Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: Legal@300

The NATRAX facility outside Indore is a marvel of civil engineering where cars can safely and legally be tested to beyond 300 kph
The Mercedes AMG GTR is powered by a fire breathing 585 hp twin-turbo V8
The Mercedes AMG GTR is powered by a fire breathing 585 hp twin-turbo V8
Published on Aug 22, 2021 08:33 AM IST
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Not since the Mumbai-Pune expressway was opened over 20 years ago have I been so excited about a road. But this is no ordinary road. It’s the only one of its kind in India and a marvel of civil engineering. Get this: 11.3 km of freshly-laid tarmac, four lanes wide and smooth as velvet; a pair of 2 km-long straights which have zero change in gradient and linked by two 2.6 km-long ‘parabolic’ or banked curves; 23 kilometres of fencing seal of this high-speed bowl.

This is a place where you can do over 300 kilometres per hour legally and safely. This is the new temple of speed, the mecca of high-speed driving. Welcome ladies and gentleman to NATRAX or National Automotive Test Tracks, Asia’s largest proving ground for vehicles, built over a sprawling 2,900 acres just 50 km outside Indore.

So, what do you prove in a proving ground? With 14 different test tracks at NATRAX, just about everything. You have a Comfort Track with a variety of surfaces like coarse tarmac and bumpy concrete to test how plushy and comfy the ride of a car is. The tortuous Fatigue Track is the one that gives an excruciatingly hard work-out to any vehicle. This accelerated durability test track has got a variety of nasty surfaces. Within the space of a couple of hundred metres, a car undergoes what it otherwise would in thousands of kilometres of normal driving.

Testing, testing

The jewel of NATRAX is of course the 11.3-km high-speed track, which is the fifth-longest in the world. And there’s only one way to make the most of it, which is to test a supercar on it to the max. And for this purpose, we’ve brought along Mercedes’ AMG GTR, which is powered by a fire breathing 585 hp twin-turbo V8.

The high-speed track is so well-engineered that 100 kph feels you’re crawling, 200 kph is like a gentle jog and 300 kph is like a steady cruise
The high-speed track is so well-engineered that 100 kph feels you’re crawling, 200 kph is like a gentle jog and 300 kph is like a steady cruise

The plan is to do the first officially timed 0-300 kph acceleration test on Indian soil. Now, 0-100 kph is the most important acceleration metric and one that defines the performance of a car. We manage 0-200 kph occasionally, but it takes a lot more to achieve this. A timed 0-300 kph is something we’ve never done. But here, on this track, with a supercar like the Mercedes-AMG GT R, we should manage it.

Now, it’s one thing to cross 200 kph, run up to 250 and then when conditions are right, carefully nudge 300 kph. Staying flat on the accelerator from zero all the way to 300 kph with no let up, however, is another matter entirely. You need to have the right piece of tarmac, the right conditions and the right car. And that’s exactly what we have here.

To the max!

Let’s get straight into the run. Launch control engaged, the fat tyres chirp as I take my left foot off the brake and go flat on the throttle. I’m pushed back in my seat as 100 kph is dispatched in a quick 3.69 sec. We sweep past 200 kph in just 10.99 sec, and then starts the long haul to 300 kph. Whereas 0-200 kph has taken just 385 m, 0-300 kph needs more than 2 km and a total of 33.03 sec.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that, post-200 kph, aerodynamic drag becomes a huge factor and the GT R is literally pushing through a wall of what feels like thick air. But the GTR has enough power to hit the magical 300 kph figure within the length of one of the straights, which is pretty amazing. Pushing harder, I max out the GTR and hit its top speed of 317 kph. Insane!

The thing is that this high-speed track is so well-engineered that 100 kph feels you’re crawling, 200 kph is like a gentle jog and 300 kph, well, is like a steady cruise. It’s a surreal feeling doing these ludicrous speeds right here in India in an environment that is safe and sealed off from other cars and people. This place is the ticket to the 300-kph club and no doubt many top speed records will be set here.

The views expressed by the columnist are personal

From HT Brunch, August 22, 2021

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Hormazd Sorabjee is one of the most senior and much loved auto journalists in India, and is the editor of Autocar India.

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