You see the name Infiniti on some very fast cars – but only on the TV during grands prix weekends. With Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo driving…
So it was good at FoS to see a fast and exciting Infiniti that was not an F1 car – could it be that with the Q50 Eau Rouge the sporty and upmarket side of Nissan is at last finding its performance feet in the real world?
Certainly the 560bhp Eau Rouge provided a very ‘real’ experience for Infiniti Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner, one of the car’s drivers for its dynamic debut up the hill at the weekend, who admitted to having a ‘moment’ on his run.
‘I helped develop the Eau Rouge and still I scared myself. It’s a real driver’s car,’ he told Goodwood Road & Racing.
Well, it would be with the twin-turbo V6 and all-wheel drivetrain from the Nissan GT-R underneath that pumped up, carbon look, extra downforce body. Mooted numbers are 180mph and 0-62mph in under 4sec.
The Eau Rouge is exactly the interesting bit of kit that Infiniti needs to make the most of its sporting potential. Here, after all, is a company that doesn’t just sponsor a front-rank F1 team but increasingly has a technical collaboration with Red Bull Racing; an outfit that has a four-time world champ as performance director and which can claim keys to goodie cupboards at Nissan and, increasingly, Mercedes too.
And the name is a cracker. Apart from connotations of speed and total commitment, Eau Rouge is also very European and that’s surely important for this previously American-centred brand.
Even the new Infiniti boss in Europe (see interview following) admits to GRR-style enthusiast tendencies. He has a brace of old Triumphs in his garage at home and for fun blats around Paris at five in the morning.
It’s a good bet Infiniti haven’t got all this in place just to sell diesel SUVs.
So when will the Q50 Eau Rouge make production? Christian Horner seemed in no doubt that it will make the showroom when we asked him, even if the new boss was being a bit cagier…
MEET THE BOSS: FRANCOIS GOUPIL DE BOUILLÉ
Francois took over as vice president of Infiniti in Europe three months ago, so this was his first Festival of Speed in charge. Awareness of the Infiniti name is higher than it’s ever been, but more thanks to F1 sponsorship and events like FoS than any hot-selling models. We spoke to the man with the big job to do – starting with the obvious question…
Is the Q50 Eau Rouge going into production?
I would like to give you the answer now but I cannot. We would like to have it in production – the reaction has been so positive. But we are still evaluating the car and no decision has been taken.
Could there be a whole range of high performance Eau Rouge versions of Infiniti cars?
That’s a good question. It could be a possibility as a line of super sporty models. We can say the name is a success, and if the customer is attracted by that then it’s something we have to consider.
Infiniti and the Festival of Speed – a natural fit?
There is no way we would have sent the Eau Rouge anywhere other than Goodwood for its dynamic debut. I was last at FoS 10 years ago and I am amazed how it has developed. Along with Le Mans, it is the best event for fans in Europe, or probably the world.
What’s the Infiniti message you want the 220,000 FoS visitors to take away with them?
That Infiniti is the alternative. That we are disruptive and provocative. Our competitors are well known and do a fantastic job. But we know that if we copy what is the market we fail. It is important that we have our exclusive design and technology – that is how we find our own territory.
Is Formula 1 still working for you now you are not winning all the races?
It is extremely positive for us. We have a very close relationship with Red Bull Racing – our engineers work with them, and their engineers work at Infiniti. Our agreement goes to 2016 and after that we will see.
Paris Motor Show is coming up, any surprises?
Yes we will have a surprise. We want to give you a vision of Infiniti’s direction. A performance car – performance is in our DNA – with plenty of passion. We will not do anything without passion.
Has not having a heritage in Europe held you back?
When you don’t have a heritage then you have to work extra hard to create it. We have to do things right, and we have to do them fast.
What’s in your garage at home?
A British car and a British bike! I have a 1972 Triumph TR6, which I think has an unbeatable price/pleasure ratio, and a 1968 Triumph Bonneville. Any Bonneville enthusiast will tell you the ’68 is the one to have. I bought mine with just 15,000km on the clock. I was looking for it for years…
My dream is to tow the Bonneville with the TR6 but so far I have not found out how – if anyone can help perhaps they can let me know!
Your favourite drive?
Very simple. If it is summer, I wake up at 4.30 and drive into Paris and make the city tour. At 5.30 there is no one around and it is the best time to drive around a beautiful city. It’s probably the same in London.
You’ll have to make a follow-up to the classic Ferrari-in-Paris film Rendezvous…
I have a GoPro but my son who is 14 took it and I never saw it again.