Let's set one thing straight here. The retirement of a leading Formula One driver is often portrayed as some sort of tragedy – for the driver himself especially. But the truth of the matter is that for a former World Champion, the world is his oyster. Retired F1 drivers can go on to compete in virtually any racing discipline they wish, with nothing to prove in the process. Of contemporary retired World Champions, Hakkinen and Rosberg went to DTM, Mansell took the Indy title, Lauda's training to become an astronaut and Villeneuve's gone...well, everywhere. But Alain Prost has gone another route entirely.
Having retired from F1 in 1994 after his fourth World Championship, Alain started his own team. Prost Grand Prix eventually folded in 2002, and the following year, the French driver began competing in the Trophée Andros. The most prominent ice racing series in the world, the Andros Trophy is held primarily in France where it draws some big names. World Touring Car Champion Yvan Muller won the Andros Trophy ten times, but in 2006 and 2007, Prost took the title twice in a row, driving a specially prepared Toyota Auris. This year, however, the quadruple F1 champion will be driving this: the new Dacia Duster.
Although a production version of the budget SUV won't be unveiled until Geneva in March – a year after the concept version debuted there – the Romanian subsidiary of French automaker Renault has given the world a sneak preview with this ice-racing version. Specially built by Renaultsport – the same outfit that fields single-seater formulae and makes all those wonderful hot hatches – the Duster ice racer packs Nissan's highly decorated VQ engine: a 3.0-liter 24-valve V6, mounted in the middle (that is, behind the driver) of a tubular chassis, driving 350 horsepower through a six-speed sequential gearbox to all four wheels via limited slip differential and a mechanical four-wheel-steering system. A fiberglass body helps keep weight down to just 2,100 lbs – the minimum allowed in the series – which should help Prost keep his competition on ice and keep Dacia fans (like Top Gear's James May) cool until the production version hits proper tarmac. Check out the full details in the press release after the jump and photos in our high-res image gallery below.
Related GalleryDacia Duster Andros Trophy
A COMPETITION VERSION OF DACIA DUSTER TO CONTEST THE 2009/2010 TROPHÉE ANDROS IN THE HANDS OF ALAIN PROST
• Dacia, a brand of the Renault group, is to contest France's celebrated Trophée Andros ice-racing series. The brand, which is acclaimed for the unbeatable equipment and performance package its models deliver for their price, remains true to its reputation by appearing in a discipline where its presence was least expected: ice racing.
• Alain Prost will drive a competition version of Dacia Duster. The Frenchman chose Dacia for the values championed by the brand's vehicles, namely simplicity, efficiency and robustness. "I am delighted to be driving the Dacia Duster. It is a brand new vehicle, and I am proud to be able to play a part in its promotion to the unusual backdrop of the Trophée Andros. Thanks to the work put in by Renault Sport Technologies, I have every confidence in Dacia Duster's potential and
reliability which together point to an extremely exciting season," says Alain Prost.
• The announcement coincides with the revelation by Dacia of the name and design of the brand's sixth model, Duster. This robust and reliable 4X4 has an international calling and will target customers looking for an affordable everyday all-terrain vehicle.
• The Trophée Andros is a competition that stands apart in motor sport inasmuch as it places a cap on the use of complex and costly technological solutions, placing the emphasis instead on vehicle and driver ability. The Dacia brand has forged a reputation for challenging established thinking in the world of the automobile, permitting a whole new way to go motoring by delivering all the essentials... at just the right price.
AN UNPRECEDENTED PARTICIPATION FOR DACIA IN THE TROPHEE ANDROS
Dacia has chosen to base its challenge in the 2009/1010 Trophée Andros ice-racing season on the so- called 'Silhouette' category. All the circuits visited by the Trophée Andros put reliability to a particularly tough test, and this will give Dacia a chance to showcase the fact that robustness forms an integral part of the
brand's DNA. The discipline also places a cap on excessively complex and costly technical solutions, while the chassis, gearbox and tyres, for example, are all carefully covered by the regulations, forcing teams to explore simple, ingenious solutions, an approach which totally fits the Dacia spirit.
Dacia's newcomer will get its first taste of ice racing in the hands of Alain Prost, with the brand seeking to spring a surprise by using the campaign to premier Dacia Duster, the lines of which preview the 4X4 model that is due to go on sale in 2010. Dacia Duster's high body line and prominent wheel arches are clear pointers to its 4x4 credentials¸ while the coachwork of the competition version is perfectly suited to the specific demands of the Trophée Andros. The extensive front glazed surface area and the positioning of the windscreen pillars ensure outstanding foreword and lateral visibility.
The Trophée Andros stands out as one of motor sport's most exacting disciplines. Indeed, in ice racing, the track conditions can change very quickly as a function of prevailing weather conditions, and driving calls for precision, rigour and race-craft, three qualities which all come naturally to a champion of Alain Prost's calibre.
DACIA DUSTER PREPARED BY RENAULT SPORT TECHNOLOGIES
Over and above driver talent, the cars that contest the Trophée Andros undergo specific preparation.
The competition version of Dacia Duster has benefited extensively from the expertise acquired by Renault Sport Technologies in motor sport. Its glass-fibre body conceals a tubular chassis which houses a three-litre, 24-valve V6 engine from the Renault-Nissan Alliance range. This powerplant has been carefully tuned in order to optimize its performance potential at the high altitudes at which the races will be held. It delivers peak power of 350hp at 7,500rpm, and maximum torque of 360Nm at 5,500rpm. The six-speed sequential gearbox ensures fast, precise gearshifts, even when drifting through corners at full song. The mid-rear location of the engine illustrates the work that has gone into perfecting weight distribution, in compliance with the 950kg minimum weight requirement and with a view to keeping the centre of gravity low and minimizing polar inertia for enhanced control. The double wishbone suspension arrangement and long-travel dampers have been engineered to permit Dacia Duster to take the different terrains it promises to encounter during the Trophée Andros campaign in its stride.
The competition version of Dacia Duster is equipped with limited slip differentials which are indispensable for the extreme conditions. This feature, which is also seen on other Renault Sport Technologies-developed competition and road cars, ensures efficient traction performance irrespective of the amount of grip available, driving style or type of corner. The competition version of Dacia Duster also incorporates a four-wheel steering system for complete cornering line control. This mechanical system links the front and rear wheels, and can be rapidly adjusted to match the characteristics of each circuit.
DACIA DUSTER COMPETITION CAR – TECHNICAL DATA
Tubular steel chassis
Double wishbone suspension
Renault-Nissan Alliance VQ 30
Six cylinders (V6)
Number of valves: 24
Cubic capacity: 2,987cc
Bore x stroke: 93mm x 73.3mm
Maximum power: 257kW EEC (350hp) at 7,500rpm
Maximum torque: 360Nm EEC at 5,500rpm
Six-speed SADEV sequential gearbox
Front: 260mm-diameter vented steel discs
Rear: 265mm-diameter steel discs
5.5" x 16" (magnesium)
Tyres: Continental Racing Contact 3
DIMENSIONS / WEIGHT
Front/rear track: 1,690mm
Fuel tank capacity: 25 litres
150 000 DACIA VEHICLES SOLD IN FRANCE SINCE 2005
In the space of just four years since its launch in France in 2005, the Dacia brand has emerged as one of the French market's leading players. More than 150,000 Dacias have already been sold in the country since the saga began. Thanks to a market share of 2.3 per cent in 2009 (up to end-October 2009, VP and LCV market), Dacia today figures among France's 10 best-selling brands. Thanks to its range of robust, spacious and affordable vehicles, Dacia has forged a reputation for challenging existing thinking in the world of the automobile, permitting a whole new way to go motoring by delivering all the essentials... at just the right price. The current Dacia line-up in France features the Logan saloon, the Sandero hatchback, the Logan MCV estate and two utility vehicles, Logan van and Logan pick-up.
Born: February 24, 1955, in Lorette (Loire, France). Age: 54.
Four Formula 1 world titles: 1985 (McLaren), 1986 (McLaren), 1989 (McLaren) and 1993 (Williams-Renault).
First F1 win in 1981 with the Renault RE 30 at Dijon (French Grand Prix).
Grands Prix starts: 199.
51 wins / 41 fastest race laps / 33 pole positions / 798.5 World Championship points.
1997-2001: Director of Prost Grand Prix (Formula 1)
Alain Prost's ice racing record in brief:
- First race: Lans en Vercors (January 17-18, 2003)
- First win: L'Alpe d'Huez (December 13, 2003), with Toyota
- Race wins: 15 (including seven in 2006/2007)
- Best season: 2006/2007 (champion)
Overall championship position:
2003/2004 (Toyota): 2nd
2004/2005 (Toyota): 3rd
2005/2006 (Toyota): 2nd
2006/2007 (Toyota): 1st
2007/2008 (Toyota): 1st
2008/2009 (Toyota): 2nd
CAISSE D'EPARGNE, SPONSOR OF ALAIN PROST
Caisse d'Epargne's backing of Alain Prost in the Trophée Andros is the company's latest venture into the world of sport and reinforces its existing involvement in a whole range of disciplines. Caisse d'Epargne has long supported a high number of events at both regional and national level as part of its bid to share its taste for competition and sports meetings with active sportspeople and the public alike. In addition to being the title partner of the Caisse d'Epargne cycling team, one of the best in the world, Caisse d'Epargne also backs the French national soccer Cup, of which it has been an official sponsor since 2004.
This active commitment has seen Caisse d'Epargne and its 17 regional organisations emerge as leading players in French sport and, for the sixth year running, the company is backing Alain Prost's attempt to secure the Trophée Andros title, a programme that will be followed closely by its 42,000-strong workforce.
THE TROPHEE ANDROS
First organized in 1990, the Trophée Andros ice-racing series delivers a unique combination of speed and spectator value. The formula features a number of different classes, and the Dacia Duster will compete in the Silhouette category, the rules for which specify that the car's exterior appearance must resemble that of a vehicle that is either available on the market or about to be launched. The regulations strictly control the majority of the cars' major assemblies, including the tubular chassis, four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering systems, three-litre, 340hp V6 engine, six-speed gearbox and Continental Racing Contact 3 tyres.
Each Trophée Andros meeting comprises two days of action. The first day is given over to timed practice (no points awarded) followed by two qualifying heats. The heats see groups of four cars cover four laps each, the winner being the car which posts the best aggregate time. The best of the two attempts counts towards a classification which not only decides the starting grid for the finals but also accounts for 80 per cent of the points awarded at each meeting. The finals take place on the second day, with each race featuring 10 cars competing over a distance of 10 laps. The finals account for 20 per cent of the total points awarded.
December 5-6 Val Thorens
December 12-13 Andorre
December 18-19 Alpe d'Huez
January 8-9 Isola 2000
January 15-16 Lans en Vercors
January 23-24 Saint Die des Vosges
January 29-30 Clermont/SuperBesse (final)