Toyota launched the Etios in India more than a year ago and soon found out that people did not take to the car as much as they expected. Following arch rival Volkswagen’s footsteps, the company launched the Etios Motor Racing Championship at the 2012 Auto Expo. The company claims it is making motorsport available to the youth, but at what price is the question. If you are selected in the top 25, then you make it to the six races next year. But registration charges are Rs. 1.5 lakhs and you will also have to pay for other expenses. This aside, we participated in the qualifying rounds to see how Toyota selects 25 drivers from 3000 applicants.
Toyota held racing camps across India. Surprisingly there was none held in Mumbai and those interested had to head to Pune. There is a go-karting track called Downtime racing, where the shortlisting rounds for the West zone rounds took place. Toyota brought in brand new go-karts, which were totally problem free. Participants had to bring in their online registration proof and they were given food coupons and a Toyota Etios cap. Briefing about the rules and regulations were done thereafter. The basis of shortlisting was consistency and fastest lap time. Candidates were given around ten minutes to walk around the track to check the condition. This was on a Sunday morning and the track conditions were good, with only slight bumps on the track.
Candidates were given ten laps each and were divided into groups according to their weight. Ten drivers were flagged off on the track at one time with a 3-second gap between each. Racing was not allowed (naturally) and any person who was involved in a collision was black flagged immediately. Now these rules are fair but the problem was the 3-seconds was too less a gap. Slow cars were supposed to give way which caused a compromise in their lap times, while fast cars were stuck behind for a corner or two, which again led to a compromise in their lap time. With such a small gap between subsequent cars, many participants did not get a good run and as the pictures suggest, ended up spending time in overtaking other cars.
After the first round, there was round 2 conducted and now a third round will take place at the Madras Motor Race Track in Chennai. The final selects will race the Etios Motor Racing car in 6 race next year. The races will take place at the Buddh International Circuit, Kari Motor Speedway and Madras Motor Race Track. The racing cars are developed by TRD and feature revised steering, suspension and engine components. The vehicle also features roll cage and other safety bits to ensure the Etios racing cars are eligible for motorsport activities. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) could offer racing equipment and accessories for other Toyota cars in India shortly.