For­eign cars

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

SIX rounds into the 2012 Aus­tralian Foot­ball League sea­son and Hyundai is lead­ing from chal­lenger VW, with plucky Kia lurk­ing in third place. Nine AFL teams have car mak­ers as ma­jor spon­sors, adding an en­ter­tain­ing au­to­mo­tive di­men­sion to the sport, which oth­er­wise would only at­tract sev­eral mil­lion view­ers ev­ery week.

Be­hind Hyundai (Carl­ton), Vw(syd­ney) and Kia (Essendon), fans may fol­low Toy­ota (Ade­laide). Toy­ota hedges its bets by also of­fer­ing some back­ing to present lad­der lead­ers the West Coast Ea­gles. Ford backs Gee­long, Mazda goes for North Melbourne and Jeep runs with Rich­mond.

At the bot­tom of the AFL lad­der, win­less in sea­son 2012, are the lesser-known but quite am­bi­tious Skoda (Greater Western Syd­ney) and Opel (Melbourne). They lack both pre­mier­ship points and mass­mar­ket sales.

In Opel’s case this is eas­ily ex­plained. The Ger­man branch of Gen­eral Mo­tors won’t launch in Australia un­til July, when a multi-car range will be sold through Holden deal­ers. Opel, whose high-qual­ity com­pact ve­hi­cles are known to Aus­tralians un­der var­i­ous Holden badges, is bet­ting our fond­ness for Ger­man prod­ucts will sus­tain a new brand.

Mean­while, let’s spec­u­late over which team and car maker might next com­bine. The Gold Coast Suns and sec­ond-hand Mercedes coupes seem an ob­vi­ous part­ner­ship. AT av­er­age lap speeds above 300km/h, mo­tor rac­ing is more an aero­dy­namic bat­tle. Aus­tralian NAS­CAR racer Mar­cos Am­brose fell vic­tim to an air war at Alabama’s Tal­ladega track last Sun­day, when the sixth-run­ning Ford driver sud­denly found him­self with­out a late-race draft­ing part­ner. Am­brose jinked left and right to main­tain po­si­tion be­hind lead­ing cars but lost the pow­er­ful aero pull they cre­ated, drop­ping to 14th when the flag fell. ‘‘ It’s a shame for the race to fin­ish that way. On the final restart no­body went with me, and I wasn’t able to cut into the draft,’’ he says. Just an­other re­minder that NAS­CAR is more complicated than mere left-hand turns and patho­log­i­cal brav­ery.

Best afield: Car mak­ers try to kick a goal with AFL spon­sor­ship

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