There I was in a small room, one storey above the ground. The room happened to be bobbing and rumbling in a slow but determined fashion towards the short-ish straight of Tata Motors’ test track. Incredibly, this otherworldly sensation felt oddly familiar. Of course! A few years ago I had driven the carmaker’s hulking Mine Protected Vehicle at this very place. Despite the similarity of the high stance and the sensation of sitting on a moving mountain, the 2015 T1 Prima Racing Truck was quite a different experience. Instead of the MPV’s vault like cabin with stacks of switches and buttons, the cabin was completely stripped out and breezy. For instance, there is no dashboard or panels, metal or plastic, to hide the BIW. In keeping with regulations for racing, nets have replaced the windows.
The only frivolity, for a racing machine, had been installed for my convenience – a passenger seat.
As the instructor pressed harder on the accelerator, a panic, fear and awe woke up in my head. Panic, because the cabin shook a bit disconcertingly, like standing on a skyscraper during an earthquake. And that’s despite the cabin suspension having been bolted up. Fear, because this was faster than I had expected a seven tonne truck to be. Much faster. Awe, well because it was a seven tonne truck that was much faster than I had expected. In my defence, I had the 14,000kg MPV as a benchmark, and at 6,800kg the 2015 truck is a ballerina. From the drivers’ seat, the experience was a bit more dizzying, and not just because of the speed. Wading through a clunky (by passenger car standards) Eaton 8-speed gearbox posed challenges I hadn’t anticipated. Hang on, was that 5th or was that 3rd? And what about that bunny rabbit that lights up on the dashboard? Did that mean I was out of some crawl ration? Am I in 8th? Or, was it….
Eventually, I got my bearings and got down to the business of testing the T1. Which meant "launching" the truck. The gear to do it in was the 3rd, so as to avoid rowing slowly through the first two gears. Strapped into the racing seat, I had to accustom myself to the splayed out pedal layout. Instinctively, the right foot goes for the clutch only to find the steering shaft. The race steering wheel feels surprisingly small in a vehicle of this size, but the effort required to steer was very ordinary. So while that felt normal, the wheel spin, from the four massive tyres caught me off-guard. And there was wheel hop from the rear axle too. Then I had to avoid hitting the rev-limiter at a lofty near 2,200rpm red. Then there was the step in the gearbox from 4th to 5th (or was that 6th to 7th? ). Basically, you had to heave hard at the gear lever, flounder around a bit, until the gearbox relented.
This cost precious time and also let the revs drop, trimming momentum.
Nonetheless, the T1’s 0-100 time of 23.88 seconds was better than I had expected. More impressive was the willingness with which it kept steaming ahead from the 80kph mark into triple digits. Then there was the matter of slowing the T1 down from over 100kph for the U-turn ahead. Powerful bite from the brakes made sure only a gentle foot was needed to get the job done. The T1 also turned in quicker than expected, and the JK Tyres race rubber gripped the tarmac well! While there was body roll to contend with, it wasn’t overwhelming. An over active sense of self preservation held me back from exploring the T1’s race-track worthy abilities. As I returned, the T1 to its rightful owners, despite the initial bewilderment and the ensuing floundering, I really would love to meet the T1 on its home turf, the race track.