Hyundai to badge Chevworth

UPDATE #2 We hear that the IRL has a dilemma with bringing Hyundai into the series – Honda does not want to pit their brand against Hyundai because they feel their image brand is below that of the more established Honda brand and if Hyundai wins races it will look bad for Honda. Honda wants to compete against brand names of comparable status we hear. It true, this means that Champ Car could have the same dilemma if rumors are true they are trying to woo Honda back into the fold.

This of course could get interesting because we suspect the Chinese are soon going to want to be racing in the USA and with Hyundai being the biggest foreign brand in China now, there would be a possibility of both a Chinese car brand and Hyundai going head-to-head. In our opinion, both Honda and Toyota are concerned that car companies from China and South Korea are going to make inroads into the USA car market and they are going to have to go head-to-head at some point with these two countries. Where this all falls out for the IRL and Champ Car remains to be seen. Both companies appear to be a better fit for Champ Car given Champ Car's NAFTA and Pacific Rim schedule.

If China and South Korea decide to come into Champ Car as we speculate, what will Honda do, follow Toyota to NASCAR or stay in the IRL? Perhaps Roger Penske will get someone to badge his Ilmor engines and Honda will compete against that company in the IRL. The ideal situation would be for a common formula for Champ Car and the IRL with all four competing against each other. As the Chinese and South Korean get better at making cars and their brand name approves (Hyundai is already ranked high in the JD Power quality ratings) Honda will no longer deem them too low to beat up on. Mark C.

06/22/05 There are just some things that make you go hmmm, and this rumor that Hyundai might badge an engine in the IRL is one of them. Champ Car has races in both China and South Korea. South Korea's Hyundai has become the latest car maker to announce a big expansion in China. Hyundai yesterday signed a preliminary agreement with China's Guangzhou Motor Group to set up a $1.24bn commercial vehicle joint venture.

The move will accelerate the company's expansion in the world's third-largest vehicle market, where Hyundai is already a top-selling car brand. Hyundai said the latest Chinese venture, which will give the carmaker a full production line-up in China, was crucial for achieving its ambition of boosting vehicle output in the country to 1m units – a fifth of its global output – by 2010.

The move will increase Hyundai's output potential in China more than fourfold, to 600,000 vehicles a year by 2007. Separately, Hyundai's Kia subsidiary is to spend nearly $360m raising its Chinese capacity to 430,000 cars a year, from 130,000 currently. The investment program will lift Hyundai's total output potential in China to more than 1 million vehicles a year.

Why then would Kevin Kalkhoven be talking to Hyundai about racing in the IRL, a USA racing series, when his own Champ Car series can deliver the USA market, the Chinese market (key as noted above) and their home market of South Korea? There is more to this rumor than meets the eye, and we suspect Kalkhoven would like nothing better than to broker a deal with Hyundai to badge his Cosworth engines for both leagues, quite easy if they agree to common equipment. One would think that Honda just might be interested in beating Hyundai on the race track because they are quickly becoming a global automotive powerhouse to be reckoned with

06/20/05 This SPEEDTV article says (excerpts) The two men who own and operate Champ Car did not get to watch their Chevworth engine triumph with Tomas Scheckter in last week's Indy Racing League show at Texas.

"I don't watch those races but I did call Cosworth and congratulate them," said Gerald Forsythe, who along with Kevin Kalkhoven purchased Cosworth Engineering last winter. I hear it might have 20 horsepower on the Honda," said Kalkhoven, speaking of the Chevrolet engine that's been overhauled and designed by Cosworth since the middle of the 2003 IRL season. "I know it's a damn good engine."

Good enough, it turns out, that after General Motors bids farewell to the IRL at the end of 2005 there's another major manufacturer seriously interested in badging the Cosworth and keeping it alive in Tony George's series. has learned that Hyundai, the seventh largest car manufacturer in the world, is the interested party. "Yes," admitted Kalkhoven on Sunday, "the people from Hyundai called Cosworth this week to discuss the possibilities." To which Forsythe added: "We're not interested in selling Cosworth but we would be interested in badging it like we've done with Chevrolet."

Now this is intriguing for a number of reasons. First off, Honda's Robert Clarke has been lobbying Kalkhoven, Forsythe and George to end the 10-year civil war and get together in one series by 2007. In the past few months, Mario Andretti brokered meetings with both sides about having a common chassis and engine by '07.

Clarke is concerned that Toyota will join GM on the sidelines following 2006, leaving Honda as the lone power source — something it vows it will not do. Unification is the ideal situation but, in the event some kind of common ground cannot be reached, Honda desperately wants Cosworth in play.

"Gerry and I have said all along that Cosworth is separate from Champ Car and we're happy to talk with anyone about keeping our IRL engine program going," said Kalkhoven, whose turbocharged engines power all 18 Champ Cars. "We're businessmen, first, and racers second."

The uncertainty about the IRL's engine future makes this even more intriguing.

With its IRL house teams of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, Toyota is committed through 2006, although the rumor persists it might bail after this year. This speculation was further fueled recently when Penske purchased the controlling interest in Ilmor USA. This English-based engine builder has long been a partner of Penske's in CART and it escorted Honda into the IRL in 2003.

It's possible that Penske could be preparing to either use Ilmor USA to take over Toyota's program or simply build a new model to sell. Toyota's only three wins in the past two years have come from Penske, who uses his own engine shop to build his IRL motors.

The IRL has yet to announce its 2007 engine specs and many feel it's because nobody is certain of which manufacturers or engine builders might be playing. So Hyundai vs. Honda might be the IRL's best bet, which would be ironic to say the least since Kalkhoven, Forsythe and George would be helping each other.

[Editor's Note: Let's not forget that South Korean company Hyundai would love to be on the Cosworth Champ Car engine when the series makes a stop in Ansan, South Korea (suburb of Seoul) later this year. In a unified series Honda and Hyundai would be supplying engines to be used by teams in all markets, including South Korea. We had heard that Hyundai has been eyeing Champ Car for quite some time, so we could see Kalkhoven and Forsythe trying to broker this deal as one aspect of a unification. We still feel any unification will still require two divisions using common equipment and six common playoff races to determine the overall champion. With F1 sticking a gun to its head this weekend over the USGP debacle, a unified Champ Car/IRL powerhouse could certainly move in and steal F1's worldwide thunder because the world has had enough of F1 politics. The silly Champ Car/IRL war must end, and end now.]

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