Carlos Tavares is a racing nutter. The 55-year-old Portuguese national has been racing for 33 of his 55 years, initially in saloon cars, then rallying but afterwards in Formula 3 and the World Series by Nissan World.
Most recently he has competed from time to time in the Big Open Single Seaters (BOSS) series. He is only an amateur in racing terms but he has great influence not least because until recently he was Carlos Ghosn’s number two at Renault.
In this role he was largely responsible for the decision to relaunch Alpine as a sporting brand and fluttered around the edge of the Renault F1 programme, although these came under Ghosn’s direct control.
Last summer, however, the two men busted up as Tavares realised that Ghosn was going to stay on until his retirement, leaving the younger man with no chance of getting the top job. So he left Renault after 30 years in the company and has recently joined Peugeot, Renault’s biggest rival.
Tavares is expected to take over as CEO of the company in March, after the visit to France of China’s President Xi Jinping. This is significant because it is expected that there will be an announcement of a major restructuring at PSA Peugeot-Citroën with new shares being issued to China's Dongfeng Motors and the French government, giving each of them a 14 per cent share in the business, the same as the Peugeot family.
This will bring the cash-strapped firm a much-needed boost of £2.5 billion. The money is required in order to continue Peugeot’s programme of international expansion to get away from its dependence on the stagnant European car markets. Peugeot and Dongfeng intend to expand their Asian joint venture, while Peugeot is also keen to grow in South America and Eastern Europe.
Peugeot’s sister company Citroën is currently gearing up for a major assault on the FIA World Touring Car Championship, while winding down its World Rally Championship commitments to two Citroën DS3 WRCs for Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg.
Peugeot gave up its World Endurance Championship programme in 2011 and since then has been concentrating on national level motorsport, although it recently announced a deal to support Hansen Motorsport in the new FIA World Rallycross Championship.
It is unlikely that Tavares will be satisfied with this. He is a man who fervently believes that motorsport is good for a car company and one wonders whether he might decide to support Peugeot’s global growth by investing in a Formula 1 engine programme.
There are some good teams available if such a project was on offer. Peugeot was involved in Formula 1 from 1994 until 2000, initially with McLaren but later with the Jordan and Prost grands prix teams.
The engines were not good enough early on and when they became more powerful the partner teams were not strong enough to win races, so the programme ended up with three second places when the engines would probably have been capable of more…
Certainly, it is something to watch out for.