Peugeot steps up

Peugeot is stepping up a gear by loading the new Partner light commercial workhorse with cabin features from its saloon car range – including the i-Cockpit.

“New Peugeot Partner renews a 20-year history of ruggedness and quality. Following our recent launch successes, our SUV offensive with Peugeot 2008, 3008 and 5008 we had to have the same ambition for our LCV vehicle design –  ie impress the market with innovative and unprecedented features,” says  Jean-Philippe Imparato, Peugeot Brand CEO.

“This is why the Peugeot i-Cockpit, is fitted as standard on New Peugeot Partner. This high-end, rewarding vehicle provides the user with a veritable mix of practicality and pleasure.”

Peugeot Partner

So much more than a new feature, Peugeot i-Cockpit is becoming a must for professional users who are constantly seeking ways to improve the quality of the service they provide. An optimum ergonomic layout, tip-top comfort and exemplary safety systems make for an intuitive driving experience:

  • Compact, double D-style steering wheel for improved grip and manoeuvrability
  • A head-up style display to enable essential information to be received by the driver whilst he is still able to maintain his eye on the road, which is a guarantee of safety and comfort.
  • An 8-inch touch screen located in the centre of the dashboard in line with the driver’s vision providing direct and permanent access to key comfort functions – radio functions, vehicle settings, telephone, etc.
  • A large 8-inch colour touch screen provides connectivity. Located within easy reach and tilted towards the driver, it comes with Bluetooth and a is supplemented by Mirror Screen that is compatible with Mirror Link, Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
  • Electric parking brake. Not only is it easy to use, in addition the space freed up by a conventional handbrake is utilised to provide a large storage area or a larger seat for the 3-seater version.

The front end is modern and robust with its Lion badge sitting in the centre of a vertical grill that enhances the powerful headlight design, while the profile reveals a short, horizontal bonnet, a high waistline and shorter overhangs. The bevel-cut design featured symmetrically on the front and rear ends shape the sides with a new body-line style.

At the rear, the angular bumper gives force to the lower section and the hinged wide-span doors underline the vehicle’s d nature and constitute an extra protection against theft from rear compartment.

Partner pack

New Peugeot Partner is built on a version of the EMP2 platform that is used for the latest brand models. This base enables shorter overhangs and a small turning circle for easy manoeuvring: the kerb to kerb turning radius is only 11,43 m.

“The EMP2 delivers an extremely high-performance level, but it also has enabled us to produce a strong, dynamic and robust design. The new morphology has led to shorter overhangs for better manoeuvrability, a higher bonnet for greater rigidity and an optimised architecture to provide an interior that is both practical and modular,”  says Keith Ryder, New Peugeot Partner designer.

The 1.6 HDI L2, is 4,75 m long and provides a greater load capacity. The effective length is 2,16 m with a load capacity of 4,40 m3 and payload of 1 000 kg.

Six anchoring rings are provided as standard to ensure loads are safely secured. The loading area is easy to use in all circumstances as it contains a 12V socket and superior lighting with 6 LEDs providing an output of 237 lm.

With a capacity of up to 113 litres, storage solutions have been designed for multiple professional usage needs. They are distributed throughout the passenger area – glove box (uncovered), door pockets and even an upper glove box. Located opposite the passenger, it uses the space normally taken by the crash bag (now a Bag-in Roof version) and is big enough to house a 15-inch computer, and it contains a USB and Aux connection port.

The 1.6 HDI diesel engine powering the newcomer is rated at 68 kW and 230 Nm.

Partner gear

Standard features include air-conditioning, upgraded soundproofing, two passenger bench seat, six crash bags, power front windows, electric parking brake, radio with 8-inch touch screen and Mirror Screen, speed limiter and cruise control, rear parking sensors and auto headlights.

Standard safety features include anti-lock braking with EBFD and EBA, automatic drive away locking, electric power steering, collapsible steering column, automatic fuel cut off and door unlocking in the event of an accident, automatic activation of hazard lights in emergency braking and independent locking of loading area.

Partner lights

The warranty package consists of a 5 year/100 000 km Service Plan, 5 year/100 000 km Warranty and 5 year/100 000 km Roadside Assistance.

PRICING

R389 900,00 inclusive of VAT

 

Road Review – Lexus RX 350 F Sport

In the same way as nano-seconds can determine the difference between winning and losing in motor sport, extremely small differences can decide whether a car makes it or breaks it in the race for public acceptance and market share.

In every automotive price category there is a level of expectation (and it keeps going up) of what safety and luxury features need to be standard so, in many cases, the actual ‘buy me’ impulse comes down to aesthetics and the emotive appeal of the design.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

While auto designers can wax lyrical – at length – about how a belt-line curve makes the car look as if it going 120 km/h while standing still, it is a vision I have never quite seen in the same way as they describe it; but I do have an opinion about downright ugly and ‘WOW’.

Designers have a number of artistic tricks to achieve that ‘wow’ factor and, with Lexus, much of that has concentrated on the evolution of the grille that gives the marque its truly unique look and identifier on the road.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

The Lexus front end is very much ‘in-your-face’ and evokes a love it or hate response and the new RX 350 F Sport features the latest iteration of the grille.

The changes involve new, evolutionary styling that maintains the RX’s sporty appearance, while introducing elements that are more elegant and creating a coherent flow from front to rear, giving the vehicle a stronger, more harmonious profile.

Details of the frontal treatment include a new rendition of the signature Lexus grille, with a mesh pattern of radiating three-dimensional ‘L’ shapes, slimmer sharper headlight units; more rounded edges to the re-sculpted front bumper and an extended line from the rocker panel (located on the sides of vehicle between front and rear wheel openings) that connects with the bottom of the grille.

On the F Sport there is more aggressive exterior styling comprising an exclusive front fascia, mesh grille insert, front-fender and rear valance along with polished black outside mirrors paired with 20-inch split 10-spoke alloy wheels in a dark granite finish.

On all models a revised side character line sweeps down from the floating roof to the rear, to slim the overall rear expression, creating a coupé-like silhouette.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

At the rear, is a redesigned lower bumper that links to the rear wings. Elements such as the lights, reflectors, underguard and exhaust outlets are arranged on a horizontal axis, while new LED combination lights have been changed to a new mirrored L-motif design.

Inside, the F Sport gets race-inspired instrumentation and aluminium accents, bolstered sport seats, a black headliner, a perforated leather–trimmed sport steering wheel and shift knob and aluminium pedals.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

The LFA-inspired digital gauge cluster provides real-time information such as G-force metrics and power distribution and it boasts the new Lexus Safety System+, which it now shares with the flagship Hybrid model, along with the same Adaptive Variable Suspension found in the high-performance Lexus LC that allows you to customise the shock absorber settings for improved ride comfort or reduced body lean as you enter and exit turns.

Given the grunt from the 3,5-litre V6 engine, that is an important factor in the overall ride – and the new model also has improved body rigidity and a thicker rear stabiliser bar (up by 1 mm or 5,7%) along with more rigid hubs.

The F Sport is equipped with the V6 engine featuring direct and port fuel injection for ample grunt and efficient fuel economy. Combined with a quick-shifting eight-speed transmission and delivering 221 kW and 370 Nm at 4 600 r/min it is no slouch and, despite its luxury soundproofing, still allows a delectable burble through to the cabin – a burble that becomes an audio feast when it switched into ‘angry’ mode.

In Normal mode and for daily use, the dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) system offers reduced emissions and enhanced fuel efficiency. VVT-i monitors the engine’s speed and load, increasing torque at lower speeds for improved acceleration and boosting performance at higher speeds by adjusting intake and exhaust valve timing.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

Despite its all-wheel drive SUV status, raised ride height and actual capability off the beaten track, few RX owners are actually going to take their vehicles into those sort of situations and will concentrate on pavement posing and occasionally belittling a hot hatch in a quick drag between robots.

But, wait. There is more, much more.

Left in Normal mode, the RX will satisfy all urban needs and will achieve an overall consumption around the 9,0 l/100 km mark, improving markedly on steady speed long-haul cruises. Sport mode gives it some edge with revised gear ratios and tightened suspension – enough to tweak the adrenalin flow.

Sport+ takes it all to a new level and the F Sport becomes very, very angry sounding quite menacing as it moves upwards through the gears (manually on paddle shift if required). Although it tops out at 200 km/h, it gets there rather rapidly (8 seconds) and with enough of a neck-snap to alert you to the fact things are getting serious.

The vehicles comes standard with Active Cornering Assist, which automatically suppresses understeer if the driver steps on the throttle in mid-corner. The electric power steering has also been retuned for a more linear steering feel and better line-tracing faithful to the driver’s intentions.

Ride quality which was already class-leading has been made even better thanks to new-design shock absorbers that are now fitted with a friction control device, which further reduces the high-frequency vibrations caused by minute imperfections in the road surface.

Additionally, dynamic dampers have been installed on the front suspension member which contributes to isolating the cabin from road vibrations while facilitating flat cornering and responsiveness.

Bottom line – the F Sport relishes a chance at being hustled around corners to return an exhilarating drive without any FOFO (fear of falling over) often associated with SUV vehicles being pressed hard.

(Photo by Cornel van Heerden)

The luxury and safety kit is extensive, including adaptive cruise control that will progressively brake the vehicle to a stop in heavy traffic and gently accelerate while maintaining a safe following distance from the traffic ahead. It also has auto-dipping headlights but, to be a bit niggly, should have lighting that auto ‘shapes’ itself according to changing conditions. Just saying!

The multimedia functions can be operated using a new trackpad version of Lexus’s Remote Touch Interface, or with voice control, replacing the old button-activated system.

The new RX also provides seamless smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Voice control can also be enabled via Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant if using an Android device. This is complemented by an additional four USB ports.

MyLexus (identical features to MyToyota) gives access to connected services via a dedicated app, while the RX is equipped as standard with an on-board WiFi hotspot with an initial complimentary 15 GB data plan (with the option to purchase additional data at any time).

Safety comes in the form of 10 crash bags to the latest VSC system with Active Cornering Assist and all RX models now feature a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The Lexus Safety System+ (pre-collision safety system and autonomous emergency braking) now gains nighttime pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection

The entire RX range boasts a 7-year/105 000 km Warranty and Full Maintenance Plan. The vehicle service intervals are at every 15 000 km, alternatively once a year.

 

Road Review – Peugeot 5008 2.0HDi Allure

In that great repository of overused phrases, clichés and other go-to expressions, ‘French flair’ is one of the most well worn – yet, the more I look at the Peugeot 5008, the more apt that descriptor becomes.

It simply has the – and, no, I’m not going to say ‘je ne sais quoi’, which is another of those items from that repository where the doors are now firmly closed. In any event, the actual translation was borrowed into English as an expression of a quality that makes something or someone attractive, distinctive, or special in some way, but is hard to put into words.

If I cannot put it into words then I am in the wrong profession.

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Rather like an elephant in thin bush, it can hide in plain sight without being seen but, when spotted, attracts more than just a cursory glance – like that grey behemoth; the 5008 has an impressive presence yet has all the subtle nuances of an Edith Piaf song.

As the flagship of the re-invented Peugeot South Africa, the 5008 waves a big banner in the large SUV market, the 7-seater built on Peugeot’s second-generation Efficient Modular Platform to become a SUV but with the modularity of a people-carrier.

So why make the new Peugeot 5008 an SUV, thereby abandoning the C-segment seven-seater people-carrier niche?

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The answer is firstly because the people-carrier segment is almost exclusively a European phenomenon, while with the 5008 SUV a global offering and the success of the ‘C’ SUV appears to have been compensated by an erosion in demand for traditional saloons and people-carriers.

Today many drivers are drawn to the SUV concept and the positive images it projects, but they are also looking for volume, roominess, comfort, and utility compatible with the diverse aspects of their active lives.

For these people, standard SUVs are neither a good fit (too small and lacking in modularity) nor a good deal (bigger SUVs are too expensive and too imposing). Even current SUV owners, who love the design of their vehicle and the status it conveys, often want more volume and versatility.

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The new Peugeot i-Cockpit elevates the passenger compartment along with the optimised and efficient interior geometry, roominess and a range of smart features.

Inside is the latest version of the Peugeot i-Cockpit, which offers a compact steering wheel (the smallest on the market, across all segments), an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen and a 12,3-inch high-resolution digital head-up instrument panel.

The seven central satin chrome dashboard switches offer quick access to the main passenger comfort and safety functions: radio, air-conditioning, satellite navigation, vehicle settings, telephone, apps and hazard warning lights.

 

Both the Allure and GT Line versions also feature an extra button for i-Cockpit Amplify that offers its occupants two predefined sensory environments: ‘Boost’, in tune with a dynamic driving style, and ‘Relax’, for a mellower ambience. Both can be fully customised, to accentuate the pleasure of driver and passengers alike.

The Efficient Modular Platform (EMP2) is specified with a wheelbase 16,5 cm longer than the Peugeot 3008 SUV, and is 11cm wider than the original 5008 and second-row passengers, have 60 mm more knee room.

The overall length of the vehicle (4,64 m) remains compact, yet for a spacious C-segment vehicle, the new Peugeot 5008 SUV — though 19 cm longer than the Peugeot 3008 SUV and 11 cm longer than the original version of the 5008 — is still one of the most conservatively proportioned.

The configuration offers three matching, separate, folding and tilting seats in the second row and two removable, separate, folding seats in the third row that fold down into the boot floor as standard.

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The two covers of the boot floor form a perfectly flat surface when folded down and they can also be easily tucked away behind the third-row seats when these are in use.

With up to 1 060 litres of storage in 5-seat configuration, the boot is 100 dm3 larger than the original 5008. Even with the 3rd row seats installed and folded, boot space is more than 700 dm3. Its low boot sill (676 mm), in combination a hands-free power tailgate makes loading and unloading an easy task.

The safety pack includes automatic emergency braking system (AEBS) and distance alert

Systems, active lane keeping assistance, driver attention warning, smart beam assistance, speed sign recognition and speed suggestion, adaptive cruise control with stop feature (automatic gearbox), active blind spot monitoring, park assist and visio park (180° vision on GT Line).

The 1 997 cc in-line four cylinder turbo-diesel engine produces 110 kW at 4 000 r/min with peak power of 370 Nm at 2 000 r/min, driving through a six-speed automatic gearbox for an overall average consumption of 5,1 l/100 km with CO2 emissions around 136 g/km.

And, that package rather aptly fits the vehicle nomenclature of ‘Allure’.

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Mrs W, who is somewhat automotively disinclined, usually responds to the oft-asked question “what car is your husband driving today” with “a red one” or “a white one”. So, when she said to me the 5008 was “nice and easy to drive”, it came as high praise indeed.

The 5008 is ‘nice and easy to drive’ and, in many ways, that is the true art of automotive design and implementation. Everything you need, where you need it and when you need it!

Driven within the context of its positioning in the market, the 5008 is smooth and quiet with no noticeable wind or road noise intrusion into the cabin.

Acceleration response is rapid enough to effect easy overtaking when the occasion demands and the good all round visibility makes it easy to place the vehicle on the road (or in a squished parking place).

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The raised ride with low roofline keep it stable on the road and it has negligible body roll around corners even when given a bit of ‘wellie’, while braking is firm and without any wallow.

All in all, a car that befits its flagship status.

 

 

Where to UD Trucks?

In the wake of what is one of the most significant announcements in trucking in many years – namely, the fact Isuzu Trucks is to buy UD Trucks (part of the Volvo Group) – the public relations business carries on merrily with both Volvo and UD locally telling tales how well they did in 2019 and how 2020 looks; with only the briefest mention of the BIG DEAL.

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In December 2019 the Volvo Group and Isuzu Motors signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with ‘the intent to form a strategic alliance within commercial vehicles in order to capture the opportunities in the ongoing transformation of the industry’.

In a first step, the intention is to establish a global technology partnership and to create a stronger, combined heavy-duty truck business for Isuzu Motors and UD Trucks in Japan and across international markets. This will entail transferring ownership of the complete UD Trucks business globally from the Volvo Group to Isuzu Motors in order to accelerate growth by leveraging greater volumes and complementary capabilities.

A key word in this is ‘non-binding’ but even so speculation is rife as to what it actually means in the massively changing world of trucking . . .and if UD Trucks is simply going tobe chewed to the bone Piranha style by Isuzu.

Meanwhile both UD Trucks and Volvo Trucks were positive about their activities in South Africa in 2019 with UD entering a new era with the appointment of a new managing director.  Filip Van den Heede has replaced Gert Swanepoel, who retired after 32 years with the company.

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Gert Swanepoel (left) hands over to Filip van den Heede

“It has been an incredible journey with UD Trucks and it is truly the people and the relationships with customers and dealers that have made it worthwhile,” said Swanepoel.  “It has been a privilege to be a part of the brand’s growth and development throughout the years, and I am excited about the future of UD Trucks in the region.”

Van den Heede has been involved in the trucking industry and the Volvo Group for the past 22 years and was previously Vice President of Vehicle Sales and Marketing for UD Trucks International Sales, which included responsibility for the southern African market. He has extensive experience in all aspects of the business, including aftermarket, business development, new product introductions and sales.

“Last year was an extraordinary year for UD Trucks Southern Africa, as we launched three new model ranges in the region,” says Van den Heede.  “Our customers now have access to an extensive model line-up, from medium to extra heavy commercial vehicles, backed by the company’s 58 years of experience in the local industry.

“We have one of the most extensive dealer networks in the region, with 36 dealers and service agents in South Africa and 30 in other southern African countries such as Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. As UD Trucks, we believe it comes down to the basics of supporting our customers every step of the way. To be there with professional service, parts and sales support throughout a truck’s lifecycle, and to keep on adding value to our customers’ businesses.”

Marketing Director, Rory Schulz said the performance of the commercial vehicle market was certainly erratic during 2019, as local economic conditions continued to be less than favourable.

“Despite all the odds, the total commercial vehicle market remained resilient and logged year-on-year growth of 2,1% at the end of 2019. However, transport operators continue to face severe cost pressures, with fluctuating diesel prices, overall safety of drivers and trucks, as well as instances of civil unrest, hitting many operations hard in the past year.”

Schulz said that the Southern Africa truck market is quite unique as on the one hand there are customers who want their fleets to have highly developed technologies and systems, while others are happy to stick to the very basics.

“The region is somewhat of a dichotomy as you can drive by hi-tech logistical warehouses that support large international corporations, while at the same time trying to avoid potholes on the road.  As a manufacturer, we must take these two worlds into consideration when introducing new products and technologies,” says Schulz.

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Volvo Trucks Southern Africa ended 2019 as the top-selling extra heavy truck manufacturer in South Africa having sold 3 206 units in South Africa and other African countries during last year, giving them a 23,2% market share of the segment.

The first place for Volvo Trucks is an improvement of its position in 2018, when the company finished in third position – a 4,8% growth in market share.

Volvo Trucks Southern Africa has assembly facilities in Durban and currently has four ranges available: the FH16, FH, FM and FMX.  The company is also responsible for export to countries such as Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Marcus Hörberg

“Our customers and our staff are the main driving force behind everything we do,” said Marcus Hörberg, vice president of Volvo Group Southern Africa.  “We believe the quality of our products, our staff, service, parts and support, played a central role in increasing our market share.  We will now work even harder to keep the trust our fleet owners have placed in us.”

Hörberg said that in order to efficiently support the growing Volvo Trucks vehicle parc, the company will invest in additional facilities and service dealers. The company will also train and develop additional technicians to keep service levels up to the highest standards.

At the end of the fourth quarter in 2019, Volvo Trucks was also the top-ranked truck manufacturer in terms of overall customer satisfaction, according to the latest report released by Data Track, a local research company that analyses customer experiences of more than 37 500 truck and fleet operators in South Africa.

New Haval H2 goes auto

You know the name, you have seen the cars on the road but, if asked, probably struggle to get that name to emerge from the deepest recesses of your mind – yet, between 2017 and the end of last year, had sold 7 525 units locally.

The name is Haval, the passenger vehicle division of Great Wall Motors (GWM) of China.

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Like Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia, GWM and Haval have grown from being cheap car manufacturers feeding a voracious local market to being significant players on the global stage with subsidiary companies in dozens of countries.

Locally, what began as a distributorship has morphed into being one of those wholly-owned (by GWM) subsidiaries with 55 dealers across South Africa and its immediate neighbours with a further five likely to be appointed during 2020.

At the launch of the new Haval H2, the company announced it had recently opened an assembly plant in Russia and even hinted there might be one on the cards for South Africa to service the continent as public confidence in the young brand turns to increased product volumes.

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The original H2, launched in 2017, notched up a modest 34 sales in June of that year but, now sits at average monthly sales of 400 a month – reaching 464 in December last year.

With a local parts stockholding exceeding R100-million and a first pick rate of 97%, the local company is confident it has completed the step up from ‘cheap Chinese’ to be able to stand proudly against other contenders in the classes in which it competes.

The H2, which competes in small SUV segment has been quite extensively revised and now features a six-speed automatic transmission for the first time. This outsourced unit is essentially the same as found in both Hyundai and Kia products.

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The 1,5-litre turbo-charged petrol engine at the heart of the H2 is an in-house Haval design and the car itself is the result of input from the several R&D centres the company has in various parts of the world.

From the outside there are subtle changes to the grille and front end, while the new car is lower and the visual effect from front to rear is smoother, more modern and beginning to grow a character of its own.

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Inside, fit and finish is good quality and the dashboard layout is modern, neat and uncluttered with all operational switches and buttons clearly marked and within easy reach. The centre console adopts piano-lacquer materials along with atmosphere lighting.

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The seats are at an average hip-height, which provides easy entry and exit, so there is no awkward climbing as is the case with some other SUVs.

Behind the wheel, the comfortable upright driving position provides enhanced vision of the road ahead, while the 3D, fashionable and multi-functional dashboard shows essential driving information, including instantaneous fuel consumption, remaining driving mileage and the latest technical entertainment options.

The multi-function steering wheel bristles with controls for audio, page display on the screen and dash, cruise controls and the hands-free Bluetooth telephone.

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The new Haval H2 incorporates advanced technology for the 4-cylinder 1,5-litre turbo-charged enginethat provides 105 kW maximum power output and 202 Nm peak torque output.

The safety features on the new H2 include six crash bags, a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, keyless entry, featuring advanced radio frequency identification technology and anti-lock braking – the H2 having received a 5-start ANCAP crash test rating.

The launch drive was held in high winds and heavy rain so somewhat skewed perceptions but I cam away impressed with the handling (in the conditions), lack of body roll, stability in the face of the strong Cape winds.

For me, the automatic gearbox was a bit ‘grabby’ and constantly hunting for gears. To be fair my car had only 300 km on the clock and colleagues said they were impressed with the smoothness of the auto both in up and downshifts.

Haval use the catchphrase ‘drive to impress’ . . . and it did!

 

Pricing 2019 new H2
Configuration (versions) 2WD   2WD  
  City Luxury City Luxury
6MT 6AT
Retail R269 900,00 R294 900,00 R304 900,00 R329 900,00

 

Backdraft Racing supports SA Endurance Series

Motor racing is all about passion and Backdraft Racing – based in Prospecton, Durban – has taken this to a new level by loaning 10 race-ready Roadsters to new teams for the 2020 SA Endurance Racing Series.

That’s right! Ten cars loaned out for the 2020 season for free.

Teams from the United Kingdom, one from Sweden and one from Dubai are adding some international flair to the highly competitive series.

Tony Martin
Tony Martin

Backdraft Racing is headed up by former South African Driver’s Champion and Daytona 24-Hour winner, Tony Martin who says: “Everything I have today has come from racing so this idea is both a way to give something back to the sport I love and to add a new dimension to the SA Endurance Racing series.

“It is not a gimmick and the cars are all prepared to within a couple of horsepower of each other and are identical in every other way. They are extremely competitive, not only against each other but will be able to challenge other marques involved in the series.”

Loan race cars in the Backdraft Racing workshop
Loan race cars in the Backdraft Racing workshop.

The South African Endurance Racing series consists of six events at various circuits around the country and are all 4-hour races except for the final at Killarney, Cape Town in December that will be a marathon 7-hour event.

“We have loaned cars to teams capable of competing at this level of racing,” says Martin, “and all we are asking in return is they guarantee to be ready and present for both practice and the race at each event in the series.”

The Backdraft Roadsters are open-top racers powered by a 300 hp Lexus V8 engine driving the rear wheels through a BMW gearbox and BMW limited slip differential.

“They are raw, powerful and purpose-built race cars,” says Martin. “There are no electronic aids such as traction control or anti-lock braking. They are true driver’s cars.”

The 'office'
The ‘office’.

While the competing teams are free to bring their own sponsors on board to cover the general running costs, they will not be allowed to make any modification to the Roadsters beyond basic race-day and handling setup.

We will have a fully kitted parts transporter at each race with a full range of spares available. Backdraft will have their own ‘policeman’ – Brian Clifton – to assist competitors and to ensure compliance to the rules where necessary. Nothing on the engine, transmission or brakes can be changed, in fact no performance enhancing modifications will be allowed.

Competing in the series are a wide range of marques including Lamborghini, Ferrari and Porsche alongside sports cars such as Ginetta, Liege, Nash and Juno.

One of the loan cars ready for delivery
Ready for delivery.

In all, Backdraft Racing will have at least 13 cars for the 2020 season with established pairing Brian Martin and Trevor Graham continuing to campaign their easily recognizable red Roadster, while a completely new car is being readied for Tony Martin and Mike McLoughlin. Added to this we are excited that Clare Vale will be competing in another Backdraft albeit not in the production series.

McLoughlin holds the outright lap record at Dezzi Raceway, KZN in his sprint setup Roadster, having taken that away from Jaki Scheckter who was driving Greg Parton’s Lamborghini Huracan at the time.

Current KZN Sports Car Champion, Duncan dos Reis, will be one of the drivers of the new Roadsters alongside Damon Parker while well-known Historic driver Colin Ellison will partner with Peter Jenkins.

The UK team consists of Mark Owens with Italian Jean-Marie Gabbiani as co-driver while Thomas Kummerling and his son Jacob will be the Swedish entry. Rudi Patior and A N Other our Dubai importers will also be competing.  Brothers Gary and Nigel Richardson will form another team as will Graham and Tania du Toit.

Another top KZN driver, Steve Clark still has to announce his co-driver as does Cape Town’s Brian Morgan.

“The spectacle of these 10 Backdraft Roadsters racing each other and the rest of the field is going to add a whole new dimension to the series this year,” enthuses Martin. “Within the series itself there will be a Roadster class – so if anyone has a roadster and wants to come and join the fun, they are more than welcome.”

The first of the current Endurance Series was a 6-hour held at the Phakisa Freeway near Welkom in the Free State on February 23, 2013. The events grew in stature and size over time as their popularity increased and, in 2017 National Championship status was granted by Motorsport South Africa.  The first South African National Endurance Racing Champion was crowned together with an Index of Performance National Champion. Ironically this honour befell a Zimbabwean, Darren Winterboer.  He managed to pull off both Championships with solid performances throughout the year.

For 2020, the season-opener is a 4-hour race at Aldo Scribante near Port Elizabeth on March 21.

W Series gets F1 dates

W Series racing – the all-women single-seater formula – heads for a bigger stage this year with the USA and Mexico races scheduled alongside the Formula 1  race at each venue on the weekend.

W Series’ USA race will take place at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, October 24 and W Series’ Mexico race will take place at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in the capital, Mexico City, on Saturday, October 31.

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Tasmin Pepper

The two all-new W Series races – with South Africa’s Tasmin Pepper as part of the field –  will form an exciting championship-deciding ‘double header’, held on consecutive weekends, and will be rounds seven and eight of the eight-race 2020 W Series championship.

The full 2020 W Series championship calendar

Race 1 St Petersburg, Russia May 30th
Race 2 Anderstorp, Sweden June 13th
Race 3 Monza, Italy June 27th
Race 4 Norisring, Germany July 11th
Race 5 Brands Hatch, UK August 23rd
Race 6 Assen, Netherlands September 5th
Race 7 Austin, USA October 24th
Race 8 Mexico City, Mexico October 31st
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Catherine Bond Muir

Catherine Bond Muir (Chief Executive Officer, W Series) says: “We at W Series are absolutely delighted that, in only our second season, our championship has been welcomed by Formula 1 and we are utterly thrilled  the final two races of the 2020 W Series season will therefore take place as part of the Formula 1 platform.

“Our two all-new races will follow six races on the DTM platform, making a very varied, extremely exciting and truly international eight-race championship, in eight countries across the globe. I’m particularly pleased that W Series will now stage races outside Europe, and the USA and Mexico are of course both very important new territories for us.

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“Interest in and enthusiasm for W Series was enormous in our first season, 2019, among media and fans alike, and the addition of two all-new W Series races on the Formula 1 platform will inevitably increase that enthusiasm and interest.

“Commercially, too, following the successful recent announcement of W Series’ new multi-year sponsor-partnership with ROKiT Phones, the fact W Series will be even bigger and even better in 2020 than it was in 2019 will make the return on investment for our future sponsor-partners better and bigger, too.”

Dave Ryan (Racing Director, W Series) added: “Following the six W Series races that will be run in 2020 alongside DTM, who remain an excellent partner of ours, W Series’ two new Formula 1 support races in Austin and Mexico City will cap what looks set to be a brilliant second season for us.

“The Circuit of the Americas is a superb racetrack. Sector one is particularly spectacular, featuring an extremely steep uphill run into Turn One, and I’m sure that the W Series drivers will find it exciting yet challenging.

“Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez is also a fantastic circuit, older than the Circuit of the Americas of course but impressively updated, having hosted the Mexican Grand Prix since the race was reintroduced to the Formula 1 calendar in 2015 but having previously been the venue for Mexican Grands Prix as long ago as 1963.”

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Ross Brawn

Ross Brawn (Managing Director, Motorsport at Formula 1) says: “We are delighted to welcome W Series to two such spectacular events of the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship such as those in Austin and Mexico City.

“In just one year, W Series has contributed significantly to increasing interest in the topic of diversity and inclusion in motor sport.

“We are convinced our sport must offer equal opportunities for men and women to compete together – it is no coincidence that improving the diversity of the F1 grid by supporting and promoting driver talent from under-represented backgrounds is one of our strategic objectives.

“The ability for the great crowds who traditionally attend the Austin and Mexico City Grands Prix to see these talented female drivers up close will definitely further raise the awareness of the importance of inclusion and diversity in motor sport.”