About 10 years ago, the sport of drag racing in India enjoyed popularity which the present-day motorsport scene would be envious of. Mumbai and Bengaluru had emerged as the hot spots for the sport, with our very own Autocar Speed Run bringing the fast-paced 400-metre action to Indian shores. The enthusiasts lapped it up – it was easy, extremely accessible and quick. The ideal mix of entertainment and sport and it really spawned the car modification and customisation culture in India as well.
However, the events slowly dried up a few years down the line – thanks to some isolated incidents and lack of venues and government permissions. A few odd events were organised in Hyderabad and Coimbatore, but they somehow missed the energy and sheer scale of the Speed Run.
In 2013, however, the first edition of the Valley Run organised by Elite Octane brought back the thrill and excitement synonymous with the erstwhile Speed Run. The annual event has since seen enthusiasts from all over the country flock in droves to the Aamby Valley airstrip and see what their machines could do against the clock, down a quarter mile.
The latest edition of the event held earlier this year saw 350 participants stage their machines for the quarter-mile rush, with 7,000 spectators thronging their way up to the scenic locales of Aamby Valley.
The resurrection of drag racing in India has been spearheaded by Mumbai-based Elite Octane – headed by Rongom Tagore Mukerji, a drag enthusiast and former participant himself. According to him, manufacturers adding performance machinery to their Indian portfolios and an explosion of superbike and biking culture have contributed massively to rekindling interest in drag racing.
It does make sense – with a myriad categories accommodating cars of all possible combinations of engine capacity/fuels/induction, extreme modification and elbow grease are not the prerequisites for making it to the podium. Gone are the days when enthusiasts used to toil away in their garages until the night before the big day, tuning engine management systems to extract the last bit of horsepower from their high-strung Esteems, Citys, Balenos and Octavia RSs. Drastic and cumbersome weight shedding, fibreglass appendages in the quest of the best possible power-to-weight ratios are now few and far
The modern drag enthusiast would rather drive up to Aamby Valley with his friends in his chipped Polo GT, remove the seats and spare tyre at the venue, run the quarter mile, fit back the seats and spare tyre and head back home. It is not to say that hardcore enthusiasts have disappeared or converted, there are still plenty of extreme modifications on display and while the quality and level of these tuning projects have gone up substantially, fewer people choose to go down this route.
The onslaught of performance imports has definitely helped, with Nissan GT-Rs rubbing shoulders with Audi R8s and Porsches. Machinery from AMG stables and BMW M cars are also prominent along with the good old classics like the Supra and Mitsubishi Evos.
It is safe to say that the future of drag racing looks bright in India on its second coming, and hopefully more events at venues spread across the country will make the sport accessible to countless other enthusiasts and take it to new heights.