Whether or not the world was looking at Machdar Motorsports with eagle eyes, may not be known but the announcement of a wholly Indian i1 Supercar Series certainly did get many to think, there’s hope. First came the Buddh International Circuit (BIC), then came the first ever Indian Grand Prix, and it almost seemed like motorsports would get a new lease of life with the scheduled i1 Supercar Series.
Teams were announced, and big franchises had big Bollywood and industrialists names attached to them. If that alone were good enough to make motorsports a success, things would be quite different, but then reality bites. Now, India’s first motorsport league, the i1 Supercar Series has been postponed to 2013, after having been rescheduled earlier.
Apparently, it all began once the electoral poll dates for Uttar Pradesh (BIC is located in Greater Noida) were announced. The race scheduled at Buddh International circuit had to be postponed and this is what got the ball rolling with availability of other race tracks being affected alongside drivers who are involved with other races.
Another popular sentiment amongst team owners, partners and promoters seems to be that of motorsports being too new in India, and they think it would be better for the races if the time in hand is spent in making fans well versed with the sport, and working on city level support before the i1 Supercar Series is flagged off.
Quite honestly, it is ridiculous to think that motorsports doesn’t have enough Indian fans. There is no way you can build a fan base in a year’s time only through promotions. Why the assumption that the Indian motorsports audience would not have a clue about popular racers like Mika Salo, Karun Chandhok, Neel Jani, Giancarlo Fisichella, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Alex Yoong (who has more abundant tv presence) amongst others. Truth is, if people don’t know these racers by now, they never will because these men/women have spent all their life on a race track.
While the contingent of younger Indian drivers have graduated from the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup, JK Racing Asia Series, JK Tyre National Racing Championship, MRF Formula 1600, and Volkswagen Polo Cup, many have already moved to the next level of motorsports racing as of date. It makes no sense to try and educate an audience now because that would require tremendous effort, and infrastructure. The MMSC Race Track at Chennai is only worth it if you’re a racer, a part of the organizers team or from the media.
For the audience, there really isn’t much to look forward to. It’s like no one thought of upgrading in the past fifty years, and if there’s a car crash, don’t be surprised if the race is restarted because the towing vehicle takes so long. If it rains, then forget a full race, short loop is what’s it’s going to be, and don’t forget the waterlogging you have to get past to actually be able to watch the race. This is not a fictitious account but a relay off how things were at Round Six of the JK Tyre Volkswagen Polo R Cup 2011 in November last year. If the basics of motorsports in India aren’t right, how is educating an audience going to work.
Right after the 2011 Indian Grand Prix at the BIC, Round Six of the JK Tyre Volkswagen Polo R Cup 2011 that was scheduled to be held at the same venue, but in a turn of events, Buddh International Circuit (BIC) closed doors for ‘maintenance.’ Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), President Vicky Chandhok at the time said they were not a part of the decision of the owners of the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) to close the track.
At the time, Vicky Chandhok said: “It is wrong to blame the FMSCI who have nothing to do with the track. If the owners decide to close the track for whatever reason, then there is not much anyone can do. ” “As regards the shifting of the JK Tyre event, the official calendar clearly says BIC or MMRT (Madras Motor Race Trust). So, it was advisable to wait for an official confirmation before making plans.”
So, while the Volkswagen Polo R Cup shifted venue, Mercedes Benz India did organize a special drive for Merc supercar and SUV owners successfully at BIC in November itself. The 2011 FIA Awards Night scheduled two weeks after the Volkswagen Polo R Cup, went as planned with Sebastian Vettel crowned World Champion at the FIA Gala at the Buddh Circuit. A few days later, the NDTV Car & Bike Awards 2012 also went as scheduled on 16th Dec 2011 followed by the Cannonball Club Track Day on 25th December. At the onset of the 2012 Delhi Auto Show, the JPSI-Mercedes Benz AMG Performance Driving Academy was inaugurated on 4th January 2012. The next week, 2010 MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo did a lap on the Buddh International Circuit. It can also be taken for granted that there will be many others who organize track days at the BIC through this year.
The reason for citing the above events isn’t to bring to focus how well the BIC is doing, but rather the lack of spirit. All of the events that the BIC has opened their doors for are simply events and have very little to do with a real race, or motorsports. The only two races that could have been scheduled, i.e., the Volkswagen Polo R Cup final and Indian leg of the i1 Supercar Series have been a ‘no show’, so really, what is going on in the name of motorsports in India.
CEO, Machdar Motorsports, Darshan M had this to say regarding the rescheduled i1 Supercar Series. “It is unfortunate that we have had to postpone the i1 Supercar Series to next year but in the long term we feel this will benefit not only the series but motorsports in the country as well. The change in race calendar due to polling in Uttar Pradesh was already affecting the availability of the international circuits as well participation of the key drivers in the series. This, along with the team owners request for more time, made this decision unavoidable. ” “We have taken this hard decision of postponing the series with the consent of all stakeholders involved in the series. They have extended their full support towards this decision as they realize that this has been taken with the league’s long term interests at heart. ”
Managing Director, Peppermint Hotels chain and Bangalore team owner, Arjun Baljee had this to say, “We are relieved that management has decided to postpone the start of the series. This will give us time to plan our brand strategy, bring in partner sponsors and drum up excitement over the next few months for the Bangalore team.”
All said and done, the Indian racing league obviously does not see the light of day in 2012, but what is it that they will do to educate an audience about motorsports. With the Motorsports i1 Supercar Series postponed, 2013 will see two new race events in India as the Toyota Etios Motor Racing (EMR) series, a one-make championship is also scheduled for the latter half of 2013. Of course, Indian Grand Prix (F1) does keep many motivated, at the end of the day, the bastions of motorsports in India are JK tyres, MRF, and Volkswagen.