Car racer Narain Karthikeyan at the launch of Tata Motors' T1 Prima Truck Racing in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: PTI
Tata Motors, which has an over 60% share in the Indian truck market, on Wednesday announced the launch of T1 Tata Prima race, which it billed as the Formula 1 for truckers.
The race will be held at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida, Tata Motors managing director Karl Slym said at a press conference here. “This will add an exciting new dimension to one of the largest trucking markets in the world,” Slym said.
Though it is billed as a race for truckers, it will not be your typical Indian highway truck-driver who will be driving the heavily modified Tata Prima trucks on BIC at the gala event on March 23. A team of 12 international drivers, handpicked by truck racing champion Steve Horne, divided into 6 teams will do the jousting.
“It would be unfair to pitch inexperienced local drivers straight on to the race track,” said R. Ramakrishan, a senior vice-president at Tata Motors who is handholding the event. “As it becomes a regular event, over the years, local drivers will be selected and trained, and will participate in the event. And other truck makers may also eventually like to participate in it.”
The specially modified Tata Prima truck will be powered by a Cummins engine that produces 370 bhp of peak power and 1,550 Nm of torque, with a top speed of 110 kph. Though 110 kph does not sound much compared to typical F1 speeds of 300 kph, the sheer mass of a truck hurtling on a race track at 110 kph will translate into an awesome experience.
The race will consist of 25 laps of the 5.1-km circuit. The race itself is divided into two parts – a qualifying race, and the main race. Other attractions on race day would be a bike race, a truck parade and truck stunts, apart from truck art – which is a genre all by itself – and a concert to wind up the proceedings.
Tata Motors hopes the event will change the perception of trucking as business. “The DNA of trucking is identified with carrying goods,” said Pisharody. “With this, we hope to bring in some glory into the profession.” “Truckers would be able to visualize themselves as racers, which will bring some self-esteem,” added Ramakrishnan.
The moot question is whether it will end up promoting rash truck-driving on roads.
Technology introduced in the racing machines will eventually find their way into production trucks, said Karl Slym. “This will create a laboratory for technological advancement and development in safety, durability, reliability and performance,” he said.
Trucking, which is a cyclical business, is going through a prolonged phase at the bottom of the cycle. “But we cannot put a pause on developing our machines,” said Ravi Pisharody, head, commercial vehicles, Tata Motors, adding various developments in lubricants, brakes, tyres and engines among others would prove helpful in taking Tata trucks forward.