New manufacturers in Formula 1

While there are some who say that the Formula 1 circus will inevitably lose some of the manufacturers in the not-too-distant future, it is worth noting that there are other companies showing signs of interest or at a point in their development where F1 makes a lot of sense. There have been rumours in recent months about GM and Volkswagen while Korea's Hyundai is a firm which is on the move and has F1 ambitions. Korea's biggest car manufacturer was rumoured to have had a Formula 1 prototype engine on its test beds in Korea more than five years ago but economic upsets in Asia stopped that project. Since then cars sales have climbed from 1.5m a year to 3.83m and the company is forecasting sales next year of 4.47m. Production is expanding to the United States and to Eastern Europe and the firm will soon launch a new luxury saloon model which is bound for the US market which will compete head on with Lexus and BMW. It is currently designated BH and the longterm aim appears to be to create a luxury brand similar to Toyota's Lexus or Honda's Acura to distinguish the cars from the cheaper Hyundai models. At the same time the company is launching a new model called the Azera, the first setp in turning Hyundai into a premium brand. Success in motorsport is one way to do this and it is worth noting that Lexus has just announced plans to raise the profile of its racing activities with a two-car entry in the GT2 class of the American Le Mans Series. This will put the cars into direct competition with the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, the Panoz Esperante and the BMW M3. Lexus started out in racing in the GrandAm touring car classes in 2001 and has moved through the ranks and since 2004 has been supplying engines, developed and built by Toyota Racing Development at its headquarters in Tustin, California, to prototype teams. Moving into ALMS is the next step up the ladder. The next step may be F1. At the moment Toyota runs its own team but supplies customer engines to MF1 Racing but there will be a big opportunity for more coverage if a deal is struck between Williams and Toyota for 2007.

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