In the twilight of his career as a lead actor, Burt Reynolds starred in a film called Smokey and the Bandit. While not as popular as its prequel, it did truck racing a huge favour, immortalising the first-ever race of the ultimate heavyweights of motorsport – at Atlanta Speedway in 1979 – in its opening sequence.
In general, the West has been rather kind. From the critically acclaimed French film Wages of Fear to rock 'n roll staples by The Grateful Dead, Deep Purple and a mélange of country musicians, pop culture has, over the years, lent a certain amount of respectability to trucking.
It's different in India, though. In Road, Movie, the protagonist converts his uncle's truck into a travelling bioscope and drives it into the great wide open that is the Thar Desert. A flattering portrayal, sure, but given that it was a box office dud, only a handful would've seen it.
Here – more so in the case of the city-bred –mention trucks, and one is likely to think of the Horn OK Please signage that one is often forced to stare at, especially late at night. Or, possibly, a hitched ride down a dusty highway in mofussil India. Definitely not truck racing.
With the T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship, the Federation of Motor Sport Clubs of India (FMSCI) and manufacturers Tata Motors hope to bring about a change in perception, and make trucking glamorous. It's easier said than done, though.
Maybe it was because the driver was not going full throttle, maybe it was the branding that obstructed the view from the navigator's seat, but this correspondent felt just a tad underwhelmed at the end of three hot laps in the co-driver's seat of a souped-up T1 Prima (among the 22 modifications to the truck is a continuous brake cooling system using water sprays) around the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) on Wednesday.
The wind in the hair felt great, but that probably had more to do with one's mane. And sure, it felt great to see the speedometer flash 115kmph on both the back straight as well as the start-finish, given that the top speed, officially, is 110. So did the sound, although it's nowhere as earsplitting as what one is used to hearing at circuits.
What one missed most, though, was being tossed around in the cabin during the turns. Perhaps, it's because the turns themselves were limited in number — the short, 2.2km configuration, used for the first time on Wednesday, will also be employed during the championship.
Circuit racing isn't the most engaging sport to watch live, so not having to wait too long for the next glimpse of the action, organisers hope, will keep the spectators interested, as will a superbike race that will precede the trucking on March 23. It just might prove to be a masterstroke.