I steer the bike into the fuel station, one I haven’t used before. I can already feel my hackles rising and teeth gritting involuntarily. Guilty until proven innocent? Sure. But, it's taking a toll on my two-wheeled happiness quotient. I’m trying to see which manoeuvre will they try this time? 1) The friendly tag team or 2) The deaf pump attendant?
It's called the greatest race in the world, and not for nothing. For starters, the circuit is just mad. A brilliant amalgamation of some of the finest corners anywhere, the Circuit la Sarthe truly has some breathtakingly fast corners, elevation changes and sections where driver skill makes a huge difference. Then there's the crazy, nearly 6km long Mulsanne straight, now punctuated by a couple of chicanes, and the fact that you are not just driving hard for 24 hours, but racing. What I love the most, however, is the tussle between the various technologies used by the cars; something missing in F1 today.
Mini Cooper, Fiat Cinquecento and VW’s Beetle are icons, agreed? Today, they are style icons and very premium, but their beginnings were modest and tasked with unglamorous chores. Pack a family of five. Be affordable. Be cheap to run. Be cool. Almost accidentally, they were also fun and charming. Cheap and cheerful? It was a wonderful thing.
We live in increasingly 'protected' times. Hardly a day goes by without something being banned. Now, as most of you know and appreciate, these bans are put in place for your own 'protection'. Books, movies, documentaries, sex toys, mannequins wearing lingerie (no, this is real), 15-year-old diesel cars, beef, the lot. Now I admit this could be irritating if you take your freedom seriously, but just look at the raw power they wield. They can simply snap their fingers and ban things - amazing. What power! Being someone who worships power of all sorts, I find this appealing too. There are all sorts of things I'd love to ban and get rid of if, for example, I were transport minister.
Let's see, where would I begin? How about underpowered light trucks that slow traffic down and spew a dense fog of pollutants - banned. They need to have more power and performance, and manufacturers need to step up and give them more capable engines. Next on the list - cars or trucks without antilock brakes or ABS; this technology is just too important to delete, and cars just have to have it. Up next, contractors who can't make even half decent roads, because they don't want to. If the quality of the road you've just made is sub-par, you are banned, as simple as that. Next in the line of fire, people who endanger the lives of others by double parking; if you are caught, you face a six-month ban. Six years if you triple park. All maximum speed limits will be increased progressively and minimum speed limits will be introduced. If you are caught below the speed limit on an open road without reason, you spend a day collecting donations for the RTO, dressed as a clown. All sporty versions of cars with at least 15 percent more power and better handling and brakes will get an excise cut. All sticker jobs and fake 'sport' versions - banned, enough of this 'sport' malarkey. These fakes hurt my sentiments!
There'll also be stringent norms introduced for braking and handling: you can't sell your car here unless you pass them. On the other hand, supercars above 500 horsepower will get duty cuts. Hypercars get a three-year tax holiday; the 'youth of our nation' need to see more of them on the streets. It affects gross national happiness. In addition, every local government has to organise at least five motorsport events a year for bikes, cars and go-karts. This is to prevent biker suicides committed by the likes of the 'ya ali' and 'jai bajrang bali' gangs. FMSCI and MAI are banned; they've been running the circus for too long. Electric cars get a five-year tax holiday and import duties are halved. I could go on and on; ahh, if only I were the transport minister of 'Banistan'.
Internal code names used to denote work-in-progress models are normally yawn-inducing to the extreme. Usually thought up by engineers applying vast amounts of 'collective logic', these alphanumeric names are as anonymous as those given to water filters, printers or flat-screen televisions. W124, E30, MQB; they're all generally gibberish. Mercedes always uses W followed by a number for normal cars , BMW uses E and now F followed by a number and Volkswagen uses similar alphanumeric junk. Closer home, Maruti is no different: YL7, YL1, YAD, Y9T, YRA, and so on and so forth. And Mahindra is just as bad; W201,U202, S102.
Just back from one of the most agreeable 'dawn patrol' drives I've been on in a long, long time. No, it wasn't a sports car on a perfectly manicured road outside Mumbai. And no, the car in question didn't exactly live up to the badge on the rear deck either, but boy oh boy, am I blown away by it. Allow me to elaborate.
The city of Hyderabad, with its rich history, had plenty in it to see. Day 2 of the second leg of the Mini Epic Drive saw us make stops at famous monuments like the Charminar and the Golconda Fort. These are crowded areas and the chaos would make it difficult for us to get any decent photo opportunities, so we got there very early in the morning, before the city woke up properly. As magnificent as these structures had been in the glory days, they have been pretty well-maintained even today.
From familiar territory to the unknown. We left behind Nagpur pretty early in the morning. What lay ahead was a mystery. All this while, we'd had a fair idea of the roads that we would be navigating. This time though, there were no such helpful pointers.
After reaching Bangalore, we spent a day in the city. The new Mini was showcased to some select customers at the Mini dealership, one of four in the country, and we also got a look around the city. The day after, we set out for Hyderabad, the next stop on Leg 2 of the epic drive.
The morning in Kochi started early as we wanted to get some shots of the Chinese fishing nets the city is famous for. And the fisher folk get to work at the crack of dawn. The majestic structures also operate in an interesting way, and it involves a whole gaggle of people. They tossed up fresh catch, which, on seeing our camera equipment, were offered to us at ‘discounted’ rates. We were tempted, but given our schedule, we declined politely. The other attractions of the place included the beautiful Dutch bungalows from the days of yore. Most of them have been converted into hotels these days, but the good thing about that is that their conservation is in good hands.
Maruti S-Cross long-term review, final report
2016 BMW 330i GT review, test drive
2016 Hyundai Elantra petrol long-term review first report
Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence review, test drive
Mahindra Verito long term review, fifth report
Issue: 209 | Autocar India: January 2017
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