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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tochigi's Car Plant Visited By F1 Champ

I'm a Tochigi-ken boy... I lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan between 1990-1993. As such, I tend to look for things about the old prefecture... which is why I present this to you... more so than because it involves an F1 racing champ.

I used to watch F1 races all the time, but marriage and fatherhood seems to have got in the way. But... I still love fast cars...

Earlier this month, the 2010 and 2011 F1 world champ racing driver Sebastian Vettel visited the Infiniti global automobile manufacturing facility in Kaminokawa-machi, Tochigi-ken ahead of his scheduled race in the Japanese Grand Prix.

It must have been lucky as Vettel won the race! It was his second win in a row, winning the Singapore Grand Prix. Following his victory at the Japanese event, Vettel then won two more races in a row: the Korean Grand Prix and this weekends Indian Grand Prix!     

At the Tochigi-ken Infiniti plant (the Infiniti brand is owned by parent company Nissan), Vettel test drove his own Infiniti FX Vettel Edition production car for the very first time.
What? A white Japanese car??!!!?

Part of the Red Bull racing team, and Infiniti ambassador, Vettel was at the Tochigi plant to approve the first cars off the assembly line - as he helped co-design them.

After touring the facility and giving it the smile of approval, he also hung around to meet staff at the plant before hopping behind the wheel of his car to test it on the plant's track.

What was also cool was the fact that Vettel was allowed to test drive some other cars not yet produced and provided performance feedback to engineers and other test drivers.

Anyhow... the Infiniti FX Vettel Edition is limited to just 150 cars and is priced at about $155,000--but don't break open your piggy banks yet! If you are in the US or Canada - it ain't coming here. Maybe you could buy one in Japan and have it shipped over. No biggie... if you have the cash to buy one, you can afford the shipping, right? I've heard, though that there are some regulatory issues keeping it from being sold in North America. 

The SUV supercar - that's what it is - contains upgrades over a standard FX50 S... which is also what the car is based on... but this baby includes: a restyled grille, a carbon fiber front spoiler modelled on the front wing of a Formula One (F1) car, LED daytime running lights, carbon fiber wing mirrors and sills and a rear spoiler. The powerplant is a 5.0-litre V8 engine that was upgraded to 414 horsepower and has the speed limited removed from it allowing it to cruise at an eye watering 300 kilometers (186 miles) per hour... which is about 60 kilometers per hour faster than I have ever driven... in my 2001 Hyundai Tiburon.

I said I liked speed. But that whole fatherhood thing has me rarely over the speed limit nowadays. Obey the traffic laws, boys and girls. Don't be an idiot like I was/am.

Andrew Joseph

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