnership with Caterham onto the road, so the French automotive giant will join forces with the plucky Brit firm to design and build cars together, with the inevitable results getting the famed Alpine badge.

Renault chief Carlos Tavares said yesterday as the tie-up was announced: "Our ambitions of reviving Alpine depended on our ability to find a partner in order to ensure the economic profitability of such an adventure. Right from the start, we wanted to place the Dieppe plant at the heart of the project.

"Today, through our partnership with Caterham Group, we can enter a new phase:  the design of a vehicle that will embody the very essence of Alpine, a vehicle that will rekindle sporting passion once more. It could become a reality within the next three or four years."

It's the second sports car tie-up announced in the space of a year, after Fiat and Mazda teamed up to build an Alfa Spider with MX-5 mechanicals. However, if Renault matches the pedigree of its last proper sports car - the spectacular, race-bred Spyder - with Caterham's best known offering - the bonkers Seven R500 - then the Anglo-French efforts look set to interest the more hardcore end of the market.

Either way, it's encouraging to see that even in these tricky times, car makers still want to give us something to get excited about.

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