8.9-litre engine, 370 horses lunging forward with all their might and a truck load of torque (literally) making sure the pull doesn’t die down. We are past the braking-point by a mile and I already have my feet stomping hard on the brake pedal that isn’t there. Because, I am sitting shotgun with a truck racer who refuses to back off the throttle and just chucks that seven-tonne monster into C2 at the Madras Motorsport racetrack.
Well, let me take you back in time a little. I am at the MMRT to witness the TRP 2.0 – the unique truck racing program that the commercial arm of Tata Motors has set off since last year. It’s easy. Get a bunch of your regular truckers, train them and make them race around a proper racetrack... Not.
This intensive program has been chalked out with experts from Tata Motors, Accenture and Motorsports Management (MOMA) to turn your average trucker into a world-class truck racer. For someone who doesn’t even know what a racetrack is, imbibing the finer nuances of racing is like preparing a guy living off a coast to scale Mt. Everest. This season, 10 drivers will be selected from 3300 nominations across the country as they go through different levels of shortlisting and four levels of the driver training program.
Drivers are trained physically and mentally, oriented towards the world of racing that they have never seen before. In a looked-down-upon profession like trucking, something like this has never been heard off. After rigorous training at the MMRT, the final 24 will be taken to the Buddh International Circuit off Delhi for the final level.
So, back to the trucks again. You have to be in the truck and see what the machine is capable off. The race truck is based on the T1 Prima 4928. It gets the same engine, the same tractor chassis but which has gone under heavy modifications. The racing seats have five-point harnesses and the cabin is cocooned by a massive roll-cage built inside the cabin. The suspension has been lowered for a better centre of gravity and the chassis has gone on a strict diet. The brakes that would burn out after a couple of laps are now being cooled by water sprays. This is a pure-bred race truck.
As we go around the corners, blasting down the main straight, the only feeling I have is of exhilaration. With a wide smile I recount my go at truck racing. We got the Tata Xenon pickup truck to drive through a tight slalom course that ended with a braking point that would be chosen by the marshal at the finish line with a flick of a red flag. The way that little truck bobs around, I wasn’t really positive about hopping on to the big one and getting a hot lap of the MMRT. I am glad I did it.
The T1 Prima championship will be held at the BIC coming March and this year we have one more class of races. You will have the foreign racers competing in the Pro Class. The Super Class will have the 10 racers shortlisted from the 3300 nominations from this year. Also, the 24 drivers from last year’s Super Class will now go through the paces again and the ten drivers shortlisted will form the Champion Class.
If you want to see what a real race truck can do, you have to see them in action in real and BIC is the place you would want to be. It gives you immense satisfaction seeing these Indian drivers and their claim to fame steering the massive trucks across the finish line and the best part is, they are off the veteran foreign racers by just a few seconds, the gap that can only be scaled by practicing the craft.