A Great Drive – entry for Michelin Pilot Experience by Arvind Passey
We were waiting for Narain to come. Narain Karthikeyan, the legendary Formula 1 driver from India. I had flown in from a cold Delhi to a warm Coimbatore in December and loved the tepid sun though I felt better in the shade of the track shed.
The place was about an hour’s drive outside the city and as we drove from the urban settlements of Coimbatore towards the sparsely populated rural belt surrounding it, I said to myself, ‘This guy must be travelling this distance every day.’ Even the small village shops disappeared and as we drove in silence with vast emptiness on both sides of the road… when the driver suddenly turned to me and said, ‘We’re there at the race tracks where Narain practices.’
I got down and walked to the massive shed where racing cars of all shapes and sizes were parked in a disciplined row.
‘The club has a lot of other members and they park their cars here. We have a staff for maintenance and technical help too,’ I was helpfully informed by the club staff. The Tata JagoRe team was also there… after all I was here as I had won myself a place for a ‘Drive with Narain’. There were the other winners too from other parts of India… and we were all smiling, excited, and impatiently waiting for the young legend to arrive.
Narain came in his SUV and immediately huddled with his tech team to decide which car was to be used. Two had already been rolled out… one was a dazzling white and the other was a ferocious black. Both were trainer racers and, therefore, had two seats. Narain disappeared and then we saw him ambling to us in his driving suit. He asked, ‘Hope you guys are ready?’
I was the first to drive with him and as I struggled into the narrow and constricted space I felt strange to be in a semi-prone position but with a fair view of the track in front of me. The vroom-ing had been going on for quite some time and Narain said, ‘We’re going to go round the track four or five times and will move at more than 200 miles per hour at times. If you feel nausea overwhelming you, just shout and I’ll stop. Don’t worry, this can happen to the toughest of us.’
I nodded and then allowed the staff to strap the massive helmet on my head. Giving a thumb up sign we started… and I still remember the screeching turns, the this-can’t-be-true twists, and the dizzying speed. I felt both lighter and heavier at different moments during those zipping rounds. I saw the staff and everyone else waving as we went roaring by and I think I had the presence of mind to even wave at them! To tell you the truth, I was quite exhausted in those 10 or fifteen minutes and I wondered how these drivers go on and on for such long durations… yes, it was exciting, no doubt, but one that made your legs wobble and your eyes roll for a few moments as you slowly lifted yourself up to get out of the car.
Was I tired?
Sure, I was. I was not just exhausted but I was also disoriented for a few seconds but regained my composure fast enough to shake the legend’s hands and mumble an almost inaudible ‘thank you!’ I saw him smile and nod and I knew he was probably thinking, ‘He couldn’t have lasted another round!’ I know I could have…
The day wasn’t yet over and we had a great time talking about other things as well. I asked Narain, ‘What would you say to doing some audio commentary while you drive… your feelings and emotions as they whizz along with you… and then blog about that experience?’
Narain replied, ‘I think we should drive together again someday and you come with your blogging gear. We’ll try it out!’
Here are some pictures taken that day… some are clicked by me…
29 July 2013
Email from Michelin received. Another win… though I’m still not sure if I’ll be in the final list or not:
The final declaration of winners!