Mecachrome SAS is a precision engineering company involved in aviation, the automotive industry, motor racing and industrial engineering, but is most famous for assembling the engines designed by Renault for the Renault Formula One team.
From 1983 Renault began to supply other teams with engines, Mecachrome was given the responsibility of preparing the engines for these customer teams (e.g. Lotus-Renault in 1983 and Ligier-Renault in 1984). In 1985 Renault withdrew from Formula One as a constructor and withdrew from engine supply for the 1987 season. In 1989 Renault returned to F1 as engine supplier to WilliamsF1 (and Ligier from 1992), with Mecachrome again responsible for preparing the engines for the team.
Renault engines powered Williams and Benetton to six consecutive Constructors' World Championships between 1992 and 1997, and five Drivers' titles with Nigel Mansell (1992), Alain Prost (1993), Michael Schumacher (1995), Damon Hill (1996) and Jacques Villeneuve (1997).
In 1995 Benetton acquired Ligier's stock of Renault V10 engines. In 1996 Renault was privatised and the same year announced its withdrawal from Formula One after the 1997 season. In order to avoid protest by shareholders regarding costs of engine development, Mecachrome agreed to pay Renault for the development work in order to continue the relationship. The 1998 engines supplied to Williams carried the Mecachrome name, while Benetton's engines were badged as "Playlife".
In 1998 Flavio Briatore's company, Super Performance Competition Engineering, signed a distribution agreement with Mecachrome to begin in the 1999 season. The engines were purchased and rebadged as Supertec. Supertecs powered Williams in 1999, BAR in 1999 and Arrows in 2000.
In 2001 Renault returned to Formula One by purchasing the Benetton team and the Renault designed engines again carried the Renault name. The relationship remains unchanged, with Renault responsible for design and Mecachrome assembly; this relationship helped Renault win a constructors' and driver's F1 championship "double-double" in 2005-2006 with Fernando Alonso.
Mecachrome-assembled Renault engines powered the Red Bull Racing Formula One team to the Constructors' Championship and Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel to the World Drivers' Championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.
In 2005, the GP2 Series was launched as the official feeder category to Formula One. As the brainchild of Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, the new series was to be powered by Renault engines, and Mecachrome was tasked with their production. The GP2 Series power units were manufactured at the same base as the Renault F1 units in Aubigny, France with direction from Mader in Switzerland.
The GP2 Series gearboxes would also be created by Mecachrome, through an offshoot known as GearTek.
Despite teething troubles which saw the power units and gearboxes reach what many observers claimed to be an unacceptably high level of unreliability, Mecachrome has been an integral and vital part of the success of the GP2 Series, providing the power which has displayed the emerging talents of F1 drivers Nico Rosberg, Heikki Kovalainen, Lewis Hamilton and Timo Glock.
The company will continue to supply engines and gearboxes for the GP2 Series in its second generation (2008-2010) whilst also supplying the new-for-2008 GP2 Asia Series with slightly detuned versions of the power unit which has been at the core of the GP2 Series since 2005.
Mecachrome's current economic status
In late 2008, the company sought legal protection from creditors in Canada after they defaulted on their publicly held bond. The company subsequently announced $30M worth of refinancing to cover operating costs during restructuring of the company.
In November 2008, Mecachrome skipped their mandatory bond interest payment, and has not rectified this breach of contract within the 30 days grace period allowed by the indentures of the bond. The said bond is, according to debt market analysts, the only major debt of Mecachrome. Mecachrome has not communicated what their proposal towards current bond-holders is in the context of restructuring. Mecachrome shares are still listed and tradable despite Mecachrome being in default of their publicly held debt obligation.
Complete Formula One World Championship results
(key) (results in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)
|1998||Winfield Williams||Williams FW20||GC37-01 V10||G||AUS||BRA||ARG||SMR||ESP||MON||CAN||FRA||GBR||AUT||GER||HUN||BEL||ITA||LUX||JPN||38||3rd|
- "Renault to Lose Mecachrome Engine Developer?". Retrieved 2010-11-22.
- "Mecachrome gets 30 million euro financing to carry it through restructuring". Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- "Mecachrome is facing considerable turbulence". Retrieved 2008-12-29.