Motorsports may not be as big in India as a country, for example Finland, where even grannies and kids race since they have easy access to racetracks, but we’re getting there – slowly but steadily. And it will be initiatives like Volkswagen Motorsport Programme that will hopefully take us there one day. Volkswagen Motorsports has been holding championships like the Polo Cup and Vento Cup, finding and developing young talent to place behind the steering wheel and race. But not a very widely known fact here (since we don’t talk much about motorsports in India) is that anyone can buy a track-day car from Volkswagen and customise however they want. Now, this is a great reason to start talking about motorsports more and indulging in it – if you have the bucks to back it.
Our Ed recently got in a conversation with Sirish Vissa, Head of Volkswagen Motorsport India, to learn more about the initiatives taken by the company to keep the racing season exciting and creating more opportunities for aspiring racers in the challenging times of a pandemic.
Vissa begins by talking about the motorsport heritage VW has created and the effects it has had on its cars and vice versa. One of the reasons why there is a ‘fun to drive’ aspect attached with the Volkswagen Polo’s persona in India, he says, is its contribution to motorsports. Like a standard car from a showroom, customers can purchase track-ready cars from VW.
Customers can build a race car on a Polo or Vento chassis, choose from three engine options – 1L, 1.5L, 2L (which can be souped up to deliver 350-400 hp), pick a transmission of their liking, and suspension setup as well.
About pricing, a track car with a 1-litre TSI engine and a six-speed manual would cost one about Rs 15 lakh, a car with a 2-litre engine, lightweight fibreglass bodywork, track suspension, sequential gearbox with paddle shifters, and rear-wheel-drive would set you back about Rs 50 lakh.
Volkswagen offers customers the option to custom-build their race car based on the budget and their skills. One could start with a 1-litre base car, then have the engine remapped, add a turbo, replace the manual gearbox with a sequential one, and more. As Sirish Vissa puts it very simply and accurately, the car evolves with the skills of the driver.
VW also provides support the very first time you take your car out on any race track in India and set everything up. After this, VW states that it is pretty much like taking care of a standard car. The company will also help you with parking space at the track if needed, for example at Budh International Circuit, Greater Noida.
Vissa opines that track-day culture is on the rise in India which would only help Volkswagen Motorsports Programme to expand further to more race events. As for the customer track cars, he adds, the company currently does not provide track days as an inclusive package with the car but states that interest in this field is on the rise and so hopes to hold customer track days in the future.
Screen to track: Virtual racing with Volkswagen
Volkswagen Motorsports Programme also held virtual racing events that came into existence during the lockdown and have now spun into a national championship. The goal is to identify and develop talent, but Vissa explains that traditional methods have seen people from metro cities, however, not much interest from tier 2 or 3 cities since there is a lack of exposure and access to race tracks. Virtual racing has been able to expand this reach, he adds.
The virtual championship held on Assetto Corsa could supersede Volkswagen’s current driver selection process at the go-kart track in Mumbai. Assetto Corsa, explains Vissa, allows a lot of flexibility and accessibility since it is only Rs 500 to download.
Also, the winner of the virtual championship (which debuted this year) will get a seat in the Polo championship to be held soon. Chennai’s Amith Kutti was crowned as the winner of the inaugural Volkswagen Virtual Racing Championship (VW-VRC) on 5th February, ahead of Mumbai’s Aaroh Ravindra and Netherland’s Oshan Kothadia.
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