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|2nd November 2010, 12:13||#1|
My experience as a VW Polo Cup Racing Driver
Greetings! I'm shrivz from Pune. I used to be an active member on Team-BHP. Work has been hectic off late and I've been silent on the forum.
Well, now I'm back here to share my first ever Professional Racing experience
The launch of Volkswagen India in 2007 was a great turning point for the Indian automotive industry. Along with this launch came a set of commitments from VW India to support and develop Indian Motorsport. Such claims had been made by various manufacturers in past, but no one seemed to take things seriously.
One day while running errands and commuting on the roads of Pune, I came across a billboard of the Volkswagen PoloCup which showcased a street circuit race track in Pune and a website URL. As soon as I got home, I logged on to the PoloCup website and filled out a registration form. The wait began.
There’s an email in my inbox from firstname.lastname@example.org heading the subject “Polo Cup 2010 Race Drivers” this was a basic questionnaire to collect applicant details. Filled out the form and sent it across.
I get a call from Volkswagen Motorsport India. The person on the other side of the line invites me to the first qualification round in Kolhapur on the 24th and 25th of April. This qualification would be on Go-Karts. I’m thrilled to hear this but nervous at the same time since I had not driven a Go-Kart for over 5 years. I make a few quick phone calls to know that a buddy of mine who I used to Kart with earlier had also applied for the PoloCup and was invited for the qualifying session. So it was decided.
We left on the 23rd of April and drove down to Kolhapur. The Kolhapur track was a refreshing sight since it was the largest go-kart track either of us had seen. We were excited and did a few pay and practice laps that day, just to get a feel of the track. There were some regular karters there and they were kind enough to take us around the track and show us the race line. We went back to our hotel room anxious to see what tomorrow had in store for us!
The next day we reached the track and registered ourselves. There were a hundred odd enthusiasts like us who shared the same dream! Many amongst them were professional karting champions. We were a little intimidated to see them come with their professional kit bags and overalls. Today was a testing session on 4-stroke go-karts. The team wanted to see if there were drivers who were incompetent to negotiate a basic corner since the next day’s qualification involved some serious racing machines, 2-stroke professional racing Rotax Karts. Only one driver was eliminated in this round. At the end of the day we were handed out our lap-time sheets and asked to report back tomorrow morning.
D-Day was here. The Rotax kats were unbelievably quick. The organizers ensured that all Karts were equal and the Race officials were extremely courteous. It was a fantastic day, we were told that the results would be emailed to us in a few days. We drove back to Pune with fond memories.
On the 29th of April, I receive the results in my inbox. I have qualified #35. The top 45 drivers were invited to Coimbatore for the next round of selection from 14th – 17th May. I was thrilled! The countdown to Coimbatore begins!
Last edited by shrivz : 2nd November 2010 at 12:30.
|2nd November 2010, 12:27||#2|
May 2010 (Coimbatore):
It was a fantasy for me to drive on a proper race track. The Kari Motor Speedway was holy grail, or so I thought. The second round of selection saw us being trained on braking points, hitting the apex, taking slaloms, telemetric data comparisions etc. through an exhaustive two day training programme. It was really professional and a fantastic learning experience. By the end of it, I made it in the top 25, but not in the top 20. I was slightly disheartened since I didnít want to be called a ĎReserve Driverí but hey, I got to drive on a professional race track in professional touring cars! I had nothing to complain about!
Two rounds of the PoloCup were over. I was in touch with a few drivers and was in awe of their experiences.
25th August, I get a call from Volkswagen. Theyíre asking me to come for Round 3 on 28th August. Thatís real short notice. Iím sick, down with the flu. My parents are okay with me going as long as the doctor approves. Call the doc and he straight away refuses. Who was I to kid, I could barely get out of bed and I was thinking of driving a race car. Jeez! I call up Volkswagen and decline their offer. However I told them that Iíd be interested in joining the season from the next round onwards.
I was in touch with one of the guys from VW. He said that there should be an opening for me, but he could only confirm by the end of the month. Iím excited. I get a call from them 6 days before the race saying that I have been included in the season! Iím thrilled, I send out my racing license application from to the FMSCI and sort out my paperwork. I'm extremely excited and can't wait to get to Chennai!
|6th November 2010, 00:08||#3|
Join Date: Sep 2010
Thanked: 0 Times
Congrats dude... this sounds like a dream come true
Small question, were you racing in your own car or was it provided by Volkswagen? Do you need to be a existing Volkswagen car owner?
|6th November 2010, 13:53||#5|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Nov 2009
Thanked: 160 Times
Well, so far so good
Wishing you the best for the next round. Please do keep the thread updated on regular basis.
|6th November 2010, 22:52||#6|
Join Date: Feb 2004
Thanked: 80,390 Times
Congrats Shrivz! We are proud of you. Eagerly waiting to hear about Chennai. Also, do tell us less privileged souls what its like to drive the light weight Polo with that stonking 1.6 diesel engine.
|7th November 2010, 00:13||#7|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Austin, TX
Thanked: 610 Times
Nice write-up shrivz!! It's great to see a BHPian at VW Polo Cup. A close friend of mine is also racing at the Polo Cup. His name's Sahil Shelar...you might know him. All the best for the next race!
Those wheels look really good! And there are so many lying there! Can I have 4 for my Polo
Last edited by theragingbull : 7th November 2010 at 00:15.
|8th November 2010, 00:40||#9|
Thank you all for the kind words! I will keep this thread updated on a regular basis.
You do not need to be an existing VW car owner.
We pay an entry fee for the same and also have to bear damage costs. We have been allotted area on the Bootlid, C-Pillar, Race Suit & Helmet for branding.
We can raise this money in the form of ad-branding through sponsorship. I'm working real hard on this and its great marketing experience. Please let me know if you know of someone who'd be interested in Race Car branding. A lead in the form of a marketing contact would be great!
|8th November 2010, 12:55||#10|
Round4: Practice, Qualifying & Race1
24th September: I’m in Chennai at the MMSC Race Track in Sriperembudur. I register myself and collect my racing gear. Practice starts in an hour. I’ve been going through the track map and visualizing it since the past few days. The Chennai track is almost 4 kilometers in length and in comparision, the Kari Motor Speedway seems to be a piddly little Go-Kart track.
10 minutes to Practice 1, I suit up and buckle up in the race car. The first couple of laps I need to get used to the car and learn the track. So I do. I had a few scary incidents during practice, one of them was when I was hurtling down from a fast section into a slow one going sideways. I managed to control the car and keep it on track without spinning off. “This is not Formula Drift, this is the PoloCup” I reminded myself. My best time in the first session was 2:11.xxx. It was a decent time and I was happy.
Practice 2 was later in the afternoon so I had time to interact with the pros and learn where I was making mistakes. The second practice session was relatively uneventful and with every lap, I saw my times steadily improve. This time around my best was a 2:08.7xx. A three second improvement over the day! I was really happy. We had a de-briefing session and then I got to analyze and compare the telemetry data. The driver coaches and professionals were really helpful and gave me valuable inputs. I went back to the hotel room, analyzed my data for a while and called in an early night. Qualifying tomorrow!
25th September: The first thing we see today is an overcast sky. I wonder what the rain Gods have in store for us? The first practice session in the morning was quite uneventful. The track was dry, the weather was great!
35 minutes before qualifying. Extreme thundershowers!
The VW Pit Crew jumped on their toes to swap us from Slicks to Wet weather tyres. They did this in a record-breaking 30 minutes for all 20 cars. Kudos to the team mechanics for a flawless execution! Qualifying began on time! This was my first experience in the wet. I took it easy as I didn’t want to end up with unnecessary damage. So I backed off my pace. Did around four laps and came back into the Pits. This was a bad decision! What I didn’t realize was that the track was drying outside with each lap and the guys who stayed out till the end upped their lap-times by a few seconds! So anyway, this was my first race and such things are all a part of the learning process. I qualified 19th on the grid. Tomorrow’s going to be D-Day!
26th September: Its slightly overcast today but doesn’t look like its going to rain. Brief up on the rules and flags. Get mentally prepared. This is it.
Race1: Lined up on the starting grid before the outlap, I can feel the tension grow. I calm myself to keep concentration levels up. I look up to see the lights. Oh wait! I can’t see them! I look around frantically. I see Rayo come up. He calms me. He says “I know you can’t see the lights but there’s nothing we can do about it now. Follow the guy in front of you for the start and all the best!” We go for our outlap and line up once again.
The safety car is behind me. He flashes his lights. I’m nervous. I see the cars in front of me start off. Oh hell! I’m not slotted in gear! What was I thinking!! I had a terrible start. Atleast three seconds after the guy in front of me. I managed to keep my cool. Steadily throughout the laps I start upping positions. I got off the grid 19th and managed my way up to 14th Place in the first 10 laps.
On the 10th lap, I right on the tail of the car in 13th. I’m quicker than him. He enters wide into the long-D. I see a comfortable opportunity to overtake. I make my move. I’m on the inside line. We’re neck to neck. I’m pulling away clean, he’s still wide. My nose was about half a car length ahead of him when I see him dive into the corner. He’s about to hit me! I panic! To avoid impact, I lift off the throttle, oversteer and jump over the curb and come back out behind him. That was a near miss! But in the process of jumping off the curb and jumping back on. I damaged my steering tie rod. There was no way I could keep up my pace. I back off, let the guys behind me overtake and come into the pits.
Ranjit, our race engineer sees me enter the pits. He rushes towards my car. He sees no physical damage and anxiously asks me what happened. I tell him that I damaged my steering and I can’t keep up pace. He says it’s a safety call and the decision is mine whether I want to go back on track and finish the race or not. I decide not to. I park the car and strap out. Ranjit is still with me. He says that everyone in the pit lane was cheering for me and they were mighty impressed with my performance. I’m disappointed with the outcome, but Ranjit really cheers me up. He said that this is all a part and parcel of professional racing so there’s nothing to worry about.
Last edited by shrivz : 8th November 2010 at 13:03.
|8th November 2010, 13:00||#11|
Since the start finish lights were positioned too low for us in the first race. This race was supposed to be a flag start. My start was much better this time. I jumped up a couple of places in the start itself. I became confident and the first couple of laps went smoothly.
One of the quickest drivers on track, Vishnu Prasad was at the back of the pack due to a DNF in the first race because of a technical problem. Heís closing up to me, I get off my line and let him pass. In the process Suraj Bhagat who was right behind him, also dived in and took my position. I was furious at myself for being so naive and giving up a position. I lost my cool and started pushing hard.
On around the 4th lap or so, I brake late into C1, but I manage to hold my line for the entry. This is a fast corner and Iím right on Surajís tail on the entry. Mid-way through the corner Iím about to nudge him from the rear. Again, I make a mistake, I panic and back off the throttle to avoid damage and start to oversteer. I get back on the gas hard and I stabilize the car, but I start understeering. Its too late. Iím going to go off track into the field. I brace myself up. I run wide on the exit and go for a roller-coaster ride into the run off area. My car stops at the far end of the field. I restart my engine and get back on track. I realize I have puncture on my front left tyre. I slowly drive back into the pits.
The pit crew is ready for me. They start working on the car and replace the front left tyre. Ranjit, our race engineer comes near me and asks what happened. I explain the scenario and ask him what the damage is like. I had a missing rear bumper and side skirts, which I lost somewhere in the run off area. Within two minutes of entering the pits. My wheel is changed and my car is ready to go back on track. I got out and slowly start gaining on the car in front of me. After a couple of laps, Iím getting ready to make my overtaking maneuver. In the last few corners of that lap, I feel a little oversteer while taking a right hand turn. Iím losing pressure in my rear left tyre. I have to back off my pace. I slowly finish the race with a flat rear left tyre.
Lesson learnt. Never lose your cool and push too hard on the race track. Its just another way to lose the race!
Last edited by Rehaan : 9th November 2010 at 11:39. Reason: Adding pic
|8th November 2010, 13:04||#12|
Join Date: Feb 2004
Thanked: 21,890 Times
Awesome stuff Shrivz!!
Must be such a great experience, and the Polo cup seems very well organized and professional too!
Two things i'm interested in hearing about :
1) Whats it like to compete on the track in a diesel. (Whats the redline, whats the optimal rpm to upshift, etc)
2) Given that every car/driver has their performance on the track being logged, and the data (eg. speeds, gear, braking point, TP) for the fastest lap is shared will ALL the drivers -- what kind of impact has that had on your personal improvement? Whats the atmosphere like during this sharing session. I think its really great step towards learning more on the track.
Last edited by Rehaan : 8th November 2010 at 13:07.
|8th November 2010, 13:45||#13|
Senior - BHPian
Join Date: Feb 2010
Thanked: 387 Times
|8th November 2010, 13:49||#14|
This is a self-explanatory screen-shot of the data from one of my practice rounds in which I clocked 2:11.283.
The data is handed to us on our pen-drives and we can analyze and compare it at our own convenience.
The other drivers are familiar with the graphs and know how to compare data so there weren't any group comparision sessions.
Since I was a new entrant, I had an analysis session with Rayomand, our driver coach. He showed me my weak points and where I needed to improve. We also have interactive sessions and track walks to understand the racing line, braking points, apexes etc. Its been an awesome learning experience.
I'll be putting up a report of the car's performance and driving experience soon.
The parts are billed at factory prices, but its still very expensive!
Last edited by mobike008 : 7th December 2010 at 17:30. Reason: Back to Back Posts
|8th November 2010, 14:16||#15|
Join Date: May 2006
Thanked: 1,037 Times
hey shrivz. great report.
Its lovely to have you on track and your performance for the first race was really awesome.
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