CHENNAI: Dance music, Coldplay songs and the smell of burnt rubber on tarmac — telltale signs of a motorsport event. Throw in enthusiastic gamers, volunteers not really sure of the difference between G Force and traction control and a media scrum hoping to get their hands on a simulator — the National final of Nissan GT Academy 2015 had well and truly arrived in the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) at Irungattukottai.
The programme, aimed specifically to unearth ‘drivers of tomorrow’, made its appearance felt, as the final 20 participants, selected from an initial 10,000, aimed to finish in the top six to be eligible for an all-expenses-paid trip to Silverstone, where they will further their driving experiences with Karun Chandhok. The racing star, one of only two Indians to have competed in Formula One, was also present as a mentor.
One of the main taglines of the programme — Racing driver wanted. No experience necessary — was further embellished by the message on billboards around the periphery of the course. And this wasn’t your typical competition, something that was clear the moment you walked into a huge hall inside the MMRT premises.
Strobe lights and heavy metal numbed the senses even as the participants were put through a range of tests. Somewhere in the vicinity, the assembled media were trying to master the simulator. Most found it easier to drive on the gravel than on the road.
The one question which was begging to be asked was answered by Guillaume Sicard, Nissan’s President of India Operations. “The decision to select India for such a competition was taken by the management here. It wasn’t a directive or instruction from Japan. We felt that the people of India are young and passionate. And they are all dreamers. And this event fits in rather well with the Indian character,” he pointed out.
The inaugural winner of the India Chapter, Abhinay Bikkani, was found on trackside egging competitors on for one final push. And that really was the difference in the end. That one extra push which could take a person to Silverstone or send him/her back to being a couch potato. And couch potatoes have won the tournament before going on to becoming professional racing drivers!