Volkswagen Motorsport India invited us to participate in the first round of the 2017 Ameo Cup. Here is the race weekend from a driver’s perspective
Last month I was at the Kari Motor Speedway, Coimbatore, to experience what it was like to drive a true-blue racing car around the circuit with a bunch of other journalists. You can read my first impressions of the Ameo Cup car in the July issue of Car India, where I write about letting loose the 205 PS and 320 Nm of torque that is produced by the 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and how the electromagnetic actuators, governed by the shift paddles, slam each cog home with a gunshot-like bang. If you have already gone through our last issue and are up to date with the specifications of the car, this month we share with you the experience of actually spending a weekend racing the Ameo Cup race car at the Kari Motor Speedway.
I got to the track on Friday morning and was immediately measured up for a complete racing kit, including a fire-retardant suit, racing boots, gloves, and a helmet with a HANS (Head-AndNeck Support) device to prevent whiplash. I soon joined the 17 other racers in the briefing room, where Sirish Vissa, the head of Volkswagen Motorsport India, driver coach Rayomand Banajee, and Volkswagen Motorsport India’s development and test driver Karthik Tharani shared with us the dos, don’ts and whatever else was expected of us when racing around the circuit.
The next day we were scheduled for two practice sessions, so I headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest.
Saturday morning and we were back at the track, suited up and ready to get into our cars for the first practice session of the weekend. We had 20 minutes out on the track to learn the lines and get comfortable with the cars. I was allotted a black number 20 car with sponsor decals all around, red Car India stickers, and my name and blood group emblazoned on the rear windows. I sank into the low racing seat, strapped in, and was soon waved clear of the pitlane to start the session. I quickly came to grips with the fierce acceleration, savage brakes and heavy yet precise steering, and was soon lapping Kari Speedway at a decent pace. Experienced racer Karminder Singh, who was the runner-up in last year’s Vento Cup Championship, set the fastest time of the session at 1:09.006, while I managed a respectable 1:12.256, and followed that up with a 1:12.172 in the next session, making me the 12th fastest driver out there. Of course, these timings did not matter as much as the qualifying times that would determine grid position for the races on Sunday.
Maybe, I let the pressure get to me or, maybe, I was just trying too hard, but the 15-minute qualifying session did not go very well for me. I found myself making mistakes every time I attempted to set a fast lap, and finally qualified at P14, with a time of 1:12.871. I came back to the track on Sunday determined to redeem myself, and when the lights went out at the starting line, there was no looking back. I quickly collected a couple of places in the first lap, out-braking the cars ahead of me as we entered Kari’s tight chicanes. I even had a minor impact with another racer as we both fought for the same piece of tarmac, but I was determined not to lose a place. When the chequered flag was finally waved, I crossed the line in 10th, with a best lap of 1:12.054, boosting my confidence for race two.
The second race of the day saw me start at P10, and as the lights went out I rushed with the pack down the straight and immediately picked up two places as I braked late for the fast first corner. The rest of the 15 laps were spent trying to defend my position, but a small mistake between the first two corners cost me that hardearned eighth position, and I crossed the line in ninth, exactly midway through the field of 18 racers. I had managed a b est time of 1:11.104 and, happy with this result, rolled into the pits at the end of a fantastic race weekend.