T1 PRIMA Racing Season 4: Racing Pride and Engineering Prowess!
The T1 PRIMA racing is, perhaps, the only event in India that demonstrates indigenous technology and racing talents every year.
Making a mass cracker-jack out of a niche idea is hardly possible, but the grandeur of the T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship chronicled across all four seasons with leaps and bounds of innovations and achievements every year tells us a different story altogether. In a country where the idea of truck racing is hardly appealing, let alone racing with Indian racers, Tata Motors and its partners have worked from beyond their best abilities to stage a grand show and sustain thereafter. All these four years, they have consistently worked on not only to put a great show for enthusiasts, but equally chiselling out a strong platform to showcase talents, engineering and technological prowess, and brand promotion.
The Season 4 of the T1 PRIMA TRUCK RACING CHAMPIONSHIP began with much fanfare on a rather lousy weekend at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC), Greater Noida. Roaring trucks juggling to gain lead amidst one another on the track, along with scores of thrills and off-track fun are guaranteed, but we were phenomenally anticipating this season for many other reasons. One among them was the “future-ready”, “made in India” all-powerful 1,000 bhp PRIMA truck. How does this going to impact the T1 racing scene in the years to come? Is Tata equipping itself for an international onslaught at FIA truck racing events in Europe? A 12-litre engine for the first time in PRIMA range, will this trickle down into the truck’s road-going portfolio? Our minds kept boggling.
Yet another thread of excitement was the TRP 2.0 (T1 Racer Program), the second edition of the driver training program that began with the last season, which bolster up Tata’s commitment of bringing Indian truck drivers into the racing sport. It was claimed to be most comprehensive, in both terms of selection processes and rigorous training modules. Apart from new talents, the first-ever batch of Indian racers from the last season and six new racers from FIA’s European Truck Racing Championship (ETRC) will also be joining the racing gala. It was a perfect confluence of talents, we murmured to ourselves. With all event partners, CV industry heads, fleet operators, and enthusiasts buckled up for the event, it was a party time for people like us!
“The Season 4 will further enable us to showcase our passion, commitment and leadership, in the Indian commercial vehicle space, as we prepare to demonstrate and introduce new innovations and new heroes on the Indian trucking and motorsports scene” said Mr Ravi Pisharody, Executive Director, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, adding that the company is ahead of contemporary and is future-ready in the motorsport scene. The event kicked-off with the unveiling of the most-powerful 1,000 bhp PRIMA race truck, followed by three category of races – SUPER CLASS comprising top 10 racers from the TRP 2.0, CHAMPION CLASS represented by top 10 finalists from the TRP 1.0 (season 3), and the PRO CLASS involving 12 international drivers. The qualifying laps for all the three categories were held the previous day.
The race day was tight-packed with thrilling actions of sideway overtakes and jostling of trucks at curves, some even veering off the track to snuggle the gravel. In the SUPER CLASS category, 29-year old Pitambar won his first professional race. He was followed by Shivnihal Singh (40) and Gurujant Singh (33) to finish second and third positions respectively. All the three racers hailed from the state of UP. In the SUPER CLASS grouping, 29-year old Nagarjuna from AP retained the crown by finishing the race first once again this year. He championed the last season race as well, when the Indian drivers were trained and inducted into the racing for the first time. Malkeet Singh of UP and Bhag Chand of Rajasthan finished the race as first and second runner-up respectively.
The last two races of the day saw international racers competing each other in the PRO CLASS category. David Vrsecky from Czech Republic secured the trophy in the final race consisting of 15 laps, who also set the fastest lap this season. He represented the Dealer Daredevils team. The first runner-up was Nobert Kiss of Team Tata Technologies, whose 7th position start was overturned by his power-packed overtakes and manoeuvres. Gerhard Korber of Dealer Warriors finished the race as the second runner-up.
Engineering perceptions on Trucking
Trucking as a profession in India is neither lucrative nor looked upon, while truck drivers toil in harsh working conditions owing to poor infuse of technologies and lack of dignified image for the profession, both on road and in society. The market and trucking industry is expanding like never before, but there is a huge shortage for qualified drivers, pointing out to the structural deficiencies within the industry. Tata Motors and its partners to the racing event seems to have realised that. “What makes the T1 PRIMA championship all the more fulfilling is the sense of purpose it brings, not only to the motorsports scene, but how it ties into the Indian commercial vehicles industry and more importantly to the profession of truck driving”, said Vicky Chandhok, Mentor of the T1 Racing Championship.
The T1 Racing Program, in all its entirety, tries to address this deplorable scenario of trucking in India, apart from simply training the participants for a racing event. It seeks to achieve a dual objective of promoting truck driving as a dignified and skilful career, and improving the trucking experience of the end user by showcasing world-class technologies and engineering, which are developed indigenously for low-cost applications in India. It uses the clout of motorsport as a mascot to promote trucking, letting off the profession from a diminutive, utility-based to a fun-filled, passion-based activity. The TRP is the world’s first truck racing program involving regular truck drivers from non-racing backgrounds, thereby inculcating racing talents within the local community.
“The response from the truckers for a race seat was enormous, not just from the PRIMA-owned fleets and their drivers, but also from those fleets that are not Tata”, said Mr Ravi Pisharody. It is a life-changing opportunity for the truck drivers, claims the company, which received over 1000 applications from across the country for the TRP 2.0, under the new theme of ‘Junoon-e-Trucking’. “Through TRP, we are confident of equipping Indian drivers to excel in the sport and in their respective professions”, said Mr R.T. Wasan, Vice President, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors, also adding that customers have played a critical role in making TRP a success and evolving it to greater heights year by year.
In fact, the Indian drivers did steal the show, that their cruising skills and manoeuvrability thrilled the spectators. “A majority of the finalists from both TRP 1.0 and TRP 2.0 are well-qualified for the PRO CLASS races meant for the FIA professionals”, said Mr Karun Chandhok, a key professional partner for the racing program. The lack of opportunities and access to motorsport remains to be the key barriers for every ‘aam-aadmi’ Indians from shining in international racing. There is no dearth of talents here, something that is quite evident in the T1 PRIMA racing.
Four years back when Tata Motors came up with the truck racing, we all knew that it is a fun-filled sport, but we hardly realised its true potentials as a springboard for indigenous talents and truck making for the international standards. It is a great feat on part of the company in sustaining and innovating the show every year on and on, with exclusive R&D engineering and technologies fused into the PRIMA, while also cultivating racing talents from the grass-root level in the domestic trucking industry. That’s precisely what’s behind the overwhelming reception of the event among all stock of people in the industry – auto makers, suppliers, fleets and end-users, drivers, enthusiasts, etc. This platform expands opportunities for all stakeholders, also engendering structural changes in both the trucking industry and motorsports in India. So, happy racing!!
T1 PRIMA Truck Racing Season 4 – Image Gallery
*An edited version of this article has been published in the April 2017 edition of MotorIndia magazine.