MSC Cruises is going from strength to strength, and May 5 it announced that it will extend its global partnership with Formula 1®. They said this in Miami, on the eve of the Grand Prix™. MSC Cruises will therefore continue to be the official partner of Formula 1® for the cruise segment, until the end of the FIA World Championship in 2026.
MSC Cruises continues this partnership for all the good reasons: the ever growing interest in the Formula 1® universe around the world, and particularly in key markets for MSC Cruises, resulted in very strong results for the company and its product portfolio. The success of this collaboration between these two prestigious brands has enabled MSC Cruises to commit to further strengthen this partnership through an enriched program.
The MSC Ship Virtuosa will be your stay for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix…
As part of the agreement, MSC Cruises will position ships in ports throughout select Grand Prix™ weekends to provide a unique hospitality experience from the circuit to the ship. The first of these event weekends will take place in November, for the last race of the 2023 season, in Abu Dhabi. The MSC ship Virtuosa will spend the Grand Prix™ weekend at the port, offering motorsport fans unique accommodation, hospitality and transport packages, including VIP packages. This concept will be enriched and deployed in other destinations, with other ships, from the 2024 season onwards.
The Virtuosa has longest LED Dome at sea…
In addition, MSC Cruises is confirmed as main sponsor of the F1® Grand Prix™ of Belgium in 2023. Thus, the brand will offer, among other things, immersive entertainment for spectators in the Fan Zone. Further main sponsorship deals will be unveiled shortly, for further 2024 F1® World Championship Grand Prix™. Needless to say that both parties are delighted with the collaboration:
Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises (on the right) said: “Formula 1® and MSC Cruises are excellent partners on many levels. Our success is partly based on teamwork, but also on our shared commitment to lasting change. We want to shape the future of our respective industries and leave a lasting legacy for generations to come. Our two brands are evolving at the head of their industries and contributing to a lasting change. For all these reasons, we are committed to Formula 1® for the long term on a global scale. We look forward to seeing this special collaboration evolve over the years. »
Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1®, (on the left) said: “We are delighted to extend our partnership with MSC Cruises, as our two brands share the same commitment to innovation and excellence. This collaboration has already delivered outstanding results and we look forward to strengthening our relationship. Together we will continue to push the boundaries and set new standards in sports and hospitality. »
We suggest the Grand Prix Lovers to have a closer look at MSC Cruises and their offers!
We met already Mme Béatrice Foucher at the presentation of the DS 4 last year in Chantilly, where she presented the strategy of DS Autombiles at the “DS Week” event…
DS Automobiles is carving a fine niche for itself in the premium segment. Your servant appreciates the refinement, comfort and last but not least the style of these fine DS automobiles. You can understand that we were delighted to meet Mme Béatrice Foucher at the presentation of the DS 4 in the “DS week” last year in Chantilly. Then, the entire press presentation of this noble automobile was in line with its qualities: we were not only able to meet Mme Béatrice Foucher personally at dinner, together with the communications people of the brand at lunch, we also had interesting workshops with the designers, engineers and last but not least the craftsmen and artists who make the DS 4 into the hand made four wheeled gem it is. You can read more about this event in our columns, see https://autoprova.be/2021/09/05/we-had-a-first-drive-with-the-elegant-ds-4-the-electrified-future-has-arrived-at-ds-automobiles/
At the Brussels Salon this year, we were again invited to have an interview with her. Just read further…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
A prototype of the DS 4 was displayed in Chantilly, symbol indeed of French “Savoir faire”…
HKtb: I have to congratulate you on your client approach and your philosophy to extend the refinement of your cars, not only in its external styling, but also in the interior.
BF: Indeed, that is our “raison d’être”, it is a combination of technology and the French “savoir faire” or know-how. Indeed, after having admired the exterior, customers must open the door of our cars, like for instance the DS4, see the new leather, the new solutions in the interior we developed in the DS3, the new DS7. From the next year onwards, we are going to create what we call collections, like there exist in the world of fashion.
The stunning interior of the DS prototype seen last year in Chantilly. Look at the contours and wood lined finish of the seats. A harbinger of things to come?
HKtB: We see here on the Salon, the very stylish DS E-Tense Performance 600 kW prototype, are there details of this car we will see in the production models?
BF: This will be more for the exterior than the interior, its bodywork lines which will be seen on our cars from 2024 onwards.(See our photo below of this prototype)
HKtB: But you emphasize the “savoir faire” Français, the French art of life…in automotive mobility.
BF: Indeed, that’s it. This lies in the materials we use, the art of treating them and producing exquisite textures. The French know-how in terms of stock market value lies now in the companies producing luxury goods, who have an established international reputation. This know-how is internationally recognized and appreciated, and this we put into our cars. Indeed, we see the car as a part of the interior one lives in, a part of one’s private home, and so the satisfaction and the reason people buy our cars is this choice of materials which appeals to them.
The reasons why our clients buy a DS is first of all the design, both as well exterior as interior, as this is a car which tells something about them. The second element is the elegance and the luxury and last but not least, the comfort. These are the three aspects which make people purchase a DS. The level of satisfaction is very high; clients are very pleased with their choice.
HKtB: Are your clients mostly women?
BF: No! When we look at the statistics, we have the same share of male clients than the other premium brands, even for the DS3, which appeals only slightly more to women. The reason why our clients buy a DS is because it’s a French premium brand, they like a different car in this premium segment, and indeed, the (male) clients show the car to their spouses, they enter the car, and they fall for it. So indeed we have a female clientele “on the second row”, they have a strong influence in the choice of the car which doesn’t show in the statistics.
HKtB: When cars are too feminine, women (and men) don’t necessarily buy it…
BF: Indeed, but as soon as the cars embody a social statement, as premium cars do, the (sexual) codes are not important. We put forward the codes of “savoir faire” Français, of luxury, of refinement, which appeals to both men and women.
HKtB: Indeed, a Cartier watch also appeals to men…
HKtB: The successes of your involvement in the Formula E racing does not really translate into the image of the brand…it did not create the “Audi” effect.
BF: You mentioned Audi. Now their Quattro was a car entering in rallies with iconic figures behind the wheel. Rallies are very popular. We are a young brand, dating from 2014, we chose the Formula E because it tells the story of our brand, with its fast and early move towards electrification. Formula E is not as popular as F1 for example, but it is iconic and indeed quite amusing and interesting.
I mention also here that the DS 7 360 or the DS9 is built by the DS Performance team. This means that besides the drivetrain which is shared with Peugeot, everything else is specific, it has a unique “feel” on the road and offers an exceptional handling. We also optimized the regeneration also on this car, which clients consider important. But indeed, we don’t have decades of sporting history to tell here…
HKtb: Also the typical DS client is not the one who drives (very) fast or seeks the ultimate in performance…
BF: Indeed, this is what we want, and that’s the reason why we call it also “the art of the voyage”. The quality of the time you spend in the car is important. The satisfaction enjoying the comfort of a car being surrounded by noble materials. Of course, you have not less than 360 HP. I can use them if I want it, but what is offered here with this car to me is comfort and refinement. One has more than enough power at hand, but it is not an issue.
HKtb: Are your clients young, and is connectivity important for them?
BF: Our clients are not young, which is the case for all premium brands, if one looks at the B to C statistics, they are between 58 and 60 years old, the B to B is younger, from 45 to 50 years, let’s say. Everybody wants to be seen as an amateur of technology, being a “technophile”, because one thinks that if you don’t love technology, you are missing out. So everyone wants a car which is up to this. It is a social statement of modernity. I tell to my teams, the value of a car is nowadays 50 % hardware and 50 % software.
HKtB: This digitalization takes still further steps, like is shown by BMW with its “Neue Klasse” with screen wide displays and dashboard instrumentation and touch knobs and buttons reduced to the minimum, as the underlying digital menus are doing the rest.
BF: Our philosophy is very clear and we showed it also on our concept car, it is to say that what makes the value of our cars is that when you open the door, you have the impression to enter in a Bugatti. We have refinement, savoir faire, and this we want to stress even more in the future. Of course we consider also the increasing digital infotainment needs, as a modernist social statement, but we want this digital element to disappear when the client wishes so. If you enter the car, there is nothing on the screen. Only when you put the contact, the screen appears. That is our philosophy and our goal. Because at a certain point, showing a plethora of screens is not premium. The faculty of having the information appear and again discreetly disappear is premium. This is the direction in which we work. Of course, we need the technology to make this happen.
HKtb: What I would also look for in future DS automobiles is incredible sound…
BF: We made a partnership with Focal, installed in our higher equipment versions like the Rivoli line, which reaches already very good sound quality… of course we have now more silent, electrified or fully electrified cars, which makes this even more important. Everybody works on this, and we also work with partners who have built an enviable reputation in pure sound management. You will see more in the future…
HKtb: When I travel on a motorway, in a certain region, I would like to tune in on my sound system for cultural, historic or general information about where I travel.
BF: This fits in our philosophy of cultivating “the art of the voyage”, and this is also want the digitalization to bring us. My name I Beatrice, and I want to know about the culture, or art places to visit in the region or city where I travel. This is what connectivity should give me.
On October 1, coffee aficionados around the world celebrated their favorite hot drink on International Coffee Day.
This was a reason of the dynamic Stellantis PR team to to let one of the best baristas in Belgium, Peter Hernou, show us how to serve a good coffee. Because let’s face it, a Mocha coffee in the morning is a day without worries. And with the award-winning Opel Mokka, Opel offers the perfect companion to further color the day.
So we went to the beautiful Pajottenland around Brussels to have a drive with the Mokka and meet Peter Hernou and enjoy his heavenly coffee.
By the way, Opel chose the name “Mokka” by analogy with the coffee/espresso beans that are “small but with a lot of character” or, like the car, “compact in size and big in character”.
It was a very enjoyable day, and we learned a lot about coffee making. The first and most important rule is to have fresh roasted coffee beans, ground just minutes before you make it.
Of course we also had a delightful drive at the wheel of the electric Mokka through the hills of Pajottenland.
Of course, the customer has ample choice, this subcompact SUV from Opel is available as a battery electric vehicle, or with petrol and diesel engines, – just as they would choose their favorite coffee….
Right from the start of our test we chose the “B” hybrid mode and also selected the “eco” driving setting. Indeed, power is abundant in all driving situations when touring, and power delivery is very smooth indeed under this setting. We also took care to select the “battery save” mode, i.e. keeping the battery charged to drive some 20 km on battery power, just in case.
One has to select this every time one starts the car anew, which is a bit cumbersome, but soon enough one flicks through the menus every morning to select this, and there is also a dedicated button below the touchscreen which lets you land immediately in these energy management modes, so after a while this becomes a breeze to include this in the morning starting routine.
Your servant and its passengers greatly appreciated the superb comfort of the seats, further enhanced by the smooth suspension. Be it on the cobblestones in Damme, Brugge or Liège, or the Parisian streets, everything is beautifully ironed out, and even after hours of driving, one feels utterly relaxed and fit.
Indeed, this is what Citroën driving is all about, and not only does one enjoy the “floating carpet” ride, the impressive sound insulation does the rest. Nor do any vibrations reach the cabin.
The DAB radio and sound system overall add greatly to the driving pleasure and entertainment on longer trips, with the navigation system being also top notch. The map can also be seen in the line of vision of the driver within the instrument cluster, which helps greatly in dense (Parisian) traffic situations.
The C5 AirCross is as can be expected an excellent motorway cruiser, in urban situations however, the styling of modern day SUV’s does not give the slightest clue about the edges of the car, and this goes not only for the C5. Of course one has camera’s and warning systems, but we must admit that the camera’s on the C5 lack definition and clarity. We would like to spend a few Euro’s more to have a camera system with better definition.
The beautiful alloys are thankfully somewhat protected by the tyre walls and the rims do not protrude, which is a blessing with the many high and razor sharp kerbstones modern day architects are throwing (literally) before our wheels. Nevertheless, the tyre walls stick out only marginally so much caution is still very much advised. We sweat blood and tears in an older narrow Parisian parking building, but thankfully did not harm the alloys (nor the bodywork) at all. Increasingly one notices that modern cars have become bigger and bigger, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to negotiate them through older parking garages. We saw recently at the presentation of the sleek 408 Peugeot that a better tyre protection is designed for its magnificent alloys.
It’s the only SUV in the segment to offer three individual sliding, reclining and retractable rear seats. The boot volume goes from 580 L to 720 L in the petrol and diesel versions and from 460 L to 600 L for the hybrid version. It offered easily enough room for thee large suitcases and further clothing like jackets and hats.
Of course, consumption is very much depending on your driving style, and in the case of a plug-in hybrid, how often you (re)charge it. During our trip, recharging was not very much in the cards, but we nevertheless achieved a consumption between 6 and 6,5 litres, which considering that there was also quite much urban slow (sightseeing) driving involved, is a very good value indeed.
It’s compact, and it has all the works: it throws in all the goodies of the Sony a6000, which means that it has a 24MP CMOS sensor, Bionz X processor, on-chip phase detection covering 92% of the frame and Wi-Fi with NFC. And this tilting LCD, flipping upward 180 degrees.
The camera can record 1080/60p video, supporting the XAVC S codec, allowing for bit rates of 50Mbps. It also has the ability to simultaneously record 720p video while recording at higher resolutions.
Each year, the Jeux Internationaux de la Jeunesse (‘The International Youth Games’) brings together more than 350 high school students from around the world to honor fundamental values such as excellence, respect, friendship, solidarity and tolerance.
A truly popular phenomenon, the Citroën AMI will be the banner of this edition of the YOU and will be seen at each and every venue of the event.
This global event, whose growing success has not diminished over the past decade, will find a full international resonance thanks to the strength of the powerful network of 552 French secondary schools around the world and the prestigious school sports federation of the French national education system, the UNSS.
More about YOU…
For the past 11 years, YOU have brought together young people from French secondary schools around the world for a week of sporting and cultural activities. This year, and for the first time in its history, the YOU in Belgium will take place at the Lycée Français Jean Monnet in Brussels, in collaboration with the French Embassy in Belgium. Over five days and at various locations in Brussels, no fewer than 400 16 and 17 year olds from 33 countries (including Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and the United Kingdom) will meet there.
Citroën Belux is one of the official sponsors of this important event and takes the opportunity to highlight the AMI model, a popular mobility phenomenon that is on the rise. The Citroën AMI will be at all the different venues of the events: amongst others at the Lycée Français in Brussels, at the Hotel Dolce La Hulpe where the participants stay, at the Golf D’Hulencourt where the closing ceremony will take place and on the official opening night of the YOU with the presence of some ambassadors from the different participating countries.
AMI: built for Youth…
Already a leader in the quadricycle segment, Citroën AMI is a highly valued mobility solution, especially for young people. With AMI, Citroën is responding to the challenges of urban mobility, which are more than ever at the heart of the concerns and expectations of city dwellers. AMI is an individual mobility solution that makes it possible to travel protected in a closed, 100% electrical object that is accessible to everyone.
I always had a weak spot for the original Panda. I remember photographing this original Panda – in RED colour – in the middle of the Galerie de la Reine in the heart of Brussels, when testing this cute Panda for a car magazine. This was in the early ’80s…
So when Dominique Fontignies, PR and Communications Director of Stellantis Belux sent me the following story, I was delighted to share it with you, dear reader…
Thomas and Tanguy, two inseparable cousins, are about to cover more than 7,500 km in a 1997 Fiat Panda 4X4 for charity.
The “ToiMoi1Panda” project aims to raise at least €20,000, which will be donated to the Inès Costa Foundation and to research on neurofibromatosis.
Thomas and Tanguy have been inseparable and complementary cousins since childhood. Coincidentally, they also became brothers-in-law! In memory of their sister-in-law Inès, who died of neurofibromatosis at the age of 24, the two cousins have long wanted to support scientific research into this relatively rare disease.
During their research they discovered the “Superlative Adventure Club”, a German association that organized a rally raid to the North Cape, bypassing the Baltic Sea. As a condition of participating in the adventure, each team must raise money for a charity of their choice. The ToiMoi1Panda project was launched…
On the (icy) roadsfrom 19 february to 6 march 2022
ToiMoi1Panda, is a sixteen-day snow raid in the middle of the cold winter months. They will travel across 10 countries only on small roads and without GPS : 7,500km in complete autonomy at the wheel of their Fiat Panda 4X4 built in 1997.
Thomas and Tanguy have been preparing their trip for almost 2 years, the car has been completely prepared and overhauled for the occasion, while still remaining faithful to the original model: simple, robust and basic.
They have also decided to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their adventure by compensating for all the kilometers they travel with the Panda through the CO2logic program certified by Vinçotte.
The goal of ToiMoi1Panda is to raise at least €20,000 for the foundation. Thomas and Tanguy will cover all the costs of the raid (car, fuel, expenses, insurance, passports and visas, lodging, food, etc.) so that 100% of the donations and income will go directly to the Foundation’s account.
So far, the ToiMoi1Panda fund has already raised almost €17,000 thanks to sponsors, donations and actions organized by Thomas and Tanguy in recent months: sales of olive oil, previews of films, sale of the playlists they will listen to during their trip, donations in exchange for products offered by their sponsors, etc. Fiat will also contribute to this charitable activity.
Also Škoda is convinced that the future is electric. On January 31st they presented for us the all electric Škoda Enyaq iV Coupé. It will be initially only available in the RS version, which promises to be rather formidable if one reads the figures: an acceleration form 0 to 100 km/h in 6,5 seconds, charging time from 10 to 80 % in under 30 minutes, a range of 545 km.
At the same time, this new version remains typically Škoda: spacious and practical. The luggage compartment is a massive 570 liters… and of course it has lots of “Simply Clever” features.
At the virtual presentation, we saw Jens Katemann, Head of Communications of Škoda Auto leading us into the Kino Lucerna,
the oldest still operating cinema theatre in the Czech Republic, and introducing us to the actress driving the Enyaq iV Coupé in the film, Ana Geislerova, and Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Škoda Auto. (Photo below, from left to right).
Jens Katemann, Head of Communications of Škoda Auto, Ana Geislerova, and Thomas Schäfer, CEO of Škoda Auto.
The film starts with the CEO Thomas Schäfer running in the woods towards a vantage point, embodying the will to go (ever) forward, and looking into the (electrical) future.
CEO Thomas Schäfer running…
Then we are introduced to Johannes Neft, board member Technical development, and further to Oliver Stefani, Head of Design.
Actress Ana Geislerova then lovingly caresses the roofline of the sleek coupé,
and takes the wheel… for an exhilarating drive;
The second part of the film presents the RS version, which will be offered first to the eager customers, and it tells the story of a Czech teenage girl who drives the first RS Coupé, based on the rear engined MB 1000.
The person is now is some decades older, but remains in love wih life and freedom,
and of course drives now the new coupé…
I couldn’t resist showing you here some clips of this film…
The cars themselves are then presented in more detail by CEO Thomas Schäfer and his team. We show you here also some clips, revealing the car more in detail…
Dear reader, I will be driving a BMW Z4 Coupé until the 24th of December, on Christmas eve… so indeed, driving home for Christmas. And I will certainly be listening to the iconic song by the same name… Also the choice of the BMW is fitting, as MINI belongs to the same group.
And this because that the all-time classic “Driving home for Christmas” was composed by Chris Rea in 1978 in… the Mini of his wife. MINI is now dedicating a specially produced video clip to the song that gets people all over the world in the mood for the festive season every year, starring the global MINI community.
The production of the video is another highlight in the MINI’s current brand campaign titled BIG LOVE. The motto is, as MINI puts it, “an expression of diversity embraced in practice in all its forms, welcoming fresh thinking and new ideas no matter where they come from.” The MINI community’s characteristic blend of individuality and the sense of belonging together plays a central role here, MINI says too. The diversity of this community is summed up by the slogan “We are all different, but pretty good together”.
With the video clip production initiated by MINI, “Driving Home for Christmas” returns to where it all began: in a very special British automobile. Because the journey that inspired Chris Rea to write his successful song was taken in a classic Mini. In the video clip, the original journey from London to the north of England is reflected upon and combined with scenes showing MINI fans of today on their pre-Christmas journey. You MUST see it, and here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2we7JdB7iY
We just let you look at some photos to get you in the mood, and enjoy also the sound track!
This year’s edition of the Zoute Grand Prix has been spreading over several Flemish cities now. Bruges and Ostend have stepped also in the game.
This year we were of course in Knokke, but decided to live the event through the public and bystander’s eye.
The Zoute Grand Prix has indeed grown into a formidable event with a very wide and large public impact. For Knokke Heist, it has become the busiest weekend of the year, with absolute record hotel bookings.
It raises the spirits of car lovers of all ages, and many are those who take out their beloved young- or oldtimer out for a spin on the Knokke streets during the event, and have their own very personal Grand Prix.
There are also a lot of new and very recent cars around, many of them with tuned exhaust to add some extra drama to their Knokke sortie.
Shops of every kind in Knokke had arranged their showrooms and added to their shop windows a specific touch referring to the theme of the event.
We just let you enjoy some of the snapshots we took on the Knokke streets, where, we must admit, no EV’s or electrified cars were to be seen for near or afar this weekend…
We will report on the actual event, including the Bonham’s auction and the Concours d’Elegance in these columns soon!
Alfa Romeo will be present at the 2021 edition of the Zoute Grand Prix, which will take place in Knokke from 6 to 10 October. “I am delighted that the Alfa Romeo brand can once again participate in the Zoute Grand Prix this year, especially as we have been participating since the first edition in 2010,” said Patrice Duclos, General Manager of the Alfa Romeo brand for Belgium and Luxembourg.
This year Alfa Romeo will participate in the Zoute Grand Prix with a car with a special history: the latest Giulia GTAm, of which the limited edition of 500 cars has now been sold out. “The Giulia GTAm on the Alfa Romeo stand at the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix is not only an exclusive car, but also of particular interest to us,” said Patrice Duclos. “This car was driven by our two drivers of the Alfa Romeo ORLEN Racing F1 team on the eve of the Belgian F1 Grand Prix last August. We can say that this model has a historical side that should interest car enthusiasts in our country!”
In all respects, the Giulia GTA/GTAm is a collector’s car. All 500 numbered units, introduced to the international press last May, have since been sold to customers worldwide, including a significant number in China, Japan and Australia, making the Giulia GTA an international commercial success.
An exclusive video
On the occasion of the 2021 Zoute Grand Prix, Alfa Romeo offers its fans a unique testimony about the Giulia GTAm, with a video in which Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, the two official drivers of Alfa Romeo ORLEN Racing, take a seat in the car. They can be seen leaving the Hotel de la Source in Spa, right next to the Formula 1 circuit, to take the roads from Spa to the heights of Balmoral. This video can be viewed via the following link: https://we.tl/t-fcEfX7EsEm
First appearance of the new Alfa Romeo Stelvio 6C Villa d’Este
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio 6C Villa d’Este appears for the first time at the Zoute Grand Prix and is offered with the 210 hp 2.2 Turbo or the 280 hp 2.0 Turbo, both four-cylinder aluminum diesel engines with carbon fiber crankshaft, combined with an 8-speed automatic transmission and four-wheel drive (Q4). In addition to the exterior paintwork, the special series features chrome side window surrounds and 21″ five-hole alloy wheels.
This new limited edition is inspired in terms of colours and design elements by the elegance of the 6C 2500 SS Coupé produced by Alfa Romeo in the 1940s…