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JA Motorsport Inde 2.0 drive experience

18th Nov 2018 6:00 am

The made-in-India Inde has gotten even better since the last time we met it. We track its evolution.

It’s a sombre setting, with the sun having risen behind a thick layer of grey skies. The main straight at the MMRT that disappears into C1 is empty and there’s a silence that’s quite unusual for our typically action-packed track days. This only lasts an elaborate moment, though, and is shattered almost vengefully by what sounds like an explosion in the pit lane. In an instant, an air of busyness takes over, followed by the chirrup of cold rubber on tarmac. It’s Narain, and he seems to be in a hurry.

Inde’s astounding balance helps keep it sniffing the track edges all the time.

The blurry black streak that quickly slithers onto the racetrack is the Inde 2.0, a track-day car that’s made right here, in India. Those of you with a good memory will remember our outing with the earlier Inde 2.0 from 2013, when it left us hugely impressed and craving for more track time with it. But five years is a long time in the business of building performance cars; J Anand, a man with nearly a decade of illustrious racing experience and founder of JA Motorsport, knows this only too well. As a result, the Inde 2.0 you see here is almost entirely different from the one we got our hands on half a decade ago. And it’s gotten even faster. That should explain why the seat next to Narain’s is empty.

Like in its first iteration, the Inde 2.0 continues to be a two-seater, because if you are affluent enough to afford a dedicated track-day machine, you are entitled to a fair bit showing off. It’s also the most fun way to alienate friends, I suspect, going by how hard Narain is slamming the Inde into corners, riding the kerbs precisely and swiftly every single time.

Cabin wide enough for two very brave occupants.

The ‘2.0’ suffix, in case you didn’t catch our 2013 drive experience, denotes the engine displacement, but this time around, the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder motor is sourced from Ford rather than from Renault. The naturally aspirated Duratec motor built by JA Motorsport features a dry-sump lubrication and produces around 230hp, which is an impressive 20hp higher than the Renault-engined Inde. Featuring a steel crankshaft, forged high-compression pistons and high-lift cams, this four-cylinder motor contributes hugely to the Inde’s stellar performance. The gearbox is a six-speed sequential unit with paddleshifters and, interestingly, the gearbox casing is made in India. The production-spec Inde will, in fact, come with a larger, 2.5-litre Duratec motor with three power output options, depending on how fast you want to go. The base version produces a relatively tame 170hp, with the mid- and top-spec variants pushing 230hp and a frightening 305hp, respectively. This, in a car that weighs around 600kg, is a lot of power, just in case you were considering taking these figures lightly.

Tiny 13-inch wheels provide precise handling.

Narain is especially impressed with the exhaust note, though (“you’ll need earplugs or you’ll go deaf,” he tells me later), and that explains why he seemed to have the accelerator pedal slammed all the way in, despite the tricky wet patches scattered around the track.

“You do have to fight the steering under aggressive cornering,” adds Narain “but a lot of it is also down to how you like to have your car set up”. Indeed, any track-day car worth its salt banks heavily on setup, and it’s in fine-tuning the smallest details that crucial milliseconds of one’s lap times can be shed. For that, however, having a good base is paramount and the Inde confidently has it all in place. Just as in the earlier car, the Inde uses a meticulously engineered but also cost-effective tubular steel spaceframe; carbon-fibre architecture isn’t quite the need of the hour in this performance bracket. The spaceframe has grown heavier, courtesy of the enhanced strengthening at the front bulkhead in the interest of FIA crash compliance, but the Inde has enough ammunition to overshadow this deficit.

Ducts address heat dissipation.

While the chassis’ track isn’t wider than before, Anand has increased the cockpit width to make it ergonomically better to suit its enhanced aggression. The wheelbase, at 2,530mm, is the same as before and it continues to run 13-inch wheels, with 200/240-section front and rear tyres from MRF. This setup is further assisted by the tweaked suspension geometry; some of you will remember the original car’s pushrod suspension with A-arms – this configuration remains unchanged and lends the car incredible amounts of grip, even if at the expense of ride quality. The firmness of the car is astounding and even the most unforgiving of production supercars are beyond comparison, but then this is a race car you’re never going to go on a shopping expedition with, so it’s fair.

Aerodynamics naturally play a huge role in the Inde’s performance, which should explain its ultra-low-slung, streamlined appearance. The older car featured a rear wing that came straight off a Dallara F3 car but, thanks to the performance going up by several notches, it just wasn’t enough anymore. The new Inde now gets a larger, swan-neck rear wing similar to that on LMP cars, and for one, it certainly looks the part. The diffuser has also grown in size and is now more talented in the matters of downforce. The result of all of this is simply astonishing.

Tunnel-mounted racing-grade air filter a new addition.

You know a car is fast when even maintaining visual contact with it is difficult, despite having a grand, ringside view of things. As Narain pelts it from corner to corner, seemingly glued to the racing line, the Inde makes for an overwhelming spectacle. Over a hot lap, it forges a track-day car-sized tunnel through the damp air, and it’s so quick through even the tightest of bends, its own exhaust note can’t seem to keep pace with the bodywork. In its neutral setting, the Inde does put up a bit of a fight and the steering does kickback violently, something Narain feels should be dialled down for the average enthusiast. “It’s a phenomenal car to experience some real G-forces in,” he says, beaming, “but taking it to the limit requires experience”. Since this is coming from someone who has raced 700hp F1 cars, it’s a bit of advice one mustn’t take lightly.

It’s no surprise the Inde 2.0 is right on top of our leader board (replacing, well, the older Inde!), beating the earlier car by a whisker, despite the weather not being in its favour. It clocked a staggering 1min 42.4sec lap around the MMRT and this, on used tyres and over an inconveniently wet surface. Both, Anand and Narain echo the car’s potential to clock a flying lap of under 1min 38sec in perfect conditions, and it’s an estimate that’s easy to believe. The Ford-engined Inde is an impressive 7.7kph faster down the straight, clocking a top speed of 187.8kph (as opposed to the older car’s 180.2kph), and with more conducive track conditions, especially in the corners, it’s going to be undeniably faster. And just for reference, the fastest lap time posted by a production supercar on our track-day outings is 1min 48sec by the Mercedes AMG GTR. This, coming from a 585hp supercar which clocked a top speed of 205.5kph down the main straight, should tell you exactly how razor-sharp the Inde is in the corners.

Redesigned diffuser makes for increased downforce – a big necessity!

With a blistering lap time set, Narain eases off the Inde’s throttle and prepares to pit. The sudden drop in acoustic savagery is hard to acclimatise to, but nothing prepares me for the deafening silence that erupts as Narain kills the engine. The Inde may be no more than a toy in its function but what makes it so fascinating – even just to watch – is that it’s the result of, above all else, a quest for speed. That you can buy something as focused and evocative just to keep yourself entertained on weekends is incredulous, but if you can’t, the least you must do is get a ringside view of it. Or, if you like, there’s always going to be that spare seat next to Narain.

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