Dacia Duster Trophée Andros – Click above for high-res image gallery
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.