Chennai, Aug 5: The Etios Motor Racing (EMR) car received the thumbs-up from not just the 25 short-listed drivers, but also the acknowledged experts as Toyota paraded the vehicle with two exhibition races at the MMRT track in Sriperumbudur, near here, over the weekend.
The programme is a prelude to a full-blown six-round one-make championship that is to be launched next year while a second exhibition event will be held at the Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida, in the first week of October.
Despite a few spins and crashes that were more due to inexperience of the drivers, the car, shod with MRF ZLO slick racing tyres and powered by a 1.5-litre engine, received favourable review from just about every quarter.
Noted British racing driver Ben Collins, also known as “The Stig”, an undisclosed character in the popular “Top Gear” programme, was quite high on praise after doing a few laps.
“I am quite impressed with the car, the handling and the grip levels. This car is best suited for entry-level racing,” he told an interviewer.
The cars were prepared at the Red Rooster Performance workshop in Bangalore where former National rally champion Narayanaswamy Leelakrishnan heads the project.
The racing Etios was stripped bare of the back and the front passenger seat, besides other elements found in the street version to lighten the car, but strangely the air-conditioning unit was left untouched.
The car set-up also came in for some close scrutiny as it was felt that the suspension was rather too soft that led to a lot of “hopping” through some of the corners that were bumpy. Some of the drivers felt that a stiffer suspension would have made for better cornering.
Slightly underpowered, something that affected exit speed, the car nevertheless was said to be tailor-made for those taking baby steps from karting to track racing.
Meanwhile, Diljith Shaji, the 19-year old from Thrissur, Kerala, comfortably won both the exhibition races and it was no surprise given his experience in Indian junior touring car racing.
Earlier on Saturday, Toyota Kirloskar Motor unveiled the 25 drivers who were selected for the series from among over 3,000 applicants who were put through various tests before being shortlisted for the championship.
Speaking on the occasion, Hiroshi Nakagawa, Managing Director, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, said: “It’s seen as an ideal grass-roots category to learn and make their way up the motorsport ladder. We will continue to contribute to Indian motorsports in the future.”
Vikram Kirloskar, Vice Chairman, TKM, said: “The overwhelming response we got for the driver selection is a proof that a lot of Indian youngsters are ready to take up motorsport as a profession.”