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Motorsport has long been recognised as an effective marketing tool for automobile manufacturers. In the late seventies and early eighties, Renault began to involve itself more heavily in motorsport, setting up a dedicated motorsport division called Renault Sport, and winning the Le Mans 24 Hours (with the Renault Alpine A442, built in collaboration with newly-acquired Alpine) while achieving success in both rallying (with the Renault 5 Turbo) and Formula One. Initially, Renault's entry into Formula One in 1977 was ridiculed when the team's first design included such curiosities as a turbocharger. However, the team was to win their first race on home soil in Dijon a mere two years later and by the early eighties, every front-running Formula One team used turbochargers.
Renault also took over the Benetton F1 team in 2001, and quickly became very competitive, Fernando Alonso winning Renault's first race in its second incarnation at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix. 2004 saw the Renault team finish a close third in the Constructors' Championship and in 2005 the team won both Constructors' and Drivers' titles (with Fernando Alonso). In 2006 Renault repeated its success of the previous year, again claiming both the Constructors' and Drivers' titles (again with Fernando Alonso before his departure to McLaren in 2007).
Questions have been raised regarding Renault's commitment to its Formula One team, particularly with the appointment of Carlos Ghosn as CEO. However at the 2005 French Grand Prix Ghosn set out his policy regarding the company's involvement in motorsport:
"We are not in Formula One out of habit or tradition. We're here to show our talent and that we can do it properly… Formula One is a cost if you don't get the results. Formula One is an investment if you do have them and know how to exploit them."
In short he will continue Renault's investment in F1 as long as the team is successful and can use the resulting publicity for wider commercial gain. Conversely if the team is unsuccessful in future it can be expected that Ghosn will withdraw resources from the sport.
In 2006 Carlos Ghosn finally announced that the team would stay in F1 in the long term (at least until 2012) putting an end to the rumors.
Check out the Renault wallpapers and Renault Pictures (pics) collection below: