Going to the Kari Motor Speedway to attend the Rajini Academy of Competitive Racing (RACR) was like going home, not just because I was going back to my hometown, Coimbatore but also because Kari is the racetrack I’m most familiar with. It’s where I attended my first track school and even got to race an entire season. And so, I was really looking forward to what the revised track layout was like.
The Kari Motor Speedway is a private raceway owned by LG Sports and the project of having it revamped was facilitated by the group and its managing director, B. Vijay Kumar, an ex-racer himself. A staple in the Indian motorsport scene, the Kari Motor Speedway plays host to a steady stream of car and bike racing through the year and it’s also a favourite for track day junkies. However, the circuit has lagged behind when it comes to updating its facilities, especially compared to those offered by India’s other two full-fledged circuits – the Buddh International Circuit and the recently upgraded Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT).
The new layout (bottom) is fully resurfaced, 200m longer and nearly every corner has been tweaked.
I sat down for a brief chat with the track manager, Reegan, and he talked me through how that is all set to change. For starters, the entire track has been resurfaced. We’d earlier reported that the track is looking to acquire a Grade 3 licence from the FIA, and Reegan says that this requires new viewing galleries for the spectators, additional marshal posts, and a surveillance system that will cover the entire track, all of which will be ready in the near future.
Okay, back to what the new layout was like to ride on. For all of you who’ve been to the Kari Motor Speedway before, there’s two things you’ll miss – the long main straight, and the long, swooping penultimate corner that’s familiarly referred to as the “bowl”. The main straight that was once a glorious 700 metres long has been snipped by 135 metres, and now leads onto a tight, left-right chicane that will have you hard on the brakes. Similarly, in place of the bowl is a sweeping right-hander that the faster guys will probably be able to take with the throttle wide open. This is followed by a new section of the track that is a lot like the old bowl – a double-apex corner that can be annoying at first, but extremely satisfying when you get right.
The rest of the track has some changes as well, but they aren’t as notable as the ones I just mentioned. The back straight is now longer, owing to the fact that the chicane from the older layout has given way to a small kink that you can almost straight line. At the end of this straight lies the infamous ‘Bermuda’ corner. It earned that name because sometimes even the experienced ones would have a hair-raising moment here and not know what went wrong. Funnily enough, this negative camber section seems to have received the least changes – part of what used to be a run-off section has now been added to track limits and this has made the entry a little wider. Then, there’s the final corner that leads onto the main straight. In the previous layout, the way you approached it was rather straightforward. Now, it’s become a little more technical – you enter wide, get close to the kerbs, drift back towards the middle of the track and then dive back inside to find the late apex before entering the straight.
Overall, the track is wider and making it a safer environment has been at the top of the list. The changes have also resulted in the track length going up from 2.1km to 2.3km. We didn’t have the opportunity to test it, but considering the wider, more flow-y nature of the track, I suspect that average speeds may have increased slightly.
Most of the track is wider and the circuit is more flowing than before.
Some of the National Championship riders at the RACR also managed to put in some fast laps, despite the less-than-ideal riding conditions that the weather brought about. On the old layout, one of the riders had managed to clock a time of 1m19.126s on a stock Yamaha R15 V3.0, but on the new layout, the rider was timed at 1m28.547s on the same bike. As this was the rider’s first time on the new layout, with some practice, and better riding conditions, a second or two can be shaved off the lap time.
When pictures of the updated layout first surfaced online, I was initially left with some mixed feelings. Excited because it was going to be a different, new experience, but also a little disappointed that the familiarity of it was now gone. But, just like with any non-metaphorical renovation of home, you soon adapt and this new layout was just as enjoyable to be on.