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Old 22nd July 2014, 09:42   #1
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Default Experience: Nissan GT Academy - From an Indian Finalist!

Hey guys, this is my very first post on Team-bhp, I signed-up five years ago because I've always been fascinated and passionate about cars, and all I've done is admire what most of the members are doing! Given that I signed-up many years ago, my user name is a little immature!

Alright, so for those of you who don't know, the Nissan GT Academy is a unique driver discovery and development program started in 2008, this chap called Darren Cox who is the head of motorsports for Nissan wanted to identify and develop racing talent that was beyond the pool of current drivers. As you know, racing is very expensive and is usually only reserved for people with the right contacts and the big bank balances which means chaps like me coming from an average Indian middle class family, can only watch from the grand stands! Well, not anymore

Before we proceed, let me introduce myself, my name is Glen Ivan Suchitha, I'm a 24 year old from Bangalore (go Bangalore!) working for a BIG corporate company in financial risk, I haven't had the "typical" career path, I've been fortunate to represent our nation at various UN conferences, I've worked in Venture Capital and after college I even ran a start-up for 2 years, things didn't go according to plan and I had to settle for my current job, I have absolutely no complaints and I'm even grateful as my company has given me a month off to prepare for the Academy!

I'm going to break down my experiences in different sections to make it as structured as possible as this has really been a long time coming!

1. The start
I've always been a huge fan of Gran-Turismo, coming from arcade racing games, this really is a step-up for true automobile enthusiasts, the detail that the creator Kazunori Yamauchi goes into is absolutely awe-inspiring and the game genuinely teaches you the basics of car control, don't take my word for it, look up "Jaan Mardenborough" humungous success in literally no time, sure, he has the gift but Gran-Turismo really honed it.

When I head GT Academy was coming to India, I did not waste any time, I bought a second hand PS3 and a second hand steering wheel, the logitech Driving Force GT, in hindsight, I wish I bought a logitech G27, I can do a separate post to address equipment and how it makes a difference, here is a picture of my budget, rudimentary racing rig. I immediately signed-up and began my preparation for phase 2.
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2. Training.
Before the GT Academy registrations even began, I knew that this was going to be pretty hard and fitness was going to be very important, over the last year, having worked 5 different shift timings and erratic eating habits over the weekends took a toll! I was pretty overweight! I knew that I had to whip myself back into reasonably okay shape to even stand a fighting chance. I knew in the back of my mind I was fairly fast in the game but, that was not even half the battle.

I basically ran, ran as much as I could, if I came home at 12 am, I would run at 12:30 am to 3 am, if I got back home at 8 am after a night-shift, I would run at 10 am, at work my office is on the 25th floor so I would use the stairs to run to and from the cafeteria which was on the 6th floor, whatever I could do, I did! I dropped a decent amount of weight in a month (around 8 kilos) and my endurance was alright. I should mention that at the Academy they are not looking for male underwear models, they just want drivers who have the mental toughness to push past what they think they can, so for me, I was just trying to get myself in that frame of mind, it paid out later, will get to that part in a bit!

3. Qualification.
So this year, to promote the GT Academy, they had two parts to qualification, online and offline qualifying the top 14 from each would make it to the National Finals in Jaipur. I qualified through both! I must mention that the pods they used were not very good, they were not ergonomic and they emulated an F1 cockpit which made no sense as, the prize is to race in the GT3 class also, some of the bigger contestants could not fit in the racing pods. Anyways, after the qualifying was over, I got my first e-mail! I was really ecstatic and was a step closer to my dream!
Experience: Nissan GT Academy - From an Indian Finalist!-offline-qualifier.png
Experience: Nissan GT Academy - From an Indian Finalist!-online-qualifier.png

4. National Finals - Jaipur.
No matter how much I type, I cannot do justice as to how amazing the National Finals were! Nissan hosted us in a palace, they are shooting a reality TV show so they hired paparazzi and pit girls to greet us at the airport and the 28 of us were really treated like rockstars! I've been to quite a few top rated hotels around the world but this time, for this occasion and the setting I have to tell you, it was amazing. When I walked into my palatial room, I was greeted to a kit with a bomber jacket, a few T-shirts a customized duffle bag, I took a moment and was so thankful to see what a simple PS3 game had got me! I will never forget that moment.
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The National Finals' agenda was simple, 2 days, a whole bunch of tests, straight out eliminations to narrow it down to the final 6!

4.1. - Day 1
Day 1 was all about consistency in the game, we had an instructor fly down from Silverstone and he set a "benchmark lap" which was quickly knocked down by the gamers the first challenge was a flat out fastest time, I did alright, I was in the top 5 I reckon but no one knows for sure as the judges kept everything tight-knit so as to keep things fair.

The second challenge was of consistency, 3 laps, the most consistent lap times mattered, here, I goofed up, 2 of my 3 laps were invalid, I tried to overdrive the car thinking I could make up the tiny deficit I had in round 1, bad idea. I really thought I was going to get eliminated. It all came down to round 3 and 4.

Round 3 was a flat out flying lap, I posted a fairly respectable time, playing it safe from my previous round goof-up and round 4 was a surprise. It was a ten lap blast around Monaco, the total time counted and penalties were given for bad driving (slamming into barriers etc). The pressure was intense as, the first round of eliminations were going to happen after this round, I really had to suck it up, focus and belt out ten good, consistent laps. Knowing that all the work I put in over the last few months boiled down to this moment where I HAD to perform, I said a quick prayer, took a few deep breathes, jumped in the pod and drove...

I did alright, averaging around the 1:37's where the fastest lap was set by a chap (Akshay Gupta) in the 1:35 range, I should mention it was his favorite track but he drove really well, it was really a joy to watch him drive.
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Eliminations - so this part really scared me, they divided us into three groups. The first row was at the bottom and they were going to be eliminated and the top most row were the top performers who were probably going to sail through. They started calling out our names one by one, the TV producer told us that the cameras were rolling and we needed to show real expressions, he called my name, "Glen Ivan, row one", my heart sank, I almost welled up in tears, I knew at that moment, I was going home, I kept thinking, my round 2 messed it up for me, trying to over drive to save half a second, ruined it, I tried to be brave and put up a smiling face, but inside I was shattered, I didn't want it to end, not like this. I knew I could do a lot better, but here I was in the row about to get eliminated...

So the producer comes up to us and says, "we're rolling cameras..." and he looks at the list one last time to make sure everyone is in their places... he calls my name out again, "Glen Ivan, move to row 2". I DIED at this moment!!! The drama was just too much! a journalist friend of mine who was in the crowd gave me a re-assuring thumbs-up! I really felt like I was in a movie! Gosh, the drama was just too much! The instructor from Silverstone came up, eliminated row 1 and they asked us in row 2 and 3 to jump and show some happiness, boy, I jumped like a little kid who just got his favorite toy!

Media Round - here we were asked a set of questions by the media to see how we handled media pressure, the Academy is designed to make you the best driver possible but being eloquent and comfortable in front of a camera and the media is not something you can easily develop, it takes a lot of time and effort and something that you as an individual really need to work on and develop. Having coming from a place where I would have to talk to earn my bread, I was really in my stride here, one of the questions I was asked was "So, what is the most amazing car you have ever driven", I looked at the reported with a square face, dead in the eye and said, "the most amazing car I have ever driven, is my 90 bhp Suzuki SX4", XD at that time I realized, if I go through, I'm going to be driving a 550 bhp Nissan GTR, holy cow!

Round two Eliminations - here we had the head of Nissan India and Darren Cox also present, 18 of us were left after the first elimination just an hour ago, again, tensions were high, they broke us up into 3 groups of 6, they pointed at my group and said, "you are eliminated" at this point, having been through the ordeal once, I was sort of okay, I nodded and smiled then he goes, "oh wait, you're not eliminated (pointing at another group), you are", basically I was safe! I threw my hands up and went, "you have GOT to be kidding me!"

We had a nice party that evening, I stuck to drinking lots of water, there was a live band that was playing and I even jammed a tune with them after the crazy day one I just decided to relax and have a little fun, called it an early night to prepare for the next morning.

4.2. Day 2 - at this point I should mention, I was sick the previous week, it was so bad that I was in the hospital for a day (drama follows me everywhere I tell you), I was so off my stride and was really weak, I couldn't work out, I couldn't even manage push-ups and all the heavy anti-biotics really threw me off, I thought that was it, physically, I would not be able to manage, so when I woke up with a bad dry cough on day 2, I had a nice cup of tea and decided to really push myself but also, have fun.

Autocross test - they set-up a neat little autocross circuit with a Micra, the circuit was short, lasted about 40 seconds (most were doing 39 seconds), here, they weren't just looking for the fastest time, they were looking for technique as well, again, there were chaps with crazy racing experience and this was my first time doing something like this, we had 3 test runs and 1 final run, during my test runs, I was averaging about 43 seconds, but I kept an eye out on my technique, after the 12 of us went, the autocross track looked more like a rally track and I was really surprised that the Micra held out, no smell of a burning clutch or brakes! So for my final run, I knew I had to drive the wheels off the Micra but also be mechanically sympathetic to the machine, basically I drove it according to my style, I wasn't the fastest but I took lots of mental notes to see what the instructor was doing and as a result, my time improved by around 3 seconds! Also, remember, this was my first time ever doing anything like this. In hindsight I think it worked a bit to my favor. However, I wasn't the fastest, so I just kept my head down, didn't really mingle with the other folks and we boarded the bus back to the hotel for the next round.

Fitness test – here I must make a special mention to Prakash Nair, he just turned 42, he has also made it to Silverstone and boy, he taught us younger chaps a proper lesson, not only did he excel at the fitness rounds, but he DEMOLISHED us! We basically had four main exercises. The first one was to hold a plank, I managed a respectable 4 minutes and 30 seconds (a good time is around 2 minutes), Mr. Prakash (I say mister as I have humungous respect for him) held it for a good 6 minutes! Then we had slow push-ups where the instructor would call out the pace, everyone was averaging around 12 (you have to understand, the Jaipur heat was not helping), then we had quad-burst jumps, a straight up jump to see how much force your quads could generate, here we were all averaging around 55-60 centimeters (the average is around 30 centimeters), here, I must mention Shantanu Kallianpurkar, the biggest competitor there, but this guy is really something else, he managed around 70 centimeters which is completely insane and he is also an amazing driver and overall humble guy, great fun to talk –to and really approachable (like everyone else there).

The last test was something called a “Bleep test”, it is PURE TORTURE, basically how it works is, there are two lines 20 meters apart, there is an audio file that plays these “bleeps” and every consecutive bleep gets faster, so you are running 20 meters, stopping and running faster, it sounds simple, but, geez, it is not! Every level has 10 sub-levels and they were looking for an average of level 5 which is the same level as the British police. To make things more interesting, they held it on the hotel roof where it was around 47 degrees centigrade at high noon, the moment we went up, my throat had already dried up.

Knowing I had to push given that my performance was average at best, I ran, pushed as hard as I could, I managed a level 6.9, however, again, Mr. Prakash, dominated and he managed a level 8.5 I think, he dropped down with exhaustion and everyone there, gave him a huge round of applause. He clearly deserved it. As Darren Cox mentioned later, “the only person at the fitness level we were expecting happens to be 41 years old!”

5. Final Results
Again, at this point, I had no hope, instead of going to the main hall, I went to my room. Took a few minutes to calm myself, I didn’t think I was going to make it. However, I was really thankful for making it this far, this was beyond what I ever imagined it would be. There were some really strong contestants and I didn’t think I would fair in the top 6. I was mentally preparing myself to come back next year and I was beating myself up a little bit wishing I didn’t fall sick the previous week, wishing I could push harder, wishing I drove on a race track earlier. However, I just had another cup of tea and went down for lunch just before the results were announced.

We had Darren Cox talk about the last few days, they gave us participation certificates and then the final moment came, first person to go through was Abhinav Bhatt from Delhi, no surprise there, my heart started to sink, the next person was Prakash Nair, definitely no surprise, the man deserved it, I just kept my head down, the next person was Akshay Gupta, well the boy is really fast, I took a deep breath and just mustered up the strength to applaud them because let’s face it, they were really good. Then Darren Cox goes, “the next person to make it to Silverstone is, Glen Ivan Suchitha”, at that moment I was so shell shocked, I couldn’t believe it, flashbacks of my whole year went by, right from the eye doctor telling me my vision was deteriorating (I had keratoconous, look it up), to the stress at work, to the working out, I also had to put my faithful dog of 17 years to sleep but I did not take a day off because I wanted to save all my leaves in-case I made it to Silverstone. Thinking about my time at the hospital, everything came like a rush of emotions, as I walked up to the stage, I couldn’t help myself, I gave Darren a big hug! I didn’t think he expected it and it was a bit awkward for him! And yes, I teared up a bit. But, it was all going to happen, it really was.


6. The present.
So here I am, a kid with no racing experience, no track experience, off to Silverstone to drive the 370z, the mighty GTR and even Formula Fords! I've been training hard every day and gave in my documents for the Visa last week. Nissan, again, has been so amazing, everything has been taken care-off by them, no expense at all from my end. I am putting more time on my console trying to learn the tracks and variations and at the same time, I know we are going to be facing off against some really strong competitors from around the world. Karun Chandhok is going to be our mentor and I’m really excited to learn as much as I can. In the end, above all, the Nissan GT Academy has given me clarity, there is nothing more I want to do than to just drive cars around the world. I am going there to give it my all to win it. But whatever the outcome, I now know what I want to do for the rest of my life and isn’t that the best prize of all?

Thank you so much for reading through all this, believe me, this is really the condensed version! There is so much more to the GT Academy. If this is something you want to do, start preparing for next year. This year in India, we had around 5000 participants, I’m sure it’s only going to increase! If you have any questions, do feel free to reach out to me, I will be more than happy to help any way I can.

Live to Drive!
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Old 22nd July 2014, 11:02   #2
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Congratulations Glen

Loved reading your experience. Respect your attitude that you prepared for the contest so diligently. You deserved the success buddy.

Wish you good luck for the dream adventure that lies ahead.
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Old 22nd July 2014, 13:29   #3
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Congratulations Glen

Loved reading your experience. Respect your attitude that you prepared for the contest so diligently. You deserved the success buddy.

Wish you good luck for the dream adventure that lies ahead.
Thank you Trek! I forgot to mention, in GT Academy if you make it to Silverstone, you can never take part in it again! So this is really a once in a lifetime shot! the final race happens to fall on August 15th! (drama I tell you) going to do my best!
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Old 22nd July 2014, 14:15   #4
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Great going Glen!

The dedication and commitment to what you are doing is amazing. Wish you all the luck and hope you win at Silverstone.

Drive safe!

Cheers
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Old 22nd July 2014, 14:55   #5
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Man, this is really something else . And I thought the GT Academy was merely playing a video game. I had absolutely no clue of its demanding nature in terms of skill, commitment....and even fitness levels.

Heartiest congratulations to you! Wish you the very best. Thank you for sharing the report with us. It's obviously straight from a petrol-head's heart and is going straight to our homepage.

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Originally Posted by psycho_dtg View Post
I must mention Shantanu Kallianpurkar, the biggest competitor there, but this guy is really something else, he managed around 70 centimeters which is completely insane and he is also an amazing driver and overall humble guy, great fun to talk –to and really approachable (like everyone else there).
Shan2nu is also one of the first Moderators of Team-BHP. I've driven with him to Mahabaleshwar and boy, he can drive.
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Old 22nd July 2014, 15:46   #6
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Congratulations Glen!!! Wish you all the very best!

First of all welcome onboard, and boy what a way to enter! Way to go dude!
A BHPian in the final, very nicely narrated, the enthusiasm, eagerness and the nervousness was all very much present, thoroughly enjoyed reading your experience.

What a moment it must have been, a moment of fantasy soon to be reality.

This is your moment buddy, go for it!

Cheers!
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Old 22nd July 2014, 16:31   #7
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Congratulations Glen!!! Go burn some rubber!
You my friend are an inspiration! This is stuff that dreams are made of and hope you enjoy it right till the end. I was following the event on motoroids but never thought of a BHPian making it to silverstone
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Old 22nd July 2014, 18:43   #8
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Congratulations Glen!

Running 25 floors daily, man I barely manage walking 12 floors to my office. That was some level of commitment you had and you truly deserved to win.


Going through your thread felt like a dream for me, as most of us over here always wanted to get into professional racing.


I still remember writing to Keith Code (California Superbike School) as soon as I finished my schooling and he was kind enough to revert back to my queries about perusing a career in motorcycle racing. But sadly, Indian parents are not supportive about sports as a career and specially not racing. My dad was hesitant to buy me a bike and where was I thinking about taking up professional racing as a career.


But I did fulfill a dream of driving on a Formula 1 track and that too India's one and only Buddh circuit in a Audi R8 V10 as I had signed up for the ASE (Audi Sportscar Experience)

All the best for Silverstone and may you achieve everything that you wish and aim for in life.

P.S - Sorry to hear about your dog. May his soul R.I.P

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Old 22nd July 2014, 19:55   #9
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Congrats Glen. Your story really proves that you can realize your dream if you put your mind to it.

Request you to share more details on the gaming set-up at home.
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Old 22nd July 2014, 20:13   #10
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Congratulations Glen! You did it despite not feeling well.

This was a fantastic write-up about your experience and really changed my perception of the GT Academy!

The fitness tests do seem quite rigorous and I guess necessary. The amount of fitness & effort to race even professional karts is quite a lot, leave alone a GT-R.

All the best for the trip and let her rip at Silverstone
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Old 22nd July 2014, 20:18   #11
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It is so inspiring and an awesome read! I love what you are doing and wish you the very best in the GT academy.

You are an inspiration for me! I will prepare for the the GT academy next year.

Thanks for sharing your amazing story.
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Old 22nd July 2014, 21:34   #12
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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Man, this is really something else . And I thought the GT Academy was merely playing a video game. I had absolutely no clue of its demanding nature in terms of skill, commitment....and even fitness levels.
wohow! A reply from the infamous GTO! thank you!, yes, Shan2nu, is really a big bear! I know he is going to dominate the competition next year! I will keep this you guys updated with the latest happenings and also delve into more details about the Academy! thank you for all the support, it really means a lot!

-G

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Originally Posted by procrj View Post
Congratulations Glen!!! Go burn some rubber!
You my friend are an inspiration! This is stuff that dreams are made of and hope you enjoy it right till the end. I was following the event on motoroids but never thought of a BHPian making it to silverstone
Thank you my man, inspiration is a strong word! It has just been a childhood dream! thankfully, India is seeing more opportunities for us regular folk in the world of motorsports!

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Originally Posted by SnS_12 View Post
Congratulations Glen!

Running 25 floors daily, man I barely manage walking 12 floors to my office. That was some level of commitment you had and you truly deserved to win.
wow, looking at your vehicle history, that is really impressive! I'm not a wise man, but given by what I saw with Mr. Prakash Nair, it's really never too late to follow your dreams! I can't imagine how amazing it must've been for you with the Audi R8 V10 at Buddh! must've been quite a surreal experience. Thank you for your condolences with my dog. They are really the best animals and as long they are in a better place, it's all good.
I will keep the Silverstone part updated, leaving in two weeks, cannot wait!

-G

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Originally Posted by mac187 View Post
Congrats Glen. Your story really proves that you can realize your dream if you put your mind to it.

Request you to share more details on the gaming set-up at home.
Hey man, thank you! well, it's nothing special, just a simple DFGT on an old computer table, if you want more detailed information about a rig, we can PM, depending on your budget and stuff, I can help you out!

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Originally Posted by raajks View Post
It is so inspiring and an awesome read! I love what you are doing and wish you the very best in the GT academy.

You are an inspiration for me! I will prepare for the the GT academy next year.

Thanks for sharing your amazing story.
thank you very much! if you need any help, let me know! this is really worth it! you will come out healthier, happier and more fulfilled!

Hey guys, so today I decided to put in some laps in a go-kart. Bangalore has this great track called Torq, so I paid for 36 laps, and to my amazing luck, it started to pour like crazy! Undeterred, I drove hard! Sliding around the track in the wet, holding powerslides the length of the track, no grip on the slicks, I must've been doing only 30 - 40 kmph, but I felt like Senna! was an insane amount of fun, but, at the end of it, I was covered in muck and was wet till my boxers, I had to resort to this!
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Suffice to say, there were a few aunties who were quite scandalized, a young man taking his wet clothes off after karting in the rain! unbelievable fun!

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Old 22nd July 2014, 23:22   #13
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Originally Posted by psycho_dtg View Post
wow, looking at your vehicle history, that is really impressive! I'm not a wise man, but given by what I saw with Mr. Prakash Nair, it's really never too late to follow your dreams! I can't imagine how amazing it must've been for you with the Audi R8 V10 at Buddh! must've been quite a surreal experience. Thank you for your condolences with my dog. They are really the best animals and as long they are in a better place, it's all good.
I will keep the Silverstone part updated, leaving in two weeks, cannot wait!

-G
Well, the Audi was the first super car I ever drove and that too a left hand drive. Initially I had problems keeping the car within the track as it was my first time on a LHD vehicle. My second mistake in the initial laps was that I was not using the width of the track while exiting corners as back of my mind I was still thinking that I am driving on our normal roads and not a race track. I got my act right after a few laps and I was back in business again. Overall it was an amazing experience, which I wish I could relive on a daily basis.

Go karting on the other hand is super fun and the corners feel super fast. I always make it a point to do a few laps on my friends track in Goa, whenever I am there.

Here is a video of my first few laps @ Buddh. Apologies on behalf of my co passenger, who after a few laps of his own felt like Senna on the track.


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Old 22nd July 2014, 23:35   #14
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Well, the Audi was the first super car I ever drove and that too a left hand drive. Initially I had problems keeping the car within the track as it was my first time on a LHD vehicle. My second mistake in the initial laps was that I was not using the width of the track while exiting corners as back of my mind I was still thinking that I am driving on our normal roads and not a race track. I got my act right after a few laps and I was back in business again. Overall it was an amazing experience, which I wish I could relive on a daily basis.

Go karting on the other hand is super fun and the corners feel super fast. I always make it a point to do a few laps on my friends track in Goa, whenever I am there.
WOW! watching the video, I get the feeling that the sense of speed is a bit distorted given the scale of the track! I like how Audi positioned the cones to help you stick to the driving lines! and if that was your first time, man, very impressive!

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Old 23rd July 2014, 01:03   #15
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Congrats Glen!
You lucky yet deserving bloke! All the physical training paid off eh? Well done man.
Make Bangalore proud

Better start my preparations for next year
Firstly, I need a PS3 (or PS4 lol).
Dad, are you listening?
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