2012 Toyota Etios Motor Racing exhibition race one
Sleepless nights, restless days, countless hours lost in thought and all the time asking the same questions- Where? Why? How? It's mental torture I tell you. Before you jump to conclusions leaning towards paranoid schizophrenia and what not I should probably let you know that my 'condition' isn't quite so serious. I've simply begun my racing career, and one week after my first race weekend it's still the only thing I can think and talk about.
Regular readers will be well aware that I've qualified for the inaugural season of the Etios Motor Racing series and that the first race weekend was held over the first weekend of August. We got to the track a few days in advance for a driver training program which you will be reading about next month. The race weekend began on Friday with a practice session. Qualifying and one race on Saturday with another two races on Sunday.
Friday was a good start. We were able to put all that we'd learnt in the training sessions to practice. The extra time on track helped figure out the car's behavior on the limit along with the track's finer details. We had two sessions of track time after which we could examine the data from our laps. All the cars were fitted with data loggers that captured information like acceleration, engine speeds, braking force, lateral gs and more. Every driver approached mentor N Leelakrishnan (who sat patiently with us all day) helping make sense of where we were going wrong and how to get faster. By the end of the day 2011 IJTC champion Diljit set the fastest time in the 2:04s. My best lap put me two seconds behind and somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Nevertheless I was feeling good about my progress. I had learnt how the car responds on the edge, where to push and when to back off. Feedback from my data should that I was lifting off every lap around the fast and flat right hand kink leading into the slow (slowest on the track) left hander better known as C10. I was (very nicely) told to grow a pair and take it flat to shave a good three tenths of my lap time. And that's exactly what I was going to do come qualifying the next day.
Qualifying started off well, within three laps I had broken into the late 2:06's and was feeling good about cutting that time down further. I had started taking said corner flat in fourth by now but boy is it hair raising the first few times. You have to commit and lifting off or braking mid corner could transfer the weight to the front and you could lose the rear entirely and things could get very messy very fast. Braking for C10 requires you to straighten the car out and then get hard on the brakes while swiftly dropping a couple of gears before turning in- you have to get the timing right. On my fourth lap I was pushing particularly hard and came into said corner fully committed (around 140kmph). Once I had the car straightened out I got onto the brakes only to find to my complete horror that the pedal went completely hard and I got next to no retarding force whatsoever. By now I was already in third but still way to fast, I tried for second but the revs were too high and the gear wouldn't slot. By the time I got second I was already off track and an impact with the wall was looking inevitable. I steered her as much as I could and watched helplessly as my front right ploughed into the tyre wall. It was my first ever collision and it felt like complete shit. Once I realized I was fine and I got out of the car and inspected the damage. It was a grim sight, crushed metal all the way from the fender to the grille. My car was towed to the pits along with hopes to participate in the first race.
My fortunes started looking brighter by the minute in the pits. I watched five Red Rooster mechs rebuild my car in just 45 minutes in an amazing effort under Leela's watchful eye. My car was okay to race! I'd managed 14th place in my three qualifying laps and my car seemed fine in the warm up lap. I was shaken up but had complete faith in my car's safety equipment -it had literally been crash tested. I was ready to go for it. A great start helped me pass a few cars by turn three. It was at this point that I realized something was still wrong with the brakes. They were now locking up even at moderate pressures. After sliding off the track at three different corners in the first lap I decided to pull into the pits for the sake of safety. It just wasn't meant to be and I watched the rest of the race from the pit wall. Diljit put in a superb performance to take the win and surpass his qualifying time in the process. He impressively managed to build a lead over second place guest driver Akira Iida, who is a Japanese Super GT driver with two class wins in the 24 hours of Nurburgring. The fact that Iida also broke the Nordschleife production car lap record with an LF-A last year highlights Diljit's talent, track knowledge aside. Arjun Narendran, another IJTC driver came home third.
Race two's starting order was a reversed grid from positions 1-8 followed by the rest of the drivers in their positions from the end of race one. The eight lap race was reduced to six after two bungled starts in the formation laps. My car was now fully repaired (it turned out to be an issue with the ABS system) and I started at the back of the grid for not finishing the earlier race. Like race one I had a great start and had made up a good seven spots before getting bumped off the track by an over exuberant competitor. I recovered and made up a few positions to finish 20th. Diljit put in another blitzer to finish first, ahead of Akhil Rabindra and Arjun Narendran.
We started race three in our finishing order from race 2. Which meant I was back at the end of the pack. This time around the racing was much more intense. I held Iida san who started from the back behind me for two laps before getting engaged in a gripping battle with the cars of Farhan Ahmed, Sneha Sharma, Saminder Singh Saan and Vendhan Boominathan. It was bumper to bumper stuff the entire race and despite the fact that I finished at the back of the pack again it was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done. Things at the front were pretty standard. Diljit took the top spot and Arjun Narendran third. Binoy John Maddela did an excellent job to finish second after starting fourth.
They say racing is a bug bite. Once bitten and all that. It's actually much, much more -think of those scarab beetles from the Mummy movies. It literally gets under your skin and affects your entire life. It's an addiction and our next hit comes in October with the second exhibition race in Delhi. It's going to be a painfully long wait.
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