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    Race-spec Volkswagen Polo: CarWale Track Day 2021

    Authors Image

    Sagar Bhanushali

    Volkswagen Polo Right Front Three Quarter

    Arrive and Drive Programme

    Overall Score

    8 / 10

    It has been two years since the first cases of Covid -19 appeared and since then practically everything, including the world of motorsports, has endured its impact. Until recently the general awareness and stern restrictions have kept everyone away from the racetracks but fortunately, things have settled down a bit although the pandemic is far from over. Now it might take a while for us enthusiasts to get used to ‘the new normal’ but it’s good to see motorsport venues opening up again i.e. with social distancing and Covid-19 related restrictions in place. The MMRT, for one, has opened its gates for national-level racing and public track days.

    More recently, the popular race venue has teamed up with Volkswagen Motorsport India to give enthusiasts a chance to drive their race-spec Polo. In fact, the club also offers the go-faster version of the Vento but the Polo with its shorter wheelbase and hardly any overhangs was always going to be more of a handful and fun to drive around the MMRT. And with that agenda in mind, we decided to get ourselves some seat time and see what Volkswagen Motorsport’s ‘Arrive and Drive’ programme is like.

    Right Front Three Quarter

    So it’s all very simple. You shell out Rs 9,000 to book yourself a slot and boom! You are a pro race car driver donning a race suit and all other safety gear for the 25-minute session. Actually it’s not that simple. Track driving is not simply a matter of getting in a fast car and going for the ride of your life. There are safety protocols to follow before the fun begins and in this case even though the fee doesn’t include any form of training, there will be VW Motorsport experts guiding you. In fact, the session is made up of a classroom-like instruction setup wherein the drivers will be introduced to the race car and what it can do, besides track driving evaluation and the all-important safety briefing. As for the inclusions, Rs 9,000 gets you track time worth 25 mins and the cost of fuel and tires. However, one can book a maximum of four slots in day which translates to little less than two hours of track driving but then again, that’s more than enough seat time for us morals in a proper race car capable of pulling immense G-forces through the corners.

    Front Row Seats

    This race-spec Polo, in fact, is a whole different animal compared to the road-going Polo GT TSI that we had for this year’s Track Day. It still has four doors, full LED headlights (evidently from the Euro spec Polo) and windscreen wipers but that’s pretty much it. It’s a combination of the celebrated GTI with a bundle of race tech for maximum attack. Starting with the engine, the 1.8-litre motor is the same EA888 series unit that powers the previous GTI models but in here it makes 205bhp and 320Nm of torque thanks to a performance intake, race-spec ECU and an incredibly loud exhaust system. All that power is sent to the front wheels via a 6-speed sequential gearbox – a legit dog-box transmission with steering mounted paddle shifters. Now it goes without saying that the suspension has also been heavily upgraded with adjustable dampers and lowered springs. Braking duties, meanwhile, are handled by an all-round disc setup with beefier calipers and race-spec ABS.


    Race-spec Polo at MMRT

    Left Rear Three Quarter

    Put simply, the race-spec Polo is an absolute riot over at the MMRT, however, you need to get your head around it in order to even scratch the surface of its potential. The track handling setup takes everything the turbocharged motor can throw at it and turns it into blasphemous speed. You have adjustable coil overs, racing slick tires and proper aero so all in all, the grip levels are immense and one has to be really brave to overcome the mechanical grip that this car has to offer. Following a couple of sessions of hard driving I realised that one basically needs to stomp on the accelerator and not caress it for all the long, high speed corners like C7 and C9 at the MMRT. In terms of feel and feedback, the steering on the race Polo is bang on - it’s incredibly quick and weighs in properly as you apply more lock. Combined with the leech-like front axle grip, the steering gave me so much confidence to just floor it before the apex, particularly over the switchback section after C3 that leads onto the first of the two main straights.

    Left Front Three Quarter

    Now let’s be honest it’s not really a straight line machine. In fact, corners are where the race-spec Polo shines but still there is a lot of power. 210bhp in a car of this size can only mean fireworks on a track like the MMRT. For the most part, the handling and grip of this extreme machine instils total confidence even though there is some power under steer. The brakes on our particular race car were also super strong thanks to the all-round disc setup but the race ABS is tricky to modulate and I suspect there might be lock ups for novice drivers while cutting speeds. Still, hard braking never really disrupts the car and the Polo racer turns in and holds onto your desired line much longer and at speeds you wouldn’t think is possible for what is basically a hatchback.

    Left Front Three Quarter

    Now to be able to strap yourself in it, you need Rs 9,000 at least for a session plus the additional expenses for the safety gear including a race suit, shoes, gloves and a helmet. While that adds up to a lot of money, it buys you a genuine race car experience across a venue filled with adrenaline and a machine that is always hungry for speed and raring to be driven at the limit.

    Check out VW Motorsport India's social media for bookings and information on future Arrive and Drive events by clicking here.

    Pictures by Kapil Angane and Kaustubh Gandhi

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