B Vijay Kumar owns the scenic Kari Motor Speedway at Chettipayalam. Situated on the outskirts of the city, the track, which was earlier an airstrip, has been converted into a racetrack largely due to a dream Viji, as he is popularly known, saw.
And it was this dream that had kids actually getting behind the wheel of a proper Formula Indian car while competing in the National Racing Championship.
In an exclusive chat with HT on Sunday, Viji spoke about the track, his efforts at having more powerful Formula cars on the grid this season and of course his passion for racing. "It actually makes me feel younger," says the Coimbatore man, who is hugely respected in motorsport circles.
The Kari Motor Speedway was your dream. What purpose is it serving now?
When the track was completed in 2003, the idea was we have a place, another than Sriperumbudur, to race on. This is a beautiful track and we have been holding National racing events on it regularly. Also, in addition to the races, we are using the track for developing Indian Formula cars like Swift, Hyundai and the Rolon.
How would you rate your track?
If you are talking of the surface, it is a very good one and 2.1 km long. The width of the track and safety features available makes it perfectly capable of holding races upto the Formula 3 category, though we do not have a certificate from the FIA yet.
Why is that so?
To get a Grade 4 FIA certificate, we will have to pay a fee of close to Rs 3.5 lakhs. Right now, after already having spent close to Rs 5 crore on the track, paddocks and temporary stands, I don't know if it is really essential to get the certificate. We will need that only if we are going to host international races. But the FIA has come and seen the track.
Talking about the development of cars, can we not one day have machines which match up to F3 standards?
Listen, we are looking at low costs. Right now, if you look at the Formula cars available in the Indian market, how many people have Rs 4 lakh to spend on a car? It is because we have sponsored teams that the races are happening. For that matter, how many people will be buying cars even if they were to cost a lakh? So at this stage, we cannot really have cars of F3 specifications at home unless huge money comes in.
How much has the situation changed over the years?
Till last season, we did not even have even these cars. The automobile industry is growing in the country. And if we have more manufacturers entering, it can grow even further.
You have heard of the great Indian Formula One dream, what does it mean to you?
It's thrilling to hear India will have an F1 Grand Prix. I might not be the best person to comment on it, but if it happens it will be great. Let me put it this way, the Kari Motor Speedway cost Rs 5 crore. Formula One is going to be in the Rs 1200-1500 crore range.
And that is a lot of money.
Yes, if F1 does come to India, there will be growth and possibly we will have more tracks like the Kari Speedway in the country. Times are changing. We no longer have just Fiats and Ambassadors on the road. Ours is a marked market and there is a lot of interest here.
At your age, what makes you still want to get behind the wheel of a fast Formula Rolon car and compete with teenagers?
Let me put it this way, racing makes me feel younger and fitter. That is why I am continuing.