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We take a look at The Men, The Machine (s) and The Track, which have put Tamil Nadu on the world map of racing.

The Men...

Rex Strong, K Varugis, G M Donner, K V Srinivasan, the Rajkumar of Pithapuram, Raja D V Appa Rao, J H Dye, P Matthen and K A Sillick, these are the names of the men who were instrumental in bringing about a organised set up for racing in Chennai, namely, the Madras Motor Sports Club (MMSC). That was way back in the 1950's...Over to the new millennium; today the future of Indian motor racing rests on young racing icons like, Narain Karthikeyan, Parthiv Sureshwaran and Karun Chandok.

Narain KarthikeyanNarain Karthikeyan, 'the Fastest Indian in the World' is now on the threshold of F-1 racing. His speed and raw talent are attracting the attention of top Grand Prix teams and  he is expected to break into the F-1 circuit in the next two years.  He trained at the Elf Winfield Racing School in France and it is indeed to his credit that he has achieved so much with so little.  Having already tested with the Jaguar Racing team and Jordan, it is just a matter of time before he becomes the first Formula 1 Indian driver.

Parthiva SureshwaranAfter Narain Karthikeyan, the two brightest hopes for Indian motor racing are Parthiva Sureshwaran and Karun Chandok.  Even as a child Parthiva was fascinated by cars and took to driving at the age of 12.  With father Sureshwaran himself a racing aficionado, the encouragement and backing was always there for Parthiva.  He won his first race on his debut at Sriperumbudur, driving a Maruti Esteem. It was there that he decided to do the full stretch in racing.  From there he went on to the Silverstone Racing School in England.  After that he raced in the four-race Formula Ford British Winter Series before graduating to the Asian Formula circuit.  With age on his side, Parthiv has a good chance of getting into F-1. 

Karun who is yet to attain the legal age to obtain a driving license is setting the Indian racing tracks on fire.  The youngest of the three, Karun Chandok, son of motor sport veteran Vicky Chandok, he has successfully carried the family baton of excellence on the racing track from his father.  Having excelled at the Formula Asian 2000 series, this youngster holds a lot of promise for the future.

The Machine(s)...

QmaariRacing machines have come a long way from the MGTDs to the Ambassadors to the Qmaarri's or Group Fiats and more recently to the Formula India Single Seater Maruti Engine (FISSME) class. And they are sure going to get lighter, better and faster in future.  The racing fans in Tamil Nadu have been treated to everything from the MGTDs to the FISSMEs.  Let us take a look at some of the machines that have left a mark on the history of racing in Tamil Nadu and India. 

The first cars to be raced on the roads and deserted airstrips were the MGTD's and after that came the age of the Ambassadors and Fiats which ruled the tracks for many years.   The ordinary Amby's and Fiats had to be fitted and strengthened to take the stress of racing, because if one were to race in an ordinary Amby, he could say farewell to his back.  Till the late 80s motorcar racing was restricted to a few Group N and Group A Fiats, Formula Indians and the Group AII Fiats. The cars have evolved since then.

Race carCome the 90s and Maruti Udyog entered the racing scene. They started supplying engines and gearboxes at subsidised prices, which prompted other component manufacturers to chip in and there emerged the FISSME.  The FISSME class has provided a starting block for many of today's motor racing heroes including Narain, Parthiva and Karun.  Things have moved on and already other models from Maruti like Esteem, 800, Gypsy and Zen have been homologated. Baleno and the new Esteem are also slated to join the list.  We will soon be seeing Honda City's, Hyundai Accents and Ford Ikon's being raced alongside these cars.  These models will become eligible for racing once they are homologated.  Homologating is a process by which car manufacturers in the country furnish FMSCI with technical details about a model. A homologating committee then inspects the vehicle and decides its eligibility for racing track.

The Track...

It was sometime in the early 70s, that the effort towards acquiring a land near Sriperumbudur, for putting up a world-class race track started.  Thanks to the untiring efforts of the Madras Motor Sports Club, construction of the track finally began towards the fag end of the 80s.  The Irungattukottai race track, which is the first of its kind in India was inaugurated in 1990. On 8th February 1998, for the first time in India, Irungattukottai witnessed Formula Campus cars in action. Sixteen single-seater cars, using 1350cc Renault engines with a five-speed gearbox, built by the Frenchman Claude Fior were raced on that day.

IrungatukottaiThe track is 11 meters wide and has 10 major curves, apart from a number of minor ones. A smaller club circuit of 2.1 kms is also available for shorter events. The main track has three straights, with the longest one being 250 meters. The main circuit is about 3.717 kms long, while the club circuit is 2.010 kms long.  The circuit conforms to the two international bodies - the Federation Internationale de Automobile and the Federation Internationale du Motocyliste, who lay down the norms for racing and racing circuits.

Tamil Nadu has always been the hotspot for motor racing in India and now with the West Bengal effort to get an international racing track also on the backseat, Chennai is all set to rule the roost for many years to come. 

Author : Joseph Pradeep Raj R

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