After the cat fight now come the fat cats. A nine-year-long struggle for control over motorsport between two rival bodies had seen India refuse to get off the starting blocks till now. Sponsors shied away and events dried up. The Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India holds the reins now and finally it appears that things are coming out of hibernation.
The Sidvin Festival of Speed this weekend at the Sriperembedur race track brings to India the fourth leg of the Petronas Asian Road Racing Championship. An event of this calibre last visited the country in 1997. Eager to push the sport in the world's second largest two-wheeler market, the international body - FIM - has waived off the inscription (permit) fee.
Gearing up for the premier two-wheel race in Asia has seen the Madras Motor Sports Trust pump in a sum of close to Rs 1.4 crore to revamp the facility.
Three new gravel traps make the track a bit safer while ten close circuit cameras make the monitoring job of the chief steward far simpler.
“It was time the track began to meet international standards. The sponsors will contribute a fraction of the cost (about 30 lakh) but we know that we can use this event to showcase the track and attract bigger events,” says Vicky Chandhok former president FMSCI and one of the trustees of MMST.
The revamped track reflects a new wave of optimism in Indian motorsport. Sidvin - a petroleum and gas engineering firm - used up nearly eight crore trying to shape up an Indian challenge in the World Rally Championship. That did not yield the expected dividends but it continues to explore means of staying involved.
“We feel it is a great platform for brand building. We are also now witnessing a more proactive kind of sponsor venturing into the sport. I am not content to give money and sit back, instead we want to be out here to see just how it is being used,” says owner Mohan Nagrajan.
Dinesh Reddy's Red Rooster Racing sponsors two of the four Indian entries in the 600cc category. He says that his total commitment to motorsport is six crore plus spread over four disciplines.
“While we promote talent we are also looking at using the sport as a means to create awareness about our chain of vehicle modification stores that we will be launching soon. The business model is to associate performance machines with Red Rooster,” says Reddy.
As for the actual event, Thai riders Chalermpol Polamai and Decha Kraisat lead the 600cc championship with Red Rooster backed Preetham Dev Moses and Krishnan Rajini placed 15 and 18 overall.
Three Indian participants will be seen in the 115cc class. A total of nine Asian countries will be represented on the grid.