THE LOVE FOR THE STATESMAN
VINTAGE AND CLASSIC CAR RALLY
The Rally is organized by the Stateman newspaper
in association with the Vintage Car Club of India. It aims
at encouraging the preservation, use and restoration of early
motor-cars and the enjoyment of vintage motoring.
THE HISTORICAL PAST
In 1902 the first car was imported into India and their numbers
gradually increased as the British and the Maharajas placed
orders for the then latest models. For, the erstwhile royals
weddings, coronations and hunting were incomplete without
cars which were customized for their requirements. Thus Chevrolets,
Rolls Royce, Bugattis, Dailmers, Cadillcs, Bentleys . . .purred
gently on Indian roads. With no lacks of resources their owners
maintained them passionately but with the abolition of privy
purses after India's independence it became difficult for
the erstwhile rulers to maintain a fleet of cars and some
of them were sold off.
THE REVIVAL PERIOD
The lean patch for the beautiful cars suddenly brughtened
up when Prof. N. P. W. Moore of the Imperial College, London
expressed the need for organizing vintage car rally in his
feature on Motoring Notes in The Statesman newspaper. Moor
himself drove around Delhi in his vintage Alvis. The idea
resulted in the first Rally being held in 1964 with almost
30 cars participating. For the Statesman Vintage and Classic
Car Rally, the cars start assembling by 7:30 am at Statesman
House near the Connaught Circus end of Barakhamba Road. Over
50 old cars, including half a dozen in the Classic section
are customarily inspected by the chief of Army Staff and then
flagged off by him.
WHICH CARS COULD PARTICIPATE
The vehicles could include a 1907 Darracg, a 1919 Citroen,
a 1920 Daimler, a 1927 Chevrolet, a 1928 Baby Austin, a 1930
Buick, a 1934 Lagonda, a 1936 Bentley . . . the oldest being
a 1906 Rover - all painstakingly restored, Joining the fray
may be the quaint fire engine of the former Nizam State Railway,
which is otherwise exhibited at the Rail Transport Museum.
Built in 1914 with an 80 HP engine, a chain drive and turbine
type pump, it was in use until 1960.
THE FIRST INDIAN RALLY
For the first Rally held in 1964 about 30 cars dashed to Bharatpur
taking a lunch break at the summer palace of the Maharaja
of Bharatpur at Deeg. The route customarily taken, in the
past years, by the cars is from Connaught Place, down Janpathm,
a right turn on Rajpath towards Vijay Chowk, then down Dalhousie
Road past south Avenue, onwards around the Teen Murti Circle,
through Shanti Path on to Moti Bagh, and straight down to
Outer Ring Road. The cars then take a right turn past Signals
Enclave, moving on to National Highway 8, Badshahpur and then
towards the popular tourist complex Sohna in the neighbouring
state of Haryana. The Time Section of 20 miles starts at Rajpath,
just short of Vijay Chowk and ends at Maliby Town, a complex
on the Gurgaon-Sohna highway. Participants proceed to Sohna
for the Hill Climb. Competitors are required to climb the
hill under the observation of Hill Marshals positioned at
a number of points. The cars ascend one at a time and are
marked for the safety and quality of the climb. On climbing
the hill, the competitors are asked to park off the main road
and not begin descent till the marshal's signal. Then they
descend, proceeding to Sohna for a lunch break. The Second
Time Section starts on leaving Sohna and ends at the DLF Qutub
area. The third Time Section is betweeen DLF Qutub Enclave
and the finishing point at India Gate and awarded points for
the original maker's specifications, engine, coach work, interiors
instrumentation, tyres and wheels, chassis and general maintenance
There are 24 trophies, categorized according to the horse
power of the cars, in the Vintage Section that includes cars
manufactured before 31st December 1939. All vehicles must
be in a sound and roadworthy condition .Cars must complete
the course to be eligible for trophies which are warded for
the oldest car, the best aggregate performance in the road
section, the best maintained car, best restored car, best
lady driver, best performance in the hill section, most elegant
looking car, for the best maintained British car, best maintained
car not manufactured in Britain, the oldest American car participating
in the Rally to name some of the trophies. Entry of Classic
Cars, according to the Dalton Watson Guide includes those
cars manufactured between 1940 and 1955 and are accepted as
a separate event. There are three trophies in the Classic
Section. These are for the most elegant and best maintained
classic car manufactured in the USA to complete the course.
There is now another category of Post War cars belonging to
the period between 1945 to 1962 with a horse power of 15 and
above. The trophies are awarded at 5:30 pm at India Gate.
For information contact Statesman House, Connaught Circus,
New Delhi - 110 001. Tel - 331 59 11 - 7.
POWER MACHINES---MOTOR RACING AT ITS BEST
Ten National rallies for cars and nine for motorcycles, all
over India, a two Sunday circuit racing extravaganza at Chennai,
a Sunday of International Formula Asia class racing and an
Indian crowned the Formula Asia Champion 1996. Does that sound
shocking? Wait, there is more.......
This was the year 1996, not to mention the scores of local
rallies and picnic events in addition to at least a dozens
MOTOCROSS events. Indian Motor racing is roughly 50 years
old and rallying 30 years. The pathetic fact is that the common
man is blissfully unaware of motor sports, save for the spate
of international events televised through STAR SPORTS and
Though motor sport started with circuit racing in India, the
fact today remains that racing has hardly progressed within
THE TEAMS AND THEIR HISTORICAL START
It was 15 years ago that MRF Ltd., then Madras Rubber factory,
got into motor racing, which was the only available motor
sport even then. Starting on a very modest scale, the red,
black and white team brought into motor racing the team concept.
Though many other sponsors tried their hands at building teams.
it was only 'Team McDowell' which made a worthwhile impact
on the 'red shirts'. Coimbatore's S. Karivardhan with his
'black beauty' formula car then stormed the scene. The managing
Director of Lakshmi Mills, he brought in 'Team Lakshmi Mills'
about 13 years back.
In 1992 another tyre company entered the fray. 'Team JK Tyres',
the Delhi based truck and car tyre manufacturers, pooled in
a big sum and entered into a deal with Karvivardhan and ran
the 'Team Jk Racing'. But MRF was the natural leader in rallies
which gained prominence in India in the eighties.
What started out as basically outings and picnic rallies became
more serious and in 1990, the National Championship for rallies
was announced. Though the champion was not paid any prize
money at the end of the year, it became highly prestigious
to win the title. Starting with two modified classes and one
stock class for cars and a modified and unmodified class for
motorcycles, today there are championship trophies for the
champion driver/navigator in a modified and an unmodified
class in cars and motorcycles.
Jasdeep Shingh, a rallist from Delhi who took part in a car
rally in the South, found it exciting and informed his friends,
Hari Singh and Gurinder Singh Mann and the JK Rally Team was
born. Putting together a deal with Karivardhan to tune their
cars, Team JK made steady progress. Hari Shingh, their anchor
man, nicknamed 'mountain rat' for his rate delivery, began
to make an impact and Team JK started to gain placings. In
the years 1992 and 1993, the front runners for JK tyres grew
in maturity and driving skill.
In 1994 and 1995, with the last leg of the car championship
slated to be held at Hyderabad in December, the infants on
the rallying front, Team JK, swept the boards, winning both
the driver's and the navigator's and the navigator's championships.
In 1992, another team, Team Paarel, based at Irinjalakuda
in Kerala, made its presence felt on the rally circuit. With
four cars and six bikes sponsored by the Paarel family who
are basically plywood manufacturers, the team chose green
as its color and won the tough Karnataka rally in 1993.
The rallying field in the country has been progressing at
a rapid pace over the last couple of years. It was only during
the Gulf war that rallies and races were stopped to satisfy
public opinion on wastage of fuel.
Rallies were shortened to 750 kilometers as long as they were
part of the national championship and that has made competition
very tight. Team MRF, Team JK, Team JCT and Team Paarel are
the only four teams in India today. Indian car have hardly
got into sponsorship for each manufacturers has a monopoly
over his product and there is no necessity to advertise his
The 'red shirts' and the 'yellow devils' - that's what they
are called in the highly charged field of motor sports. Team
JK in yellow and Team MRF in red, have quite charged the color
of motor sports in India, in the last three years.
If the battle of the tyre gaints can be compared to anything
it could be akin to a Lilliput trying to poke a needle into
a gaint's legs - Team JK being the Lilliput and Team MRF the
MRF sponsored the first Formula car 15 years ago. JK Industries,
with hardly any knowledge of the sport, made their entry into
the field just two years ago. Team MRF always emerged victorious
and there seemed little to stop them. But it had taken six
long years to become this consistent.
After initial struggles, Team JK has begun to make an impact
this year. 'Yellow lighting steals the thunder' reads one
of their ads and for good reason.
After winning the season's opener at Bombay in 1994 MRF pulled
out of the next two at Coimbatore and Madras in protest against
the decision by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India
to ban one of their drivers and riders. JK took the cue and
promptly won both the events.
Though MRF was back after that, they were outclassed by JK
in both Popular Rally and Castrol Rally D' Endurance, thereby
earning their first ever championship victory in both the
modified and Unmodified class of cars.
1994-1996 have been bad ones for MRF. the problems they faced
from the FMSCI and their own 'divide and rule' policy has
spelt disaster for them. This has allowed their competitors
to steal a march over them.
MRF seems to have learned their lessons the hard way. The
beating they have taken is perhaps for the best in the long
run. They are already working out their strategy for 2000.
Rallying has weathered the harder days and reached a commanding
position today. The ten rallies that form the National Championship
has encouraged even circuit racers to get into it so that
there is year long activity.
Motorcross, the cheapest form of motor sport and the second
most physically demanding sport after football had taken greater
strides in the from of Shyam Kothari, Pratap Bhaghwat and
Ashok Raja. All the three are from Pune, considered the 'Mecca'
of Motorcross in the suncontinent. The top three have raced
in the U.S. on invitation in 1994. Though they could not match
their countries, it was a dream for the 'Power machines' to
race with greater competitors.
Motorsports in India is still the bastion of the creme de
la creme, thanks to the low level of sponsorship. The known
sponsors are MRF Ltd. and JK Tyres, while the invisible sponsors
are TVS Suzuki. All three manufacturers use information they
gather from rallying for the R & D if their tyres and motorcycles.
While these are the companies who spend on the sponsorship
of competitors, the scene in 'Event Sponsorship' is totally
different. Castrol India Ltd. sponsors the National rally
Championship and all the rallies except three. Popular Automobiles,
ITC Ltd. and the Club are the other three sponsors.
The current talk among motor sport fraternity is the new breed
of car manufacturers come up in India and the possible sponsorship
that could up from them. Ford and Hyundai have made Chennai
their home. Though the Hyundai factory is opposite the Sriperumpudur
tracks, there hardly seems to be any move to 'sponsorship'
from their end. The other manufacturers hardly seems to be
making any progress in this direction. On the otherhand Maruti
Udyog had recently started conducting 'Picnic Events' in all
the major metros to bring public attention to their product
and the recent reduction in cost of Maruti products.
The manufacturers have to match the cost of Maruti, the Indian
'in thing' car and mass produce to reach the Indian mass.
This should easily take four to five years more.
It is when this happens that the visitors
to India would feel homely enough to invest major chunks in
motor sport. Motor sport in India has tremendous potential
with a huge populace who could complement the sport. One has
to make the common man part of the sport and make him feel
one with the adventurous game. Motor sport would only then
read as MOTOR COMMON SPORT.