Italian GP at Monza this weekend
many other circuits, Monza has not been a single layout, but a series
of more than a dozen layouts which have ranged in length from 1.482
miles to 6.214 miles. The circuit was opened in the Monza Royal Park,
near Milan, in 1922 and featured bankings, though these were
demolished in 1939. The bankings which featured in some races,
1955-69, were new structures built on the format of the original.
Bankings were used for the Italian GP in 1955, ’56, ’60 and ’61,
and were last used for racing of any form in 1969 when the concrete
became in need of substantial resurfacing and rebuilding.
The 1971 Italian GP holds the record for the fastest-ever Formula One
race but, emphatically, that is not the same as saying the fastest
race for Grand Prix cars. That honour remains in the possession of the
After 1971, the circuit underwent some revisions to discourage
slipstreaming and to lower the average lap speed. Chicanes were added
in 1976 and, in 1994, the second Lesmo Bend was tightened and the
Curve Grande was re-profiled.
With the Alonso-Schumacher fight in full swing, it should be an
important GP for both of them. I will be watching from my perch at
Jameson’s Irish Pub (Soi AR, next to Nova Park) and the racing
commences at 7 p.m., but check your local TV feed to be sure. We watch
the South African feed which has no adverts and better commentators.
2007 F1 calendar
The FIA has published the 2007 Formula 1 calendar. The San
Marino and European Grands Prix have been dropped, while Belgium returns, making
for a 17 race schedule. So pencil these into your 2007 diary, but remember that
there can be some late changes!
The San Marino and European races were this year staged in Italy (Imola) and
Germany (Nurburgring) respectively - both countries that also have their own
Grand Prix, and have been dropped. The German round is now expected to alternate
between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring, but the four week gap in the calendar
between Bahrain and Spain will doubtless lead to speculation that San Marino
could yet be reinstated.
The Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne returns to its traditional role of season
opener after moving to round three this year to avoid a clash with the
Commonwealth Games. Meanwhile, the Japanese round will move from Suzuka to Fuji,
the circuit which staged the country’s first Grand Prix back in 1976.
There are five sets of back-to-back races on the 2007 calendar: Malaysia and
Bahrain in April; Canada and the US in June; France and Britain in July; Italy
and Belgium in September; and China and Japan in September/October.
The full line-up is as follows:
Australia, March 18
Malaysia, April 08
Bahrain, April 15
Spain, May 13
Monaco, May 27
Canada, June 10
United States, June 17
France, July 01
United Kingdom, July 08
Germany, July 22
Hungary, August 05
Turkey, August 26
Italy, September 09
Belgium, September 16
China, September 30
Japan, October 07
Brazil, October 21
Always follow the money
I have written before that you will find some of the best
auto stories in the financial pages of newspapers, not in the auto columns
(other than this one, of course).
This week came the report that Nissan is advancing its fortunes in China, by
advancing the money so the Chinese buyer can get a Nissan in his garage. In
fact, Nissan are so sure of the Chinese market they believe that 10 percent of
their sales will come through their own finance arm.
This concept is nothing new, FoMoCo having used their finance arm Ford Credit
for decades. Even in China, Nissan are only playing catch-up, as both Volkswagen
and Toyota are offering ‘factory’ finance.
Nissan’s corporate VP Joji Tagawa said, “Instead of cutting prices, for
example, we can offer lower interest rates on loans to attract customers.”
This marketing ploy is well understood by Toyota, who has been offering very,
very low interest rates on loans on new vehicles in this country too.
While currently most Chinese customers pay cash for their new cars, market
analysts predict that this will change, with Nissan looking at 10-15 percent by
the year 2010. By comparison, around 50 percent of new car buyers in the US use
finance to get into the new models. With Nissan selling 297,000 vehicles in
China last year (double the number from the previous year) this is obviously a
market that nobody can ignore.
The financial gurus claim that Nissan will need at least 10 percent of sales
going through their finance arm to make it viable. However, the Japanese are
good at the “long game”, and I am sure they will wait.
Natter Nosh and Noggin
The monthly car enthusiasts meeting will be at
Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR next to the Nova Park development. The car (and
bike) enthusiasts meet on the second Monday of the month, so this time it is
Monday (September 11) at Jameson’s at 7 p.m. This is a totally informal
meeting of like minded souls to discuss their pet motoring (and motorcycling)
loves and hates. Bring along any magazines, photos of old vehicles, old
girlfriends or the latest Lamborghini for us all to drive
Hyundai – the big mover
Poor little Hyundai, which once marketed a
small range of sad vehicles in this country, is going to surprise us all. As
part of its plan to sell five million vehicles annually and become one of the
world’s five top-selling car-makers by 2010 (Hyundai has jumped Nissan to
claim sixth behind General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler
following an 11.6 percent jump in global sales in 2005 to 3,715,096 units), it
remains committed to producing two all-new models every year.
The brand may have been thought of as moribund in Thailand with United Auto
Sales Thailand, the previous holder of the brand name, being out of the action
for many years, but here is a new player, Hyundai Motor Thailand (HMT) ready to
market the offerings from the Korean manufacturer. HMT is owned by Sojitz Corp,
a Japanese parts manufacturer with interests in China, Thailand and India.
While Thailand sales might be zero, the rest of the world has been soaking up
the 3.7 million units, with many going to the US and others to Europe and
Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) plans to sell more than 50,000 vehicles
for the first time in 2006 - a five percent increase on 2005 figures and well up
on its 2003 tally of just over 30,000 vehicles. Year-to-date, HMCA sales are up
two percent despite a three percent slide in total Australian vehicles sales so
far in 2006.
Just three months after releasing all-new
versions of its Santa Fe medium 4WD and light-sized Accent sedan and
(three-door) hatch, Hyundai last month launched its all-new Elantra sedan.
The US-oriented Elantra sedan will be followed by German-designed five-door (FD)
wagon and hatch body derivatives next year (the latter will form the basis of
Hyundai’s 2007 WRCar), followed in 2008 by a folding metal-roofed
Hyundai says it expects the bigger new Elantra to have little impact on sales of
Hyundai’s new medium sedan launched last September (Sonata is currently being
tested by Victoria Police as part of what could become a lucrative fleet deal
for HMCA), let alone its new-generation larger offering, the Grandeur flagship
launched in February.
Next cab off the Hyundai rank will be the Santa Fe CRDi variant, which the
company says will be one of the first soft-roader diesels available here.
Available in New Zealand since May and on sale in Europe and the US since early
this year, the 1823 kg CRDi is powered by a 110 kW 335 Nm common-rail SOHC 2.2
liter four cylinder variable geometry turbo-diesel that returns a claimed EU
average fuel consumption of 7.3 L/100 km.
The new Elantra sedan and oil-burning Santa Fe, HMCA says could attract up to 30
percent of all Santa Fe sales at the expense of some petrol model sales.
Their Tiburon (of which there are a few examples running around Thailand) has
been given a skin change, and was shown in China last month and will go on sale
Finally, for now, Hyundai’s luxury-oriented medium-large crossover 4WD -
codenamed EN, based on the Genus concept from Geneva in March and recently
approved for production under the name Veracruz – could be the first model to
be sold under Hyundai’s long-mooted, but yet-to-be-announced luxury brand.
The likelihood of a Lexus-style luxury division to match Toyota gained weight
two weeks ago when Hyundai officially announced it has no plans to buy Ford’s
up-market Jaguar brand - and again last week at the local Elantra launch, where
senior HMCA officials talked freely about the concept.
“EN could be the beginning of our new luxury brand,” said HMCA sales and
marketing director Theo van Doore, who has driven the Veracruz but admits the
US-targeted model is not yet approved for right-hand-drive production.
“Hyundai is developing the concept of a new luxury brand – a little bit like
Lexus. I don’t know what the strategy will be, but given the success of Lexus
in the US you can understand its significance. We’re a brand that’s on the
cusp. We spend a lot of money on R&D but we’re very careful how we do
it,” van Doore said in Australia.
Officially, the Veracruz (named after the
Mexican state) will be the ninth model to join Hyundai’s US range for 2007 and
will be targeted at luxury SUVs like the Lexus RX350, Honda Pilot (MDX), Nissan
Murano and forthcoming models like Mazda’s CX-7 and Subaru’s Tribeca.
Veracruz will also feature a six-speed automatic transmission, standard ESC
stability control and standard side and side curtain airbags, and is claimed to
offer more cargo space than the upcoming Mercedes-Benz GL-class.
A new 4.6 liter DOHC 32 valve V8, first revealed in Hyundai’s Neos-3 Tokyo
show car, is also on the cards for the Veracruz - and could also power a
BH-codenamed rear-drive luxury sedan, which may replace the current
(front-drive) Equus sedan sold in overseas markets and will be targeted at the
likes of Lexus’ GS and BMW’s 5 Series.
As you can see, with nine models available in the US, covering everything from
small vehicles, right through to luxury models, Hyundai has aggressive marketing
plans. That Sojitz Corp should then be making a stake in Thailand is not
The following is a list of new Hyundai models slated for release:
HD Elantra sedan redesign October 2006
CM Santa Fe CRDi turbo-diesel variant October 2006
Tiburon coupe facelift February 2007
FD Elantra five-door hatch Mid-2007
FD Elantra five-door wagon Mid-2007
MC Accent SR turbo hatch variant 2007
FD Elantra coupe-convertible 2008
EN Veracruz crossover 2009
BH luxury sedan 2010
A few years ago, you would have laughed if someone said Hyundai would be in the
world’s top 10 by 2006. It is now sixth and selling more than Nissan. Put your
hand up now for a Hyundai dealership. It’s the coming brand. Believe me!
Last week I mentioned the new Camaro, and said
to think back to the first Z28 Camaros. What was it that identified the Z28 over
the more humble Camaros? The answer was the duck-tail spoiler on the rear boot
lid (or ‘trunk’ if you like).
So to this week. Which British car company began as a piston manufacturer?
For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email