If you still remember, we are at the track and that means ‘hot’ laps. And to make sure we get the best out of the cars, we handed them over to our ‘Nick Fury’ - National Karting Champion and race-driving academy owner Rayomand Banajee.
Rayomand likes manual gearboxes more but he left no stone unturned to get the best out of the Polo. His best lap was 2.18.3 minutes and to put things in perspective, the fully blown John Cooper Works Mini did a 2.08.9. Now, that is respectable. Rayomand said, ‘What works for the Polo is its weight. It keeps the car planted and the intuitive steering means that you are moving in the direction that you intend to.
‘It has very predictable manners and a composed demeanor which means it is easier to go fast’. While the automatic takes away the task of shifting (gears), it is a bane for the real fast guys. ‘Because the gearbox doesn't hold on to the revs even in sport mode and shifts up. Also, when you floor it after the corner, the ESP cuts power to manage traction and there is a lag when the power comes back as well. A manual could have made it at least a couple of seconds faster’.
The Baleno had a lot of things going on. It stands a little taller and hence rolled around a little more. Rayo said, ‘it was quite a handful and hence delightful as well. Since it is lighter (by 15 per cent), the less power (2bhp and 25Nm of torque) didn't make any difference. I was braking late (thanks to the four discs), carry more speed into the corner and it was faster off the blocks as well’ (thanks to the better power-to-weight ratio). So a lap time of 2.16.5 minutes wasn’t a surprise at all. In fact, the importance of lesser mass and good brakes stood out.