Everyone knows motorsport is an expensive pastime and that the annual budget for running a top level Formula One team is in excess of $100 million. Spending such sums may appear crazy but the heavy hitters are able to turn a profit due to the championship's global stature.
In comparison, spending up to Rs. 25 lakh a year to go racing professionally in a national championship sounds a lot more logical. But what if that championship gets next to no attention in the sports pages, is restricted to just one region of the country and the cars used are discontinued Esteems and Zens? It may still be seen as a good deal only for those who are "crazy", as competitors of the Indian Touring Car (ITC) championship are sometimes described.
Veteran tuner and multiple ITC race winner TR Radha Selvarajan confirms the amount spent on prepping his Esteem for racing. "We can easily spend up to Rs. 20 lakh for a season," Selvarajan told HT.
"But this is where the real racing is. And where people from the middle class can come and just race."
They have to be well-heeled and well connected middle class people though. Most of the equipment, down to the seat, steering wheel, seatbelt, and of course, the various mechanical upgrades, have to be imported.
Neither are the competitors, who include the likes of former seven-time national rally champion N Leelakrishnan, averse to getting creative. Racers in the ITC have been known to strip down high performance superbikes and modify the pistons for use in their cars.
The results are spectacular but often short-lived bursts of speed. Selvarajan and defending ITC champion V Rajvirdhan, for instance, qualified first and second for the opening ITC race of the weekend, almost a second ahead of third-placed B. Vijaykumar.
However, due to the high strung nature of the cars, both retired within five laps of the 15-lap race.
To anyone else that would be money down the drain but to the old school racers of the ITC, it is business as usual. And older the school the better, at least as far as cars are concerned. When asked if the Swift he was driving was an improvement on his old Zen, second-placed C Rajaram expressed his fondness for the older car.
"I definitely prefer the Zen," said Rajaram. "It's a lot more predictable to drive fast and handles much better than the Swift." So much for a vote of confidence for the current generation of road cars!
The writer's trip has been sponsored by JK Tyre