Racing is the smelting pot from which emerges the purest form of vehicles – but sometimes one has to adjust. The Indian government has called on all the car manufacturers to nominate one hatchback model that will enter a racing series to promote car sales and tourism in the country.
The list of rules is quite long, but we will touch on the high points: the government has decided to invest in Stock Car Racing. Unlike the American racing series, this series means exactly that – no modifications will be allowed. The hatchbacks have to conform to the 1.2-litre petrol/1.5-litre diesel capacity limit and be under 4 metres in length. BMW, Mini and Mercedes had appealed this until they got further down the list of rules. Specifically, the rule that said half the races will be held off-road in honour of our road network, which is only half paved. This also eliminates the need for an expensive venue like a racetrack and simulates real-world conditions for the cars.
The list of cars that have been entered and approved so far are the usual suspects: the Maruti Suzuki Swift RS, Ford Figo, Mahindra Verito Vibe and Skoda Fabia were among the first few to be approved. Hyundai decided to field the i20, no doubt because of its six-speed gearbox. Tata, in a surprise move, has entered the Indica rather than the Vista, probably because of its multi-link rear suspension, but we also understand that it is looking to try and enter a second team with a Vista as well. VW has entered a Polo into the fray, but have appealed to let the Polo GT TDI participate despite it being above the displacement limit. They even are agreeing to an air restrictor to ensure a level playing field. When we tried to reach the other manufacturers for comment, Toyota replied “We already have a racing series with the Etios and Liva, and don’t see the need to participate in another.” Honda has remarked that it will submit its entry as soon as it has a diesel hatchback ready. Chevrolet, Fiat, Nissan and Renault – four brands that have a rich and varied racing history, globally - could not be reached for comment.
We are very excited to see a racing series with cars that we can actually buy competing with one another under road conditions that are almost the same as our everyday commute. Our money is on the Suzuki Swift, but Hyundai could turn out to be the surprise package. To make sure all cars remain reliable – and, of course, to cater to an audience that is used to cricket matches that get over in a few hours not to mention talking in less than 180 characters, the races will be short. There will be no rules regarding fuel flow rate, as we understand it, but costs will be capped to give everyone an equal shot at the championship.
The name of the series has not been determined yet, but at least all those claims of being “India’s No. 1 hatchback” or “The hatchback of the year” will actually make sense to those who care about cars. We look forward to the new racing series and hope that we’ve bought the right hatchback ourselves!