Hyundai still dreams of F1 glory

THE recovering Korean economy has once again raised the possibility of an F1 involvement by Hyundai, the country's biggest car manufacturer. The company has been keen on the idea of an F1 program for some time and there was even talk some time ago that the firm has a Formula 1 prototype engine on the test beds in Korea.

The Koreans wanted a Grand Prix several years ago but the plans had to be abandoned because of the financial troubles at the time. Hyundai is a decent-sized automobile company on the world stage but produces only 1.5m cars a year. It had ambitions to become a world class car company.

To date Hyundai has been an impressive success story. Started in 1967 to assemble Ford cars for the Korean market, the company began building the Hyundai Pony in 1974 in a joint venture with Mitsubishi Motors. Cheap labor in Korea and high quality workmanship enabled the company to undercut Japanese and western companies and the Pony, Stellar and Excel models all sold well. This success enabled the firm to invest in a different philosophy. The company opened its Namyang R&D Center and went on to build its first proprietary engine in 1991. The next step was a switch into a sportier and more luxurious range of cars with the launch of the Scoupe, the Elantra and the Accent. In order to advertise the cars the company made its first forays into international competition with victory on America's most famous hillclimb event Pike's Peak.

Since then the company has entered the FIA World Rally Championship with the Accent WRC. Two cars have been campaigned by Alister McRae and Kenneth Erickson and Hyundai is now beginning to look at an even bigger sporting involvement.

One possibility which is being discussed is that Hyundai might buy the Asiatech F1 program.

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