Saturday 20 October 2018

Maruti Suzuki Autoprix : A Motorsport for all

Although I am late with this blog post, it was worth sharing it. India has never been known for being a country of motorsports but there are many who want to live their dream of being on a race track and feel the adrenaline rush at least once. There are not many places of the country which are blessed with 'race tracks' or motorsport clubs where you can live the dream of being a racer. Competing in any major motorsport events requires a lot of money. From preparing the car to the race equipment, it is a lot of money and specially if you do not have a sponsor to watch your back and you are all on your own, you might even not ever dream about it. But a new era of motorsports in India has began.
Many manufactures are coming forward to organize their own motorsport events. And Maruti Suzuki could not just sit back and watch. With already several successful series of rally and Autocross events, Maruti Suzuki in 2017 started a new series of four wheel motorsport, the Maruti Suzuki Autoprix. It is a FMSCI approved competitive racing event for all in the truest form. Zonal rounds were organized in many major cities including Guwahati and finals were held in BIC, Noida for the 'championship category'. The registration fee started at just INR 500 in 2017 and had multiple categories. People of all skill levels, having any type of four wheel vehicle and of any gender could participate in a suitable category. It was mostly a timed race and only in the finals the competitors could be in a head on race. I participate in the Amateur Stock/800-1100cc category in a 0.8L (800cc) Renault Kwid and it not only happened to be the only Kwid in the event but also the vehicle with the least cubic capacity engine in the event. 

So, how to participate in it if it is organized again? Although the rules and the regulations might change but since I participated in the last year's event, I will only be able to share that experience of mine. I came to know about the event through Maruti Suzuki's 'Facebook' and 'Instagram' campaigns. As soon as I came to know that anyone holding a driving license can take part in it, I got excited like a kid in a candy store. It was going to be my very first motorsport event that I was going to attend and also take part in. The procedure was pretty simple; One could either register online on the Maruti Suzuki Motorsport or Norther Motorsport website or could do a on spot registration. The rules were made available in the website, so do not forget to read them thoroughly before registering for the event. Like any motorsport event rules and regulation, registration fees, and the eligibility criteria also varied for different categories. Once I was done with the registration process which hardly took a few minutes even when done 'on the spot', a race card having the car number and driver number was handed over to me. And trust me, it was very unique and to be honest a "cool" feeling to hold a race card in my hand for the first time in my life. Both the 'driver number' and 'car number' was '3' for my race card.
The next stop was the 'sticker counter' where stickers of the event, event sponsors, and the car number were put on the car. The stickers by the way were of premium quality and did not ruin the paint of the car, later when I took them off. I still have the 'Northern Motorsport' stickers on the car though. After that, the most important part of the race comes that was the 'scrutiny check' of the car was done. I was done by the FMSCI officials to ensure maximum safety during the race. The regulations for a car to be eligible for a particular category in the event were made available in details on the website. So, check them carefully before participating in any motorsport event. Even absence of a simple part like a 'mud guard' can get you disqualified. Once the car was found to qualify all the guidelines, a 'scrutiny check' sticker was put on the car which meant the car was qualified for the race and I was allowed to race.

It was an exciting moment for me as it was my first racing event. Moreover, wearing an ISI certified helmet during the race was mandatory to which I was not used to. It felt very different to drive wearing a helmet but it would keep my head safe in case of an accident. When my number came, the heart started to beat fast as I handed over the race card to the 'marshal'. I kept the revs up and as soon as the lights went green, I dumped the clutch and took off. The Kwid is definitely not made for racing because there was significant amount of body roll as I threw it aggressively around the corners and the stock tyres did lose grip on the dirt. The track was very technical which required a lot of skills and not just being aggressive on the throttle. There were tight chicanes, corners, and U turns. And since I did not know how to do a hand brake turn, I lost significant amount of time in a tight U turn. After an adrenaline filled run on the track, I finally slammed the brake after crossing the finish line. With heart still beating fast and a grin of happiness and satisfaction on my face, I quickly headed towards the leader board to see my timing. And I was more than happy to see myself in the '3rd best timing' place for the qualifying round. A day later I came to know that I did not make to the higher rounds but still I was happy for the experience I had gained from my very first car race of my life. 
Winning or losing is just a part of every competition and is not as important as the lessons you learn by participating in them. I do not know if I would ever get another opportunity to be a part of motorsport event again but I will surely cherish my experience of Maruti Suzuki Autoprix Season 1, 2017. I would like to extend my heartiest gratitude towards Maruti Suzuki, FMSCI, and Northern Motorsport for bringing motorsport to everyone.

Motorsports are dangerous and should never be practiced on public roads. Participate in FMSCI approved motorsport events to be a part of safe and competitive races. Never rash drive, street race, or perform any kind of stunts on public roads. 


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