Fast & furious

If it’s automotive speed thrills you crave, here’s where you can head to in India and abroad

By Abhijit Mitra
  • Published 17.06.18
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Driving at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida in a Lamborghini, one can hardly wait for the 60kmph pit lane to end to give the car some gas. Flooring the right foot as one exits it will suddenly turn what was a burble coming from behind the driver into a scream, with the engine spinning up and the car surging forward. One would want the feeling to go on, but has to brake hard for Turn 1. Two turns later, one hits the long back straight. A high-performance car will easily top 250kmph here, with every upshift snapping the driver’s helmet against the head restraint. That audio track, that flood of power and that adrenaline rush... heady indeed!

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We aren’t sure whether anything lands on the airstrip at Aamby Valley near Lonavala in Maharashtra. What we do know is that it is the venue for an annual drag race event for cars and bikes. A quarter-mile strip marked out on the tarmac is where the machines come to race, two at a time. There are no corners here. A burst of speed; that’s it. With a top-line performance bike like Ducati 1299 Panigale or Kawasaki H2, it’s possible to cover the quarter-mile run in about 10 seconds and hit a terminal speed in the region of 250kmph! If one needs to let rip, this is possibly one of the better places to do it. 

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Over the last decade or so, high-performance two- and four-wheelers have become available in India in all kinds of shapes and sizes. And they are selling in numbers big enough to support the spread of outlets all across the country. While most vehicles with supercar speed and acceleration capabilities would burn at least a Rs 1 crore hole in the pocket, one can get top-spec bikes for about a fifth of that price. For those who buy the zippy machines, the urge to check out what they can do is best unleashed under controlled conditions.

In India, however, racetracks — permanent or temporary — are few and far between. “In Western countries, there are lots of tracks where you can satisfy your urge to drive fast; there are no risks on them beyond what you create, it’s so much safer,” says Rayo Banajee, eight-time national formula car champion and founder of Rayo Racing, which organises races and other driving events. In those places, as well as in Japan, such machines have been available for a long time and facilities are in place too.

As two-wheelers go, Rongom Tagore Mukerji, director, Elite Octane, who organises biking events including races, says: “The track is the way to go.” 

There are two big reasons why tracks are the best bet if you want speed thrills. First, there are no speed limits to watch out for, and most have run-off areas and safety features to reduce risk in case of driver error or failed machinery. Second, there are usually no extraneous surprises like animals walking on. So one can really focus on the machine. Question is: Where does one go? Here are some options. 

Madras Motor Sports Club, Chennai: It’s one of the two in south India, and the oldest facility in India. It is open to individuals on Sundays. “Anyone can come with his car, pay the fee and drive or ride here. The morning hours (9am-1pm) is for two-wheelers, but afternoon (2pm-6pm) is for cars. One just needs to check beforehand whether it has been booked or there’s an event, in which case it may not be available,” says Pramod Kumar, executive secretary, MMSC. The fees range from around Rs 1,200 for bikes to Rs 2,500 for cars for a single session.

Kari Motor Speedway, Coimbatore: The other southern option, it’s available Thursdays to Sundays. The booking amount is higher, at Rs 2 lakh per day. It’s best used by clubs or groups that can split the costs among members. It’s a short track at 2.1km with an 800m-straight, so it is probably better for bikes than supercars. 

Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida: It’s The latest and the best in India. But charges (eight hours) are steep at Rs 12 lakh on weekends and Rs 10 lakh on weekdays. At most 18 cars can go on the track at a time, says Rajiv Murishwar, head, BIC. So, it’s good for group events. He adds that BIC has a very high degree of safety built into it with wide run-off areas so that riders and drivers who overcook corners or fail to brake soon enough leave with mostly a bruised ego. It also has fire, medical, radio communication and other support and issues time certificates — to prove your chops if you want to.

These apart, there are specific events like the Valley Run drag races at Aamby Valley (Lonavala), which is a private property. But some club events take place on closed-off public roads. Most of these happen about once a year or are one-offs, so one needs to follow websites or Facebook pages run by motoring enthusiasts.

As for the machines themselves, Rongom says you can take most sportbikes (like Suzuki Hayabusa or Kawasaki H2) to the track from the showroom. With cars, it is different. If one hits the track once a month, Banajee says one can do with a “stock” car (one that is unmodifed). Ideally, one should uprate the brake pads and brake oil if one is taking a supercar to the track every weekend. “We have seen that the brakes heat up and fade after cars are driven for about four laps or so on the track because it’s being pushed very hard all the time,” says Rayo.

So, fix your vehicle, stay safe and have fun.

BEYOND BORDERS 

Nurburgring
Yas Marina
Sepang

It may not be feasible to ship one’s car or bike out of the country to ride it on a track, but a lot of companies offer them on rent at circuits where one is allowed to drive. Here are a few tracks one can check out in fast cars or bikes on rent.

  • Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi
  • Dubai International Circuit, Dubai
  • Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia
  • Sentul International Circuit, Malaysia
  • Bira Circuit, Thailand
  • Nurburgring, Germany
  • Silverstone Circuit, UK
  • Circuito Ascari, Spain
  • Spa-Francorchamps Circuit, Belgium
  • Laguna Seca, US