Lewis Hamilton tests the Ineos Grenadier 4X4 with Sir Jim Ratcliffe


Lewis Hamilton has endured a relatively frustrating year. He’s languishing in fifth place in the driver’s championship, has failed to win a single race in 2022 and been forced to watch bitter rival, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, secure his second-consecutive Formula One title with three races to spare.

But with the season drawing to a fairly disappointing end for the seven-time world champ, he has taken some time away from his lightning-fast Mercedes F1 car to drive something a little different.

Britain’s most successful F1 star has been filmed at the wheel of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s £52,000 Ineos Grenadier 4X4, with the pair taking the utilitarian off-road for a spin through mud, over gravel and even diving into deep water – before Hamilton tested its limits around one of the country’s vehicle proving grounds.

The pair, who hint at having a long-running friendship in the short video, put the SUV through its paces shortly after the first customer car finally came off the assembly line in Hambach last month following months of delay.

Not his usual ride: Lewis Hamilton has joined Sir Jim Ratcliffe to test the petrolchemical mogul’s new Ineos Grenadier 4X4 – the first model produced by the billionaire’s automotive division

While Hamilton and Ratcliffe, a respective millionaire and billionaire, might have huge wealth in common to form a bond, this collaboration has likely come about as a result of Ineos being a principal sponsor of Mercedes-AMG F1 team. 

Britain’s most decorated Formula One star is one of the first people outside of the car manufacturer – as well as us (read more about that below) – to get a chance to review the 4X4 vehicle in what is described as a ‘no holds barred shakedown on- and off-road’ at the Millbrook Proving Grounds near Bedford.

This included a full-throttle blast around the test site’s ‘Hill Route’, which famously is the location where the crash scene was filmed in Daniel Craig’s debut appearance as James Bond in 2006 hit Casino Royale.

While that sequence saw 007 flip his Aston Martin DBS – and it subsequently cartwheels into a crumpled heap – Hamilton’s foot-to-the-floor blast along the same route didn’t have the same outcome. Not that Lewis wasn’t trying…

‘I’m genuinely enjoying driving this car,’ Sir Lewis says in the three-and-a-half-minute video.

‘It’s very comfortable considering some of the huge dips we were driving down… I was pretty much flat-out around the course,’ he added.

‘I’m massively surprised at how much grip there is.’

Hamilton has endured a relatively frustrating year, languishing in fifth spot in the driver's championship, failing to win a race in 2022 and seeing his bitter rival, Red Bull's Max Verstappen, secure his second-consecutive Formula One title with three races to spare

The decorated F1 driver took a break from the track to put the new £52,000 4X4 through its paces

Lewis Hamilton has endured a relatively frustrating year, having been forced to watch bitter rival, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (pictured left leading Hamilton at the Mexican GP last weekend) secure his second-consecutive Formula One title. The decorated F1 driver took a break from the track to put the new £52,000 4X4 through its paces (right)

Hamilton and Ratcliffe are seen in the video taking the utilitarian off-road for a spin over mud and gravel, through deep water and around one of the country's proving grounds

Hamilton and Ratcliffe are seen in the video taking the utilitarian off-road for a spin over mud and gravel, through deep water and around one of the country’s proving grounds

Lewis Hamilton gave a rave review of the vehicle, saying it is 'very comfortable considering some of the huge dips we were driving down'

Lewis Hamilton gave a rave review of the vehicle, saying it is ‘very comfortable considering some of the huge dips we were driving down’

Sir Jim, who is seen a number of times clutching for the vehicle’s grab handle as Hamilton thrashes the 2.7-tonne SUV on a variety of terrain, said: ‘The Grenadier was designed to be good off-road, but we didn’t know it was going to be as good as it is on the road. 

‘I can definitely say I don’t think anyone has ever driven it like Lewis drove it.’

The video has been shared by Ineos Automotive just weeks after it confirmed that the first ‘series production’ example of the 4X4 had come off its assembly line in Hambach.

The choice of manufacturing facility has caused huge controversy since Ratcliffe secured it from Mercedes’ parent company Daimler in 2020, bailing on plans to create a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in South Wales.

While Hamilton and Ratcliffe, respective millionaire and billionaire, might have huge wealth in common to form a friendship, the collaboration has also come about with Ineos being a principal sponsor of Mercedes-AMG F1 team for while Lewis drives

While Hamilton and Ratcliffe, respective millionaire and billionaire, might have huge wealth in common to form a friendship, the collaboration has also come about with Ineos being a principal sponsor of Mercedes-AMG F1 team for while Lewis drives

The test took place at the Millbrook proving grounds in Bedford, with Hamilton taking Ratcliffe for a white-knuckle drive around its Hill Route. 'I was pretty much flat-out around the course,' he said

The test took place at the Millbrook proving grounds in Bedford, with Hamilton taking Ratcliffe for a white-knuckle drive around its Hill Route. ‘I was pretty much flat-out around the course,’ he said

Sir Jim, who is seen a number of times in the video clutching to the vehicle's grab handle as Hamilton, said: 'The Grenadier was designed to be good off-road, but we didn¿t know it was going to be as good as it is on the road'

Sir Jim, who is seen a number of times in the video clutching to the vehicle’s grab handle as Hamilton, said: ‘The Grenadier was designed to be good off-road, but we didn’t know it was going to be as good as it is on the road’

Sir Jim, a stout-hearted Brexiteer, came under huge criticism for the move, but ultimately said the opportunity to acquire a site with ready-made facilities was too good to turn down.

With the dust finally settling on the decision, the company confirmed on 17 October than the first customer-ready example had been made. 

‘We’ve come a long way since the project kicked off in 2017 and this is a landmark moment for Ineos Automotive as a vehicle manufacturer,” said Mark Tennant, its commercial director. 

‘To get to this point is a testament to the resilience and hard work of the entire Ineos Automotive team, our development partners and our suppliers – for which we thank them all as we now look forward to making our first deliveries to customers.’

Like all other car makers around the world, Ineos Automotive has been heavily affected by global supply chain issues that have crippled manufacturers since the pandemic.

While it says this will continue to ‘constrain output’, customer deliveries ‘in volume’ are expected from early December.

The video has been shared by Ineos Automotive just weeks after it confirmed that the first 'series production' example of the 4X4 had come off its assembly line in Hambach

The video has been shared by Ineos Automotive just weeks after it confirmed that the first ‘series production’ example of the 4X4 had come off its assembly line in Hambach

The choice of manufacturing facility has caused huge controversy since Ratcliffe secured it from Mercedes' parent company Daimler in 2020, bailing on plans to create a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in South Wales. Some 1,300 employees work at the Hambach plant

The choice of manufacturing facility has caused huge controversy since Ratcliffe secured it from Mercedes’ parent company Daimler in 2020, bailing on plans to create a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in South Wales. Some 1,300 employees work at the Hambach plant

Like all other car makers around the world, Ineos Automotive has been affected by global supply chain issues. As a result, customers have experienced big delays on deliveries, though should start seeing their SUVs arrive next month

Like all other car makers around the world, Ineos Automotive has been affected by global supply chain issues. As a result, customers have experienced big delays on deliveries, though should start seeing their SUVs arrive next month

It’s not just Lewis who’s been behind the wheel. We’ve driven the Ineos Grenadier too! Here’s our verdict…

by Ray Massey

The advice to potential customers when they eventually get their own chance to take the new ‘back to basics’ Ineos Grenadier off-roader for a test drive will be simple but instructive: ‘Come back muddy’.

Well there was every chance of that when we became one of the first online publications in the world to take the rugged new 4X4 for a test drive across a rural off-road course that resembled the First World War battle fields of the Somme after a particularly ferocious pummelling by artillery.

It was an exciting prospect as the new Grenadier – which is set to start from £52,000 for the passenger version of the SUV – is one of the most talked about recreational vehicles for years. Thought not without controversy… 

Ratcliffe's off-roader driven: During a recent visit to the Ineos Automotive factory in Hambach on the French-German border, Ray Massey took to the wheel of a pre-production prototype 4X4 to find out how it will perform away from tarmac

Ratcliffe’s off-roader driven: During a recent visit to the Ineos Automotive factory in Hambach on the French-German border, Ray Massey took to the wheel of a pre-production prototype 4X4 to find out how it will perform away from tarmac

Grenadier is the brainchild of canny British billionaire petro-chemical tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe who, upset that Land Rover was ending production of the original rufty-tufty Defender model (which harks back to the original Land Rover of 1948), decided to fill the vacuum for himself. 

Despite launching its own all-new and award winning 21st century Defender, the noses of Land Rover bosses have been put severely out of joint by the Grenadier, prompting a string of legal actions alleging – but failing to prove – infringement of the shape of their original 4X4.

Ineos themselves are adamant that, while the Grenadier may be ‘inspired’ by the Defender and even prove to be its spiritual successor, it’s also equally inspired by the classic all-American Jeep and the hulking Mercedes-Benz G-Class, often known as the G-Wagon. 

All four protagonists share a generic boxy 4X4 shape, driven as much by what the car does, as by artificial styling cues. Like its rivals, Grenadier is a utilitarian vehicle for people who work hard and play hard.

Conceived in 2017 over a pint in a pub in London’s smart Belgravia of the same name, Ratcliffe had the financial clout to create a top team to design and engineer it, buy a factory to build it, and turn his dream into a reality.

And, after a visit to the impressive Hambach factory to see first-hand how it is built, we were invited to a muddy rural landscape in the Alsace region of France, just a short hop from the nearby German border, ready to see if the reality lived up to the British off-road icon. 

The vehicle we drove was a pre-production test model. But Ineos were keen to show how things were progressing ahead of full-production beginning in 2022. 

It’s a tight timescale and you can sense the nervous tension as we haul ourselves into the driver’s seat…

The vehicle we drove was a pre-production test model. But Ineos were keen to show how things were progressing ahead of full-production beginning

The vehicle we drove was a pre-production test model. But Ineos were keen to show how things were progressing ahead of full-production beginning

The test route was pretty thorough, with large drops, big diverts lots of holes and not an inch of tarmac in sight

The test route was pretty thorough, with large drops, big diverts lots of holes and not an inch of tarmac in sight 

Ineos themselves are adamant that, while the Grenadier may be 'inspired' by the Defender and even prove to be its spiritual successor, it's also equally inspired by the classic Jeep and the hulking Mercedes-Benz G-Class, often known as the G-Wagon

Ineos themselves are adamant that, while the Grenadier may be ‘inspired’ by the Defender and even prove to be its spiritual successor, it’s also equally inspired by the classic Jeep and the hulking Mercedes-Benz G-Class, often known as the G-Wagon

First impressions of the Ineos Grenadier in the prototype flesh

This is a big beast. And looks it from the offset. Those with childhood memories of ‘indestructible’ Tonka toys will know immediately what I mean. 

It’s boxy with a real chunky industrial feel about it. The engineering is all out on show. For instance, the door hinges are deliberately visible on the outside to portray its utilitarian roots.

Open the door and climb up and into the roomy cabin, and you could mistake being in the cockpit of a classic military aircraft like a wartime Dakota. 

As well as a dashboard instrument panel, there are switches just above and forward of your head in the roof near the windscreen – as a pilot would see. It’s a clever touch. But practical too, when it comes to washing down the cabin.

Open the door and climb up and into the roomy cabin, and you could mistake being in the cockpit of a classic military aircraft like a wartime Dakota

Open the door and climb up and into the roomy cabin, and you could mistake being in the cockpit of a classic military aircraft like a wartime Dakota

Some of the controls are mounted in a panel on the roof. This prevents them from getting wet if owners choose to hose down the interior

The control buttons all have a military-grade feel. They're chunky and robust

Left: Some of the controls are mounted in a panel on the roof. This prevents them from getting wet if owners choose to hose down the interior. Right: The control buttons all have a military-grade feel. They’re chunky and robust

As revealed by This is Money last year, the red button on the steering wheel is a dedicated horn for alerting cyclists - a feature adopted from the Grenadier support vehicles used by the pro cycling team under the same name that's funded by Sir Jim

As revealed by This is Money last year, the red button on the steering wheel is a dedicated horn for alerting cyclists – a feature adopted from the Grenadier support vehicles used by the pro cycling team under the same name that’s funded by Sir Jim

The interior is designed to be easily wiped down – though not quite hosed down – which is just as well given the amount of muddy clarts I dragged into it on my own boots.

As revealed by This is Money last year, the red button on the steering wheel is a dedicated horn for alerting cyclists – a feature adopted from the Grenadier support vehicles used by the pro cycling team under the same name that’s funded by Sir Jim.

From the vantage of the comfortable driver’s seat, it has a very high and commanding driving position. 

Hands on the wheel and a few prods of the main controls and everything feels exceptionally solid. Not surprising really when it’s built in a former Mercedes-Benz factory using its 1,000-strong workforce. Specialists Magna Steyer from Austria also lend a hand with all the engineering.

And when I fired it up from the start button, the 3.0-litre, 249 horsepower, straight-six, twin-turbocharged BMW-made diesel grumbles into life.

All that’s left is to try out the challenging quagmire in which the vehicle is waiting to take on.

Ray Massey says that, from the vantage of the comfortable driver's seat, it has a very high and commanding driving position

Ray Massey says that, from the vantage of the comfortable driver’s seat, it has a very high and commanding driving position

Ray Massey put the Ineos Grenadier through a brief - but pretty extensive - test of the 4X4's off-roading abilities - as seen in this image

Ray Massey put the Ineos Grenadier through a brief – but pretty extensive – test of the 4X4’s off-roading abilities – as seen in this image

The example we drove was powered by a 3.0-litre, 249 horsepower, straight-six, twin-turbocharged BMW-made diesel engine. BMW is also supplying the 3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol units for the project

The example we drove was powered by a 3.0-litre, 249 horsepower, straight-six, twin-turbocharged BMW-made diesel engine. BMW is also supplying the 3.0-litre V6 turbo petrol units for the project

Given that many Grenadiers will be commercial vehicles for farmers and forestry folk, it has all the credentials they would want - and in spades

Given that many Grenadiers will be commercial vehicles for farmers and forestry folk, it has all the credentials they would want – and in spades

How does the Ineos Grenadier tackle tough terrain? 

The Grenadier proved gruntingly and reassuringly agricultural in its ability to climb steep and slippery inclines and deep tracks of mud. 

No wonder rural tractor showrooms will be one of the bases for sales in the UK. And we didn’t mess around, giving it plenty of welly where possible. It responded well, we can confirm.

These 4x4s are not just for fun. There’ll be commercial vehicle versions for farmers and forestry folk who value good old fashioned no-nonsense graft from their off-roaders. And boy does this have it in spades.

The Grenadier proved gruntingly and reassuringly agricultural in its ability to climb steep and slippery inclines and deep tracks of mud

The Grenadier proved gruntingly and reassuringly agricultural in its ability to climb steep and slippery inclines and deep tracks of mud

The big wheels dug and spun independently as the four wheel drive did its thing to get us out of one hole and into another ¿ and out again

The big wheels dug and spun independently as the four wheel drive did its thing to get us out of one hole and into another – and out again

The five-door, five seater Grenadier is built on a traditional 'ladder frame' chassis, like the Defender it is designed to replace on farms and other off-road duties

The five-door, five seater Grenadier is built on a traditional ‘ladder frame’ chassis, like the Defender it is designed to replace on farms and other off-road duties

We didn't mess around during our short test drive, giving it plenty of welly where possible. It responded well, we can confirm

We didn’t mess around during our short test drive, giving it plenty of welly where possible. It responded well, we can confirm

The big wheels dug and spun independently as the four wheel drive did its thing to get us out of one hole and into another – and out again. Frankly the photographs will give better impression than any words.  

The five-door, five seater Grenadier is built on a traditional ‘ladder frame’ chassis, like the Defender it is designed to replace on farms and other off-road duties.

Its transfer case has two speeds – high and low range – and it was I the latter I used mostly for my off-roading endeavours near the factory.

It has a towing capacity: of 3.5 tonnes, which should satisfy demand for most trailers and a ground clearance of 264mm and a wading depth 800mm, though there was no water in which to try this out.

We are one of the first online publications in the world to take the rugged new 4X4 for a test drive across a rural off road course

We are one of the first online publications in the world to take the rugged new 4X4 for a test drive across a rural off road course

Ray Massey said the test site resembled the First World War battle fields of the Somme after a particularly ferocious pummelling by artillery

Ray Massey said the test site resembled the First World War battle fields of the Somme after a particularly ferocious pummelling by artillery

Order books officially open for the Ineos Automotive Grenadier in April, with production beginning in July and first deliveries due to arrive in September

Order books officially open for the Ineos Automotive Grenadier in April, with production beginning in July and first deliveries due to arrive in September 

The vehicles used for the pre-production test are prototype 4X4s built at the Hambach factory to ensure assembly can go ahead en masse without issue from the summer

The vehicles used for the pre-production test are prototype 4X4s built at the Hambach factory to ensure assembly can go ahead en masse without issue from the summer

Is it better than a classic Land Rover Defender? 

As a reality check, there are plenty of limitations to what this off-road-only test can truly reveal. 

And for this reason, it is impossible to say if it’s better than the Defender – old and new – without trying them back-to-back. But it’s a pretty decent stab. Traditionalists will be delighted.

What’s more, we didn’t get the chance to take it out on the road – so how it handles on a highway will have to wait for another day. 

Is it better than the Land Rover Defender? Ray Massey says it is too early to tell, especially as we didn't get to try the Grenadier on road

Is it better than the Land Rover Defender? Ray Massey says it is too early to tell, especially as we didn’t get to try the Grenadier on road

At launch, the new Grenadier will be powered by BMW engines - both three-litre petrol and diesel - linked to eight-speed automatic ZF gearboxes

At launch, the new Grenadier will be powered by BMW engines – both three-litre petrol and diesel – linked to eight-speed automatic ZF gearboxes

Grenadier will be offered as a two or five-seat commercial vehicle (exempt VAT) as well as the five-seater, five-door passenger version starting from £48,000

Grenadier will be offered as a two or five-seat commercial vehicle (exempt VAT) as well as the five-seater, five-door passenger version starting from £48,000

Ineos Automotive promises engineering to overcome all conditions, with best-in-class off-road capability, durability, and reliability, to those who depend on a vehicle as a working tool, wherever they are in the world

Ineos Automotive promises engineering to overcome all conditions, with best-in-class off-road capability, durability, and reliability, to those who depend on a vehicle as a working tool, wherever they are in the world

Balancing the demands of a good off-road capability with comfort, ride and handling on tarmac is a great challenge. And the all-new Land Rover Defender –which we have driven extensively both on and off-road – sets a pretty high bar and is a class act.

But there’s nothing like a bit of competition to keep standards high – and prices keen – all-round.

Ineos has already set itself a high bar – promising that the new Grenadier will be a truly uncompromising 4X4 built from the ground up, engineered to overcome all conditions, with best-in-class off-road capability, durability, and reliability, to those who depend on a vehicle as a working tool, wherever they are in the world.

Will it fit in my garage? Ineos Automotive Grenadier 

Price: £49,000 for utility version, from £52,000 for passenger SUV

Built: Hambach, Alsace region of France

Length: 4927mm / 193.9 inches (including spare wheel) 

Width: 1930mm / 76 inches (excluding mirrors)

Height: 2033mm / 80 inches

Wheelbase: 2922mm / 115 inches

Weight: Between 2644kg and 2740kg

Chassis: Body on frame (‘ladder frame’)

Doors: 5 Seats: 5

Engines: BMW 3.0-litre 249hp twin-turbo straight-six diesel; BMW 3.0-litre 285hp twin-turbo straight-six petrol

Drivetrain: Permanent four-wheel drive

Transmission: ZF 8-speed automatic with manual override

Transfer case: Two speed (High and Low)

Wheels: Bridgestone 17in and 19in steel and alloy wheels

Tyres: Choice of Bridgestone All-Terrain /BF Goodrich All Terrain (both Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake certified

Towing capacity: 3,500kg Unbraked towing: 750kg

Suspension: Solid beam axles, coil springs, wheel articulation (9 degrees front, 12 degrees rear)

Ground clearance: 264mm Wading depth: 800mm 

What else is set to come from the Ineos Grenadier? 

At launch, the new Grenadier will be powered by BMW engines – both three-litre petrol and diesel – linked to eight-speed automatic ZF gearboxes, and will also be offered as a two or five-seat commercial vehicle (exempt VAT) as well as the five-seater, five-door passenger version starting from £48,000.

A battery electric version will also be trialled later this year. But Ineos’ longer term sights are set on hydrogen fuel cell technology. 

In November 2020, Ratcliffe cannily signed a landmark deal with Korean car giant Hyundai allowing him to produce green zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell versions of the Grenadier 4X4 – as well as to produce hydrogen. He already produces 300,000 tons of hydrogen a year, mainly as a by-product from its chemical manufacturing operations.

A battery electric version will also be trialled later this year. But Ineos' longer term sights are set on hydrogen fuel cell technology

A battery electric version will also be trialled later this year. But Ineos’ longer term sights are set on hydrogen fuel cell technology

In November 2020, Ratcliffe cannily signed a landmark deal with Korean car giant Hyundai allowing him to produce green zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell versions of the Grenadier 4X4 - as well as to produce hydrogen

In November 2020, Ratcliffe cannily signed a landmark deal with Korean car giant Hyundai allowing him to produce green zero-emissions hydrogen fuel-cell versions of the Grenadier 4X4 – as well as to produce hydrogen

More than 15,000 potential customers made reservations for the new Grenadier before it officially went on sale

More than 15,000 potential customers made reservations for the new Grenadier before it officially went on sale

Dirk Heilmann, the no-nonsense CEO of Ineos Automotive admitted to This is Money that it was a ‘stressful time’ so close to launch after a frantic 18 months: ‘We are getting close but there’s still a mountain to climb.’

Was he swimming serenely like a swan but paddling furiously beneath? ‘Flapping more like,’ he joked.

But he said: ‘This is the next step for us to become a serious car manufacturer.

‘We inherited a great facility. Mercedes-Benz invested a ton of money. And now WE have it.’

Cheekily, Heilmann’s own mud-splattered prototype Grenadier, parked outside the factory during our visit, which he uses for personal evaluation, has what one executive called a ‘non-standard adaptation’ – namely a ‘Defender’ sticker on its rear. It’s certainly a salute to their litigious Land Rover rivals. But just how many fingers?

And manufacturing manager Stephen Wilkinson from Coventry, who worked 20 years for Land Rover and latterly setting up Sir James Dyson’s abortive electric car factory in Singapore said: ‘We’re investing in the right things to get the quality right.’

Order books for the 4X4 officially opened in April.  Those who made early reservations will have priority to receive the first full production models off the line, arriving in December 2022

Order books for the 4X4 officially opened in April.  Those who made early reservations will have priority to receive the first full production models off the line, arriving in December 2022

Customers will also have access to digital 3D instruction manuals so that owners who like 'tinkering' and modifying ¿ as it believes many of its buyers do - can also do their own thing

Customers will also have access to digital 3D instruction manuals so that owners who like ‘tinkering’ and modifying – as it believes many of its buyers do – can also do their own thing

Overall, Ineos is targeting 200 sales and service points, with 100 signed up so far. Customers will be given the choice of buying online, face-to-face, or a blend of the two

Overall, Ineos is targeting 200 sales and service points, with 100 signed up so far. Customers will be given the choice of buying online, face-to-face, or a blend of the two

Ineos’ network for sales, support and servicing – including an agency deal with German specialists Bosch – will offer transparent pricing, ‘hassle-free’ shopping, and practical retail outlets – including with non-traditional retailers such as rural tractor firms. There will also be a ‘flying spanner’ service to get parts and repair teams to customers in even remoter locations.

Customers will also have access to digital 3D instruction manuals so that owners who like ‘tinkering’ and modifying – as it believes many of its buyers do – can also do their own thing.

Overall, Ineos is targeting 200 sales and service points, with 100 signed up so far. Customers will be given the choice of buying online, face-to-face, or a blend of the two.

There is, however, one huge downside to the Grenadier. If you do use it as nature and Ineos boss Sir Jim intends, you are going to spend an awful lot to time hosing it down and cleaning it after your off-roading adventures.

Unless of course, you just leave all the mud and dirt caked on as a badge of honour. 

Ray says there is one thing he can guarantee to Ineos Automotive customers: you are going to spend an awful lot to time hosing it down and cleaning it after your off-roading adventures

Ray says there is one thing he can guarantee to Ineos Automotive customers: you are going to spend an awful lot to time hosing it down and cleaning it after your off-roading adventures

CARS & MOTORING: ON TEST

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