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X1 Racing Leagues problematic inaugural edition ends with Bangalore taking the crown


There is much to be done to make the concept of a city-based franchise racing league work, and that was made even more apparent after a difficult conclusion to the X1 Racing League at the Madras Motor Race Track

 

 

 

  • Bangalore Racing Stars claimed the title for the inaugural season.
  • The FB02 cars will not be used again, according to series co-founder Armaan Ebrahim.
  • Six of the 12 cars suffered mechanical issues and in none of the three races did we see a full grid and the relay race had to be dropped.
  • No clarity on which cars will be used for future editions.

 

 

A champion was crowned (Bangalore Racing Stars), races were run (barely) and a season came to a close (after two back-to-back race weekends). Such was the bullet-point summary of the second and final round of the X1 Racing League, which concluded at the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) in Irungattukotai, Tamil Nadu on Sunday.

 

And if that is all someone told you about the ‘Future of Indian Motorsports,’ as the series bills itself, then you would think all is well.

 

 

But the quest to create a top tier racing series in Indian motorsport – previous efforts include Formula Rolon, India’s first wings and slicks series – found itself unable to deliver on what was promised.

 

Forget the lofty promise of street races and which kind of car would be used, none of the three races on Sunday (Saturday’s running was cancelled) saw a full grid of 12 cars.

 

The stop-gap measure of having to fall back on Italy-based EuroInternational for the old Formula BMW Pacific cars – which have perviously raced in India under the JK Tyre Motorsport banner – backfired in Irungattukotai as the cars had clearly not undergone maintenance work after the opening round at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida.

 

 

 

All about attrition

 

And trying to convince EuroInternational boss Antonio Ferrari of the need to do so was a lost cause according to team principals.

 

Ultimately it came down to who could keep their car running on track the best and the Bangalore Racing Stars and Mumbai Falcons teams did the best job of that. Although, there wasn’t much scope for a team’s mechanics to make a difference as they were all assigned mechanics from EuroInternational to keep the playing field level.

 

 

Running into Gautam Maini (father of Bangalore’s Arjun Maini and Mumbai’s Kush Maini) at the Chennai International Airport as I waited for my return to Delhi pretty much confirmed so.

 

“Everyone ran into a lot of problems with these cars,” said Maini. “I guess Bangalore and Mumbai just got lucky by ending up with the cars that gave the least amount of problems.”

 

 

 

No shortage of problems

 

Problems like oil leaking into the cockpit, which led to AD Racing Team Delhi’s Mathias Lauda and Christina Neilsen ditching the series last Sunday morning during the opening round of the series in Greater Noida. Mira Erda stepped in to fill one of the vacancies.

 

A clogged-up fuel filter put paid to a car each from Superspeed Chennai and Blackbirds Hyderabad. That plus the driver shortage for Delhi meant that three of the 12 cars (two cars per team) didn’t even make it to qualifying that was delayed by over an hour.

 

The delay meant that the much-vaunted relay race, where all five drivers of the six teams take turns at driving one car throughout a race, had to be cancelled. After the first race in which three more cars retired due to mechanical failures, including an engine failure for former Indy 500 participant Pippa Mann's Mumbai Falcons car. Running two cars per team became impossible after that.

 

 

Mann’s retirment triggered a safety car period that lasted so long – due to the soaked outfield of the MMRT making it difficult for Mann’s car to be craned to safety – that just one racing lap was held after it.

 

 

 

The way ahead

 

“Well, we are definitely not using these cars ever again,” said Armaan Ebrahim, looking thoroughly exasperated with how the event had ran. “We really didn’t have a choice after such short notice and there really isn’t anyone else in India who can make cars like the ones we originally wanted.”

 

 

Asking Coimbatore-based JA Motorsport – the racing arm of Jayem Automotives – to supply the two-seater sportscars that the founders had initially wanted was ruled out due to high costs.

 

A case can be made that the best thing the X1 Racing League did was its esports (racing video game) competition that drew many participants – specifically young ones – when it was held in Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Delhi.

 

Using the X1 Racing Esports platform to look for drivers to compete in karting and/or a touring car series is likely to increase the viability of the X1 Racing League, both as a way to find new participants and to create a sustainable racing model.

As the series currently stands, it was far less of the revolution it touted itself to be and more of an experiment. One that was even broadcast on television, warts and all.

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