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Founded by Adrian Reynard in 1973 as Sabre Automotive Ltd, the company built on its success in lower formulae (particularly Formula Ford and its variants; Reynard himself was a top driver in Formula Ford 2000 in the late seventies) to progress in March 1994 to Champ Car racing and even collaborate with British American Racing from 1999 in the design of its early F1 cars. Adrian Reynard formed a very effective working partnership with friend and Formula Ford rival Rick Gorne, who looked after the sales and commercial side of the business. Gorne was one of the first people to really bring a commercial mindset to the sale of racing cars - he worked out pricing models for cars and spares (basing this on research into how often cars were damaged) and started "networking" with young drivers early in their careers so that they would be favourably disposed towards Reynard later on.
Reynard acquired a reputation for being a marque whose cars won first time out - they achieved this on their debuts in Formula 3 (1985), Formula 3000 (1988) and Champ Car (1994). Reynard effectively wiped March, Lola and Ralt out of F3000 and March and Lola out of ChampCar - Lola recovered by securing the one-make contract for F3000 and reviving themselves in ChampCar in the late 1990s. Reynard were also involved with various special projects; the first competition versions of the Panoz Esperante, the Dodge Stratus touring car, the highly successful Dodge Viper GTS-R GT Car and an unraced and highly innovative LNG gas-turbine powered hybrid sports prototype for Chrysler known as the Patriot. Naturally given Reynard's involvement with BAR there were high expectations for the team's F1 debut, which were not met.
Reynard's success in F3 was transitory, with Dallara and a revived Ralt obliterating them from the market in 1992; Adrian Reynard sought to buy Ralt but the company ended up in the hands of March. Their success in ChampCar and F3000 was more lasting, though.
Even when individual chassis programmes didn't work out for Reynard, Gorne usually managed to make a profit - the 1985 Formula Ford car was a disaster, so the entire programme was sold on for a one-make series behind the Iron Curtain. Reynard acquired various other lucrative contracts for one-make racing series over the years, as well as achieving numerical domination in many open-chassis formulae; the Formula Vauxhall (or Opel) Lotus single seaters of the late 1980s were designed and manufactured for several years by Reynard (picking up on the firm's spare capacity after Formula Ford 2000 died out).
Outside motorsport, in the 1990s the company became involved in a project to build lightweight carbon-fibre seats for Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic airline. The deal came about through friendship between Reynard and Branson. The joint-venture company that built manufactured these seats was located at Reynard HQ in Brackley.
As a result of its success the company was awarded the Queen's Awards for Export Achievement in 1990 and 1996.
The company started preparing a Formula 1 program in 1989, to debut in 1992. Engineers were hired, such as Rory Byrne from Benetton. In 1991, Reynard was not able to push through, so the entire program, including the Enstone factory, was sold to Benetton. Reynard's research data was sold to Ligier. Some Reynard components (mostly F3000-based) were used by Keith Wiggins' Pacific Racing in their unsuccessful F1 car (built for the 1993 season, but not raced until 1994 for budgetary reasons). It is unlikely that the putative 1992 Reynard would have been a significant success even had the money been available to develop it - the only works engine the team could obtain was the Yamaha unit that subsequently gave Jordan Grand Prix so much trouble that year.
The success in Champ Car was highly profitable and led the company to diversify. In 1999 Reynard purchased Gemini Transmissions and US racing car manufacturer Riley & Scott. The company also opened an R&D facility in Indianapolis called the Auto Research Center (ARC). Adrian Reynard is still involved with ARC.
Following an aborted IPO on the NYSE and the costly purchase of Riley & Scott, the company was bankrupted in 2001.
In 2002 the assets were distributed among three buyers. BAR acquired the buildings at Brackley and the Advantage CFD aerodynamics engineering business. International Racing Management of Guildford acquired the Formula Nippon and sports car racing operations (the sports car chassis were later licensed Zytek Engineering, acquiring limited industrial rights). Team Australia, a team in the Champ Car World Series, acquired the rights to the Champ Car chassis.
The Grand Prix Masters car is essentially a development of the last generation of Reynard Champ Car chassis, although fitted with slightly different bodywork and a larger normally-aspirated Cosworth V8 engine.
Around 120 jobs were lost.
Adrian Reynard commented, "It is the worst day of my business life and in the history of the company. Reynard has had so much success over the last three decades and I'm devastated that it has ended this way, but we had no choice."
Some senior employees went on to start up new motorsport businesses, noteably Simon Dowson with ORD and Kieron Salter with KW Motorsport. KWM supplied a range of engineering consultancy services in Champ Car and Le Mans endurance racing including the design of the Nasamax, Protran and Creation Autosportif chassis. ORD have had a large involvement in the design and build of the Grand Prix Masters chassis.