New wheels on the block

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By The debut of three brand new speed demons spells hope for circuit racing in the country, says Anamit Sen
  • Published 26.08.06
(From top): The Formula LGB Suzuki Swift; the Formula LGB Hyundai; the Formula Rolon Chevrolet

Motorsport in India seems to be on the mend and not before time. For years, the sport suffered because of the infighting and ego battles between the FMSCI and the MAI, the former recognised by the Indian government and the latter, by no less than the world body, FIA. Now, the two bodies have been asked to settle their differences.

So, the scenario is indeed looking brighter. Earlier this year, the national rally championship was boosted by the arrival of two new cars — the Ford Fiesta and the Mitsubushi Lancer Cedia.

Now it’s the turn of circuit racing to get a boost. JK Tyres has been running its national racing championship for nine years now with a decent level of success — Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandhok and Armaan Ebrahim have emerged from it and there is a new crop of youngsters waiting on the horizon.

It is to build on that success that the tyre major has struck a deal with three major car manufacturers — Maruti, Hyundai and GM — to have three new and separate series of formula racing cars for the tenth running of the JK Tyres championship.

At the entry level, there is the Formula LGB Swift. As you might have guessed, these cars are based around a Suzuki Swift engine. This engine is rear-mounted and has a displacement of 1298cc. Thanks to tweaks to the engine management system and a fabricated tuned exhaust system, in Formula spec it develops 99bhp of power at 6000rpm.

The car’s chassis is of the tubular type and has a fibreglass body enveloping it. The wheelbase is between 2190-2200mm and the weight of the car (minus the driver) is 450kg. Compare that to the Swift, which weighs 1010kg and is powered by a 87bhp engine. The Formula Swift rides on aluminium wheels and both front and rear tyres are 185/60.

The next category is the Formula LGB Hyundai. This is based around a rear-mounted, 12 valve, 1495cc, 4- cylinder inline engine and develops 95bhp at 5500rpm. This also has a fabricated, tuned exhaust system as well as a tubular frame chassis enveloped by fibreglass. Without the driver, the car weighs 470kg. It’s a bigger car and has a wheelbase of 2240-2300mm. While specs like tyres, brakes and steering are similar to that of the Formula Swift, the difference lies in the design of the nose cone — it uses ground effects to give the car more grip, thus allowing it to enter and exit corners at higher speeds.

The Formula Rolon Chevrolet category is the top category of the championship. This car has been designed to be close to international level racing and indeed, has a number of features designed to give Indian drivers a taste of what international F3 and FBMW cars are like.

The intention is to ease the transfer from racing in India to racing abroad. To this end, the car has adjustable wings and a pure racing gearbox rather like the Hewland gearboxes in F3 cars. The Formula Rolon is based around the 1598cc, 4-cylinder D TECH inline engine from Chevrolet Optra with external oil cooling.

The engine develops 120bhp currently at 6000rpm thanks to the fabricated tuned exhaust system. The chassis is of the tubular frame type enclosed within a glass fibre body and the car weighs 550kg sans driver. The top speed of the car is 220kph and it zooms from zero to 100kph in eight superfast seconds. The wheels are of aluminium with a central nut for quick change during pit stops. The suspension is adjustable with twin wishbones and a push rod while there are anti-roll bars at front and rear.

Three very different cars, but there are certain things this speedy stars share. All three have been designed and built by B Vijaykumar and he will be in the thick of the action once the championship begins. The other common factor amongst all the cars will be the racing slicks and intermediate control tyres developed specially for the championships by JK at their HASETRI research centre.

For the first time, the championship will see Team Amaron NK Racing and Team Speed NK Racing campaigning F Rolon cars driven by Ameya Walavalkar and Aditya Akkineni and Aditya Patel and Akhil Khushlani respectively. NK will be on hand to supervise matters himself.

MECO Motorsports will have a 3-man team in Rayomand Banajee, Gautam Maini and old warhorse, Akbar Ebrahim. Team WSRF (Wallace Sports Research Foundation) will feature Gaurav Gill, Gaurav Dalal, Karna Kadur and A Ghosh. Other old warhorses will be seen in action too — C Rajaram and B Vijaykumar.

The cars have already begun burning the tar from August 20. There will be six rounds in all — two in Coimbatore and four at Sriperumbudur ending with the finals on Christmas Eve in Chennai. Pray, why not anywhere else in India? For instance, motorsport pioneering cities like Calcutta? That question is best left to the president of the FMSCI to answer.

My dream car

Anjan Chatterjee, restaurateur

I have too many dreams as it is, to harbour a special one for automobiles, but my daughter adequately makes up for my lapses. Actually, in recent years, her enthusiasm has rubbed off on me. And thanks to her, I spotted my dream car on the streets of LA this summer.

There was this classy set of wheels, steel-grey and stylish, that left me completely awestruck. I turned to my daughter and stated firmly that this was the car of my dreams. She agreed that it was well-chosen. Little did I know then that the car was the latest from the Mercedes stables.

Apart from the elegance, Mercedes also establishes the benchmark for success, which makes it worth dreaming about. Someday, I’d like to call those set of wheels my own. If not for me, I certainly harbour the ambition for my daughter