Tata Prima Race Truck Review: Optimus Prima
We are all well-versed with Newton’s Laws of Motion, taught to us during our school days. Our teachers, back then, illustrated the working of these laws using articles of the size of a tennis ball. Among these lays, the second law particularly focused on determining the forces exerted by an object, which is equal to the product of mass and its acceleration. We proved the same using our own little experiment. Only for this time, it was not a tennis ball but something bigger...a 7-tonne racing truck.
Tata Prima, known for hauling commercial goods, also has a super tuned racing variant which made its debut with the T1 Racing Championship in 2014. Tata Motors has re-worked on these trucks after getting feedback from drivers and have further improved its performance. The new version has got lighter by 350kgs, has a shorter cabin and a higher maximum speed of 130 kmph.
Normal roads wouldn't let us stretch this mammoth of a being to its max and thus, we were at Tata Motors' premier test track in Chakan to get a first hand feel.
It looks as if it eats small cars for breakfast. The T1 Prima truck is the most handsome gigantic mass to be ever seen on four wheels in India. In fact, if you have neighbours who throw too much of attitude, make sure you park it beside their piddly small automobile.
One needs to take more than few steps backwards to see the T1 in its proper dimension. It resembles a three-storey building with its tall cabin. With a reduced cabin height, the new T1 offers lower resistance against the wind. The upper cabin rests confidently on the chassis. Since it is to be driven on a track only, there are no dedicated headlights as seen on the commercial version.
Tata Motors has tied up with JK Tyres to make exclusive race spec tyres which offer fantastic grip. There are new side protectors mounted between the front and rear wheels. The fenders on rear tyres have also been re-bolted as in the previous leg, the same used to rip off endangering the following driver. The number of leaf springs has gone down also helping the cabin to reduce its height.
The rear retains its overall design from the earlier T1 Prima with a strong collision protection bar mounted on the chassis. It also has a water tank mounted on the chassis which keeps spraying fluid on all wheels always when the vehicle is in motion. This is to make sure the brakes don’t get overheated while braking at high speeds.
Inside the cabin, there is nothing too comforting except for the Sparco driver seat. The race T1 version doesn’t get a co-driver seat as the chance of striking a conversation with someone while driving on a race track at 140kmph is very slim. The otherwise covered with a proper front dashboard section has cables piled up together.
It has a removable Momo steering wheel which is small in diameter for ease of quick turning. It also has a roll cage bar which is a mandatory safety construction inside any type of a racing vehicle. Instead of conventional seatbelts, there is a five point safety harness with the central link located just below the chest which also resembles the arc reactor on Tony Star’s chest. There is a fire extinguisher too.
It doesn’t offer generous legroom for the driver especially if he is tall; the knees would keep rubbing against the front section but still no complaints from me as the rush felt is too much to crib about something as silly as legroom. Located just beside the driver’s seat is a short transmission stick which points 9 gears and also an air-brake lever in red. There is a twin cup holder too in case the driver thinks if sipping a cool beverage once done driving at great speeds.
Among the new changes, there is a centrally mounted rear view mirror which comes in handy for a better view of the following trucks and is also the only option if the external mirrors get brushed off against other trucks.
Driving fast cars on a racing track is not new anymore. They have bhps to flaunt and enough torque to power slide around corners but driving a race spec T1 Prima is nothing similar. One look at this giant and you are wondering if this muscle block can move fast at all.
The diesel engine makes a torque of 1550Nm, which equals to what 7 Hyundai Elite i20s will make at one go. This epic amount of torque is available at an extremely low engine speed of 1300rpm. Too much numbers already...adding further, it gets a ZF 9-speed manual transmission unit with a crawler gear. The only spec where it is low is its fuel efficiency which is 1.6kmpl.
Get the motor cranked up and just push the throttle in neutral, the cabin shudders giving an idea of the great level of raw power available to push this 7-tonner. After getting a brief test drive with a professional, it was my time to test the potential of this herculean looking machine. I always longed to drive one but now that I was actually inside one left me puzzled. Just to make sure I don’t fumble while driving it, I grilled the professionals with series of driving questions as the stakes were high and even the slightest mistake could have been dangerous.
Slide the ignition key and push the button beside it, that’s all it took to start the T1 Prima. It starts at a gentle pace and by the time you realise the things happening inside the roll-caged cabin, it starts picking up higher speeds. The gear shifts feel sticky initially. Once their layout and position is understood, it is not much of an effort. The shifts are too short with the initial 3 gears acting as the rev builder while the rest of the pack helps gain momentum.
During our interaction with the officials, I was told the maximum speed has gone up to 130 kmph from 110kmph. In real condition on the track, I had already covered half of the track and the digital speedometer showed a speed of 125 kmph. By no means did the motor show any sign of reaching its peak and instead was encouraging to be pushed even further. Driving at such speeds in a car is understandable but the same in a tall truck is not that easy. We had already crossed its official max speed of 130kmph and the cabin made us feel it too.
Tata’s test track has a sleek straight patch followed by a circular skidpad. It was not even a bit scary to turn the T1 Prima around this sharp turn. There was an obvious body roll but not to the point where it could have felt scary. There were moments when either of the rear tyres left the tarmac as it’s a front heavy vehicle. The new improved brake cooling system also eased stopping the T1 Prima even at high speeds. Thus, entering corners at speeds was convenient as the cooling system worked overtime to make sure the brakes don’t get fried controlling the momentum.
I did innumerable laps on this test track for hours as the overall experience was too engaging and also managed to push my luck to make the T1 Prima reach a maximum speed of 142kmph. I still believe that the new T1 Prima has a potential to reach 150 kmph under favourable conditions. Perhaps.
|Engine Capacity||Cummins ISLe 8.9L Engine|
|Power in BHP/RPM||370 / 2100|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||1550 / 1300|
|Wheel base mm||3460|
|Kerb Weight in Kg||7000|
|Ground clearance mm||NA|
|Fuel tank capacity L||90L|
|Tyre Spec||315/80 R22.5|
|Price||Not For Sale|
|Custom Roll Cage||Yes|
|Sparco Racing Seats||Yes|
|MOMO Steering Wheel||Yes|
|Side Crash Protector||Yes|
|Continious Brake Fluid on All Wheels||Yes|
|Five-Point Safety harness||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Engine Capacity||Cummins ISLe 8.9L Engine||Cummins 6 ISBe 270 30|
|Power in BHP/RPM||370 / 2100||267 / 2500 rpm|
|Torque in Nm/RPM||1550 / 1300||970 / 1200 - 1700 rpm|
|Gears||EATON 9-Speed||EATON 9-Speed|
|Wheel base mm||3460||3460|
|Kerb Weight in Kg||7000||7000|
|Ground clearance mm||NA||NA|
|Fuel tank capacity L||90L||90L|
|Tyre Spec||315/80 R22.5||315/80 R22.5|
|Price||Not For Sale||NA|
Why does an Indian company like Tata Motors enter Truck Racing? It might look very enthusiastic but with the T1 Prima Racing, the company is showcasing its engineering strength and technological prowess. In India, trucking is not seen as an aspirational profession by many and thus Tata Motors wants to change this conventional outlook by bringing enthusiasm, energy and young appeal.
The T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship 2015 will feature 12 Tata PRIMA trucks driven by experienced international drivers representing six teams - Team Castrol Vecton, Team Cummins, Team Tata Technologies Motorsports, Team Dealer Warriors, Team Dealers Daredevils and Team Allied Partners.