Renault claims rival stole engine secrets

Renault claims that its return to Formula 1 has been hampered by a rival engine manufacturer stealing computer secrets about its radical 111-degree V10

Renault claims rival stole engine secrets

The claims of industrial espionage came from Renault Sport's technical director Jean-Jacques His, who spoke about the incidents for the first time at last weekend's British Grand Prix.

His said the information was stolen shortly before his arrival at the company last year. Initially, it was thought that someone within Renault Sport was passing on information, but His says they are now convinced that former members of the Stasi, East Germany's notorious secret police under the communist regime, were paid to hack into computers and access the information.

"I remember in my very first meeting someone told me what had happened, that someone had accessed our data on the new engines, and I couldn't believe it," he said. "We thought it was impossible."

On discovering that the information had been stolen, Renault changed several key elements of the engine, which includes a significantly wider vee-angle than its rivals. His is convinced that those changes cost performance.

A Renault insider told Autosport magazine: "For that period of time (when the computers were being hacked), it was like us designing our engine in a field with a television camera focused on it."

Despite having its suspicions as to who had paid for the data to be stolen, Renault did not pursue criminal proceedings against any rival manufacturer, nor lodge a complaint with the sport's governing body, the FIA. However, the company did enlist the help of the French Secret Service to tighten up its security.

The Renault-owned Benetton team uses the new V10s, but has struggled for competitiveness. In the 11 Grands Prix held so far, it has scored just one point and has consistently qualified in the final third of the grid.

Renault has pursued a radical route because the wider vee-angle gives a lower center of gravity, which in turn leads to significant benefits in the design and packaging of the car. The unit is also believed to use a radical cam system which replaces the shaft with electrically-controlled valves.

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