New Formula Renault 3.5 racer unveiled at Silverstone

Formula One drivers aren't born, they're made. Sure, a select few enter life with otherworldly reflexes, a sixth sense for speed and the financial backing needed to make it to the top. But there's a whole mess of steps they need to take before they can get there. And for many – take Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica as a couple of examples – one of those steps is the World Series by Renault. Now, after a long period of development, series organizers have released the new Formula Renault 3.5 that will serve as the training wheels for the next generation of grand prix pilots.

The new FR3.5 is built around a chassis developed with Dallara and packs a 530-horsepower V8 engine furnished by Zytek. Compared with the model it replaces, the latest single-seater is composed of 70 percent new parts, packs 50 more horsepower and is 15 kilos (33 pounds) lighter. As a result, testing showed it to be 2.6 seconds quicker around Spain's Aragon circuit in Spain than the current model.

It also packs the latest carbon brakes, specially developed Michelin slicks and even a DRS variable rear wing like the one currently used in F1, all there to help aspiring drivers gain their footing on the run up to the big leagues. 26 new cars will be delivered to eager teams in January ahead of the first test session of the WSR season in March. While they're waiting, you can scope it out right now in our high-res image gallery and the press release after the jump.
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As Silverstone hosted the first ever Formula One Grand Prix and is one of the most iconic circuits in the motorsport world, there was no better place to unveil the new Formula Renault 3.5. Teams and drivers were introduced to Renault Sport Technologies' brand new single-seater on Saturday, while the British public caught their first glimpse of the car on Sunday morning. They heard the roar of its new V8 530 bhp engine for the first time in an exciting, on-track demonstration by Romain Grosjean. The new Formula Renault 3.5 will make its competitive debut next season in the World Series by Renault.

The Formula Renault 3.5 was first launched in 2005 as part of the World Series by Renault and has received several modifications over the years. However, the newest version of the single-seater – developed by Renault Sport Technologies and its various technical partners – promises to take the series to a whole new level. The new Formula Renault 3.5 is more powerful than its predecessor and boasts a number of cutting-edge features, whilst complying with the latest safety regulations and fitting comfortably within season budgets. It shares even more common features with a Formula One car, making it the ideal vehicle in which to prepare drivers for the unparalleled demands of F1 competition.

The new Dallara chassis is an evolution of the current frame with radically different front and rear wings and cockpit. Overall, compared with the current model, around 70 per cent of the new Formula Renault 3.5's parts are brand new.

The new car's two main innovative features are its Drag Reduction System (DRS) and the absence of a battery and starter. Like the DRS system used in Formula One, drivers simply press a button on the steering wheel to increase the airflow through the rear wing and reduce the level of downforce, giving their car a straight-line speed boost. DRS, which was developed using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) before undergoing wind tunnel tests, helps improve aerodynamic efficiency and increases performance at a minimal cost.

In addition to its new, Zytek Engineering-developed V8 530 bhp engine, the new Formula Renault 3.5 features a new gearbox, a pneumatic clutch control and a state-of-the-art electronic system. It also boasts cutting-edge carbon brakes and new tyres specially developed by Michelin.

The new car is 50 bhp more powerful and 15 kg lighter than the current model, despite the discipline's latest, more stringent safety measures. It also features anti-intrusion panels and a considerably improved power-to-weight ratio – all comfortably within season budgets.

The Formula Renault 3.5 Series has been a real springboard to Formula One over the years, as Robert Kubica, Sebastian Vettel, Jaime Alguersauri and most recently Daniel Ricciardo have all shown. Renault's new, top-of-the-range single-seater will allow young drivers to familiarise themselves with the various technological features they will encounter if and when they make the step up to Formula One. With the new Formula Renault 3.5, the transition will be even smoother than before.

The new car went through its development phase in June, July and August, and was tested on several European circuits. Romain Grosjean and Andy Soucek were just two of the drivers who took the wheel in the tests, and the new car quickly set some impressive lap times. The new Formula Renault 3.5 has already proven to be 2.6 seconds quicker than the pole time set at the Motorland Aragón meeting earlier in 2011. After validating the data collected during the testing phase, Renault Sport Technologies and its technical partners will move on to the production phase, with a view to making their first deliveries in January 2012. The 26 new cars will be ready and raring to go for the first collective tests of the 2012 season, due to begin in March.

Technical Data: New Formula Renault 3.5

Type: carbon monocoque T12
Supplier: Dallara Automobili
Bodywork: carbon

Type: V8 ZRS03 – 3396 cc
Supplier: Zytek Motorsport
Max power: 530 bhp at 9250 rpm
Max torque: 445 Nm at 7250 rpm
Max engine speed: 9500 rpm
Electronics: Cosworth Electronics
Electric power management: XAP Electronique

TRANSMISSION: Type: rear-wheel drive
Gearbox: Ricardo six-speed sequential gearbox with Shiftec pneumatic control
Gearshift: semi-automatic, steering wheel-mounted
Differential: self-locking limited slip Clutch: 140 mm carbon triple disc

Front: push-rod, single lightweight two-way damper
Rear: push-rod, twin lightweight two-way dampers
Damper supplier: ZF Sachs Race Engineering Aluminium uprights, machined from solid

270 x 28 mm ventilated carbon brake discs from Carbon Industries
Brembo 6-piston calipers

WHEELS: One-piece magnesium rims: 12 x 13 front and 13.7 x 13 rear (OZ Racing) Michelin tyres: 26 x 64 x 13 front and 32 x 66 x 13 rear

Length / width / height: 5020 / 1922 / 1055 mm
Wheelbase: 3125 mm Front / rear track: 1662 / 1529 mm
Fuel tank: 110 litres Kerb weight: 610 kg

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