VOLKSWAGEN MOTORSPORT IN INDIA-A DECADE LONG AFFAIR

Volkswagen Motorsport is celebrating a decade’s journey in India. A journey that started with the Polo Cup and has today transitioned to the Ameo Cup one of the most premier one-make touring car racing championships in India.6.jpgTo celebrate this occasion, they have designed a beast of a track car. This was part of their “Winter Project Programme” where in 3 weeks they created the PoloRX! a powerful, rear-engine, rear wheel drive Polo for the ultimate adrenaline rush! The car, built in a Polo body shell, is equipped with Ameo Cup car’s 1.8-litre TSI engine and sequential gear box with paddle shifters. What makes the perfect car for track days is that it’s beyond any limitation of racing regulations.

The evening I landed in Chennai the conversation around the table was about the huge buzz PoloRX had created on social media.

Early next morning we landed up at MMRT. The Madras Motor Race Track is a permanent motor racing circuit located in Irungattukottai, Chennai, India. It was built in the late 1980s and was inaugurated in 1990 and is owned by the Madras Motor Sports Club. A track I have driven before last year in the Ameo Media Cup Race weekend.

After the presentation of the history and achievements of Volkswagen Motorsport worldwide, in India, post the track briefing by Rayomand Banajee, it was time to drive!1.jpgThe 1st car I drove was the INRC -1, VW Motorsport’s entry level car for rallying enthusiasts. Developed to FIA R2 regulations the car is powered by a 1.2TSI engine which puts out 145HP and 205NM Torque. We had a pilot car ahead of us on the track to guide and ensure we behave ourselves on track. The time we were allocated per car was 2 laps on the track. This was the first time I was driving the VW Motorsport Rally cars. The moment we got on the track the fun started. This car is fast, loves being thrown into corners and even if one went off-road the car handled it easily. Our 1st lap was easy paced, to get us familiar with the car and track. Lap 2 onwards was when the fun started. The suspension, driving setup and overall package on offer is fantastic. For a budding  rally enthusiast who’s looking at getting started in the rally circuit, look no further. This is the car for you.

After a quick water and biscuit break, I jumped into car no 2, the INRC 2. A car that is developed to FMSCI INRC 2 regulations which allow modifications to engine and gearbox internals. Runs a modified 1.6 MPI engine with modified engine head mated to 5-speed H-gear pattern gearbox with dog internals.2.jpgThere is more power available; the car is setup for the more advanced driver. I requested my pilot driver to drive faster which would give me an opportunity to push the envelope in terms of speed and track time. This time the 2 laps on track were sharper, more focused in terms of overall driving experience, the INRC 2 responded with utmost ease.

One was having so much fun now that the high levels of humidity were quickly forgotten.5.jpgNow it was time to drive the Polo R2, a car that had seen huge success last year in the rally circuit. A 1.6 MPI engine built for FIA R2 regulations this produces 165Hp and 205NM Torque mated to a 5-speed sequential gearbox from SADEV.  Comes with uprated caliper and discs on the front and rear, long travel suspension with custom tubular lower arms.  This was the real deal. Moment I got in and started the engine, one started getting a sense of how brutal and fast this car will be. Driving out of the pits and onto the first corner of the track the R2 was unlike the first 2 cars I had driven. Raw and visceral in character over the 2 laps on the track I got to experience what a rally driver would go through in an actual rally. The braking in this car is hugely different to the previous cars. One had to really press hard on the brake pedal to engage the brakes.

When I inquired about this difference, was told in an actual rally, the rally drivers come hard on the pedals. There’s no downtime. Everything is happening so fast…Thus this suits the drivers better than the conventional style of braking.

It was now time to start with the one make VW cup cars. First one I jumped into was Polo TDI Cup Car, the 1st car in India with a diesel power-train.3This is a 1.6 litre turbo charged engine that produces 130HP. Quick of the block, without ABS this was racing old school style. I was told that this would be a different experience as all the car I have driven so far had driving aids. This didn’t. This car was a hoot to drive. Fast, compact with the super handling characteristics that the Polo is known for everything I threw at the car it responded in equal measure. Now the 2 laps were feeling very less, one wanted to drive more! The gearbox is smooth, refined something one come to expect with VW cars. The size and shape of the Polo makes it the perfect hatch to throw around on a track day.4.jpgNext up was the Polo TSI Cup Car that comes equipped with a more powerful 1.4 litre TSI Engine that produces 180HP and is mated to a 6-speed automatic sequential DQ 250. It comes with a turbo charger and a super charger power unit. This was also the first touring race car to use paddle shifters in Indian Motorsport.  Everything about this car being more powerful was obvious past the first few corners. The automatic gearbox, lots more power made driving this a super enjoyable experience. My racing lines were improving, I was carrying more speed out of the corners. Braking late which is one of the most important skills for being a good track driver is something I need to improve on further.7.jpgThe Vento TSI Cup Car was next on the driving list. Its carries the powertrain from its predecessor the Race Polo TSI. The roll cage was welded in to provide a stiffer chassis. This with a proper race car setup provides a car which is forgiving to the rookies yet fun to drive for the experienced drivers. This couldn’t be truer. From the time I got on the track this car lived up to its reputation. Fast into corners, carrying speed out of them on the straights this became my favourite of all the cars I had driven so far. Rayo who was driving the pilot car ahead also let me drive with more abandon. I wanted to spend more time with this car, but since we were running a tight schedule one jumped into the next.IMG_7126.JPGThe Ameo Cup Race Car I had driven last year in the Ameo Cup Media race weekend. This is the first fully locally produced race car in India under the Volkswagen India Motorsport Programme. Fitted with a 1.8 litre turbo charged engine this car delivers a maximum power of 205HP. With sophisticated MoTec systems in place, this is a car that is on par with most racing series run worldwide. A sequential gearbox with 3MO in conjunction with XAP system provides seamless and very fast gear shifts making this one powerful race car.

This time around having spent more time on the track, I managed to experience everything the Ameo Cup car had to offer. Driving this one could see how the programme has evolved down the years. This is a car that is fast, setup perfectly for the professional race driver with high standards of safety. Sirish and his team have done such a good job at one-tenth of the budgets of most racing cars team worldwide which is truly impressive!8Now was time to drive the Vento ITC, which I had driven at the BIC last year during the VW Motorsport Ameo Cup race weekend. The Vento ITC race car is powered by a 1.8-litre TSI engine, mated to a 3MO sequential gearbox with a manual gearshift lever. Driving this on the track is challenging and exciting at the same time. The Vento has been designed to participate in the Indian Touring Championships. Thus, the whole setup of the car is different from the Ameo Cup car. Its’s lighter than the Ameo the suspension is set up differently.  The Vento ITC c is just the car I would buy for a day out on the track!

The last car I drove was the Track Day Vento car which is setup almost in the same way as the Vento ITC. There are some minor differences in handling, it’s more forgiving and setup ideally for the rookie and recreational track enthusiast.918 laps had whizzed by. Now it was time to take a taxi ride in the car of the moment. The Polo RX. Rayo was driving, from the get-go he showcased how insane and mad this car is. Throw into corners and its so tail happy like asking you to do more. So much power is available, Rayo was just having fun. When I asked him about how hard he drive it, he laughed and said that this was just 30% the actual potential this car has to offer!  I can’t wait to drive it! a sentiment echoed by everyone in the media contingent.10.jpgThe morning just whizzed by. Now it was time to leave.  VW Motorsport had demonstrated how in just a decade they had taken their programme to standards comparable to anywhere in the world. A big thank you to Sirish, Adhish and everyone at VW Motorsport for giving me a day to remember.

People who are interested in buying the Polo RX please get in touch with the VW Motorsport office in Pune. Believe me you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

CONVERSATION WITH SIRISH VISSA – HEAD VW MOTORSPORT INDIA

I recently caught up with Sirish Vissa, where he shared what Volkswagen Motorsport India plans for the 2019 season. 

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2018 was a great year for Volkswagen Motorsport in every regard, what are the new initiatives and changes we will see this year?

2018 was indeed an excellent year for us at Volkswagen Motorsport India in both Customer Sport programme as well as our one-make Ameo Cup.  Volkswagen Polo and Polo R2 together secured 37 podium positions and 10 victories altogether in Overall, INRC 1, INRC 2 and INRC 3 categories in the 2018 season.

We will follow the same direction in 2019 and continue to participate and prove the excellence of Volkswagen Polo cars in rallying through our Customer Sport programme. For 2019, we are further developing and updating our Polo R2 to make it even more competitive.

In terms of power, setup and development what changes will we see in the 2019 Ameo cup car compared to last year’s model?

We are always keeping ourselves busy with constant development – even if there are no major upgrades. In 2019, the Ameo Cup race car will see a few minor tweaks and fine tuning to the overall setup, especially in terms of suspension. The Ameo Cup racecar has been built in a way that it is friendly to newcomers and challenging to the pros as well. It is a fine balance that we have already achieved and there is not much we would like to change in it at the moment.

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Volkswagen motorsport saw success in the Indian rally circuit. Are we going to see the team participate in more events this year? Also, when do we see a full blown national level Volkswagen rally like the Ameo Cup?

Our Customer Sport programme is an extremely important initiative for us through which we support privateers and their teams with technical and spares support during INRC. We will continue being present at all the rounds of the INRC even this year and not compromise on any support that we extend to our customers.

A full blown rally series on the lines of Ameo Cup is something that we are not exploring. We want to stay in open competition and not restrict it in any way. Also, a factory team itself in the national rally championship is something we are consciously staying away from.

2019 marks the 10th year of Volkswagen Motorsport in India. Anything special planned to mark this occasion?

Of course! Volkswagen Motorsport India is entering its 10th year in 2019 and the idea is to stay committed to the Indian motorsport fraternity. We will continue the premium one-make series Ameo Cup in the same format as before. We are expanding our Customer Sport programme, which initially started only with rally cars and was limited to a segment, to proper involvement with variety of specs for different categories. We are also in Indian Touring Car championship now with cars that have the potential to be front runners. All in all, we have grown across different forms and series of motorsport in India and will continue with our commitment.

How soon can we expect different OEM’s to start competing with each other at the national motorsport level?

This is more of a question for other OEMs!  We have been participating in both rallying and in the Indian Touring Car Championship (ITC) where the idea is to compete with other manufacturers.  We would love to see others join in as this will make the sport more exciting for the spectators, and also add to the sport.  The new ITC regulations as well as the turbo regulations in the INRC are both forward looking and are intended to make it viable for manufacturers to bring in current and future generation cars.  I believe that we will start to see some changes within the next year.