About four years ago when I attended Valley Run (TVR for today’s acronym addled minds) for the first time, I was a newbie to this industry. It had been just over six month since I had moved from the cosy confines of my comfortable life in Chennai to the big, bad world of Mumbai to pursue a career in auto journalism. The Valley Run which was in its first edition was like me - a fresher to the Indian racing scene.
Having spent considerable time doing my job and gaining career experience, I was excited to see what this ‘fresher’ who started out at the same time as me had become. A lot had changed since my first visit. When we first attended in 2013, my colleague Pratheek and I rode up on a Hero Impulse which to be honest is quite underpowered. It had to lug our 200kg combined weight up the highway twistes and then the Aamby Valley Ghats. I’m almost certain that if the bike could speak, it would ask us why it was being tortured thus.
Now more than a quarter of a decade later, we were actually going participate in the competition and that too with a little German pocket rocket! So you see we had a lot to expect over the next two days.
Our story begins on day 2 of Valley Run where the cars began their duels. On day 1 it was all about bikes and here you will also find that we attended the Rickey Gadson drag racing school. It helped us learn a thing or two about doing quarter mile runs on two wheels from none other than the 11 time world champion himself.
Now before we go into actual results and timings, let us give you a feel of the kind of crowd that was participating. There were a large contingent of cars across the fray and it was truly mesmerising to see the level of enthusiasm among the racers both in terms of race craft and modified machines.
The most prominent of the lot were the Maruti Suzuki Zen hatchbacks. With scope for a formidable number of modifications, there were quite a few souped-up Zens doing the rounds with some among them even producing as much 160bhp thanks to being crammed with engines and gearboxes from the old Baleno sedan. My colleague Omkar, who is a Zen owner himself, has written about the various stages of performance upgrades that one can fit to their car and you can read about his experiences about entering the fold of the Drag Zen.
Coming behind the Zens were cars like the Baleno sedan, Mitsubishi Lancer, Fiat Punto, Skoda Octavia, Skoda Lauras, Honda Citys, Gen 1 Swifts a Toyota Corolla and even someone with a Hyundai Santro. Given the relative ‘youthfulness‘of our car market, the vehicles that you see in the pictures, will be our first generation of modern classics in another decade or so.
In the history of ‘budget’ drag racing, it has always been about buying older cars and tapping into their hidden potential. When the sport took prominence in the US of A in the 1950s, many of the first generation racers kitted up Model Ts as well as pre-war Chevrolets, Buicks, Dodges and even Cadillacs. In the modern age (present) the car of choice seems to be the muscle cars of the 1960s and 1970s for the drag enthusiast. So you see it’s a pattern that stays true across generations and countries.
This held true to the way of the drag culture which was to pick up older cars and tune them. It also helps that there was minimal electronic interference on most of these machines a.k.a less to go wrong when you take the car out of its comfort zone. We thoroughly enjoyed watching these budget machines being put through their paces. The only major new player on the block was the Polo (mostly in GT TSI form) whose presence confirmed the sporty pedigree of the hatchback.
While day 1 had been all about the Indian machines and the budget drag machines, the second day for cars was for the big boys with their big toys to come out and play (including us). The morning saw the diesel racers and big bikes do their runs while the real action for us began in the afternoon. Once the track had been warmed up and coated in heavy rubber, the exotics came out for their run.
It was a riot of brand names and V8 as well as V6 engines getting out there and setting quick lap times worthy of being dubbed quarter milers. Right from the ‘humble’ Audi TT all the way to a mad RWD red Lamborghini Huracan that stole the show with a time of 10.97 seconds making it the fastest time on the track. This is quite amazing when you consider the fact that on his best run Rickey Gadson clocked a time of 9.57 seconds on a stock Ninja H2. It's another thing that this very run has now propelled the American into the lime light as the fastest two-wheeled drag runner in India.
The GTI hits the blacktop
Now we had been telling you all along that we got to participate and put in timings to be a part of the show. Well our knight in shining (red) armour was none other than the Volkswagen GTI. Having pushed it in the real world and through the corners out on the race track (with the aid of a certain Mr Aditya Patel) we just had to find out how this 2 door pocket rocket performed.
The opportunity to bring out our shiny red toy came to us quite late in the evening but that was no issue at all because doing quarter miles is a state of mind and transcends boundaries like time and at times visibility. I digress but bear with me as I give you a context. The sun was fast setting as Abhishek was given the green light to get out on the track and even with visibility fading his clocked times of 14.3 seconds against a BMW M5 and 14.5 against a Mitsubishi Evo was very impressive. To get a first hand experience of his adventure with the GTI, here is a link to his story.
‘Contestants. Start your engines…next year’
It was quite heartening for me to see the way the Valley Run event had grown over the last few years and considering that there were over 600 participants, it was quite well organised with everyone getting a chance to race. What impressed me the most apart from the many exotic cars and bikes was the level of enthusiasm and sophistication that the contestants had come up to. It seemed obviously that everyone had spent tonnes of moolah on their machines and had truly become 400 metre enthusiasts.
As for us, our run with the GTI has only emboldened us to want to go harder, faster, better and stronger! Daft Punk jokes aside we will come back next year to perform even better!
Photos: Ara Alexander, Bilal Firfiray and Venkat Desirazu