2012 Toyota EMR qualifying - round three
Two qualification camps over as many months and the 900 odd aspiring entrants to the Toyota Etios motor racing series had been reduced to just 40. While camp one and two were held based on our performance in go karts it was finally time to get a taste of the Etios race car. The venue, India's pioneering racetrack the MMRT at Chennai.
This time the camp would be held over two days. The first day was focused on getting to know the car and the track, unfamiliar ground for many of the participants, including yours truly. I'm not going to go into the details of the car(check Bert's story) except to say that it has rock hard suspension, race spec interiors, a loud exhaust and sticky rubber. Actually sticky would be a gross understatement, these MRF slick tyres have phenomenal grip. So much so that I found myself grinning away and blurting out joyous, unprintable expletives the first time I threw the car around a corner with some speed. Driving on a good set of slicks for the first time is a very memorable experience indeed. Just remember to let them warm up!
Day one saw us split into batches of five and sent out on track. On our first outing we were accompanied by our mentors (2011 INRC Group N champion Karna Kadur showed me the ropes this time) to make sure that we could drive as many of the contestants were karters with not much experience driving cars. After that we followed our coaches around the track to learn the right lines before we were sent out for two sessions of flying laps.
By the end of the first day I'd set a 1:15.24 lap time around the short loop and was about 2 seconds down on the leader. After consulting with Karna and some of the other mentors who were positioned at various corners around the track I discovered I was losing time around the last set of technical corners before the main straight. I also had to unlearn some road habits and focus on getting on the brakes as hard and late as possible, and with the left foot whenever possible.
The next day didn't see my lap times go down but what I found instead was consistency in my times. After a few off road excursions by some drivers, particularly at the scarily bumpy high speed corner one I decided to focus on getting my lines right instead of pushing for raw speed.
The results have just been released and I've qualified in the top 25. 14th position to be precise. There will be two exhibition races held this year. Before that however begins the painful part of motorsports, finding sponsors!
For more information on the Toyota Etios Motor Racing series and details, check www.toyotaetiosmotorracing.in