Tata Motors, last week, announced their backing for Narain Karthikeyan’s foray into the Super Formula Series. Now, it has been revealed that the ex-Formula One driver has been helping out Tata Motors in developing their cars, for quite a while now. Karthikeyan is responsible for testing the cars and giving his feedback on the areas that need development.
About four years ago, Karthikeyan’s help was called upon by the head of Tata Motors, Ratan Tata and he has been working with the company’s R&D ever since. For the past year though, the ex-Formula One driver’s role increased significantly and he played a big part in the development of the new compact cars, Bolt and Zest. Narain benchmarks Tata’s cars against the rivals and gives inputs on tyres, performance, engine optimisation and EPS calibration, right from the concept to prototype stages of the cars.
In an interview with Economic Times, Karthikeyan revealed that Tata is developing a completely new breed of cars. He said, “The image of maker of noisy diesel car will change with the new range of products. With every new platform you will see massive change in Tata Motors cars.”
Having worked in the Williams Formula One car development team, Karthikeyan has quite a bit of experience in this field. “As a racing driver it helps you feel all the nuances of a car's dynamic abilities - something which an average driver may not notice. Compared to those, a road car is significantly more straightforward. The new cars will be much more energised and will have a character,” he added.
Testing of cars is an important phase in product development and requires proper diagnosis in the hands of experts. With their vast experience of handling performance cars, where accuracy is critical, racing drivers are usually good candidates for such positions. Karthikeyan has raced in a host of championships around the world and has much experience in this field. With the dynamics of the car slowly becoming one of the important deciding factors for Indian customers, car manufacturers have been paying more attention to these areas.
Tata Motors and Narain Karthikeyan’s association goes way back to 2002, when the Pune-based manufacturer first sponsored him at the Telefonica World Series. From April 13, he will start racing in the Super Formula 2014, world’s fastest single-make championship. Karthikeyan will be racing for Team Impul Hoshino Racing in a Dallara SF14, powered by two-litre turbocharged engine producing 550bhp.