What is the biggest surprise you ever got? You might have some preposterous thing to share that would probably be more interesting than what I've got to tell you. But, let's not revel in a verbal exchange of experiences and lets get on with my story. This is one of the finest automobiles I've ever driven. Better than a supercar, more exciting than any production car by miles. No, make that light years. The reason for it is simple. A road car can never match the sound and smell of a racing car. And when venue for the drive is a purpose built, Formula 1 race track, excitement levels go beyond stratospheric and into deep space.
I consider myself lucky to be driving all the cars that have been my childhood dream. But, the day when Volkswagen calls you up and invites you to drive their Polo R Cup race car the feeling is totally different. Not that I experienced the growing anxiety. In fact, I didn't know what car I would be driving till I reached the track. So there were a select few invitees from the media with three Polo R Cup cars prepared for the event. It is an exercise Volkswagen Motorsports conducts on a regular basis where journalists get to drive their race prepped hatchbacks. And it's a good thing.
So that we can tell you- the buyers or owners of VW cars how the DSG automatic gearbox in your Polo GT (7-DSG) is basically the same as the one used in the race car (6-DSG). The shifts are so precise that racing drivers leave it in 'Sport' mode and let the DSG sort out the ratios for them. The engine in the car is a larger capacity unit found on the Polo GT. The 1.4 litres of turbocharged petrol engine deliver 180 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm and 250Nm of torque @ 2,000 – 4,500 rpm. A full race-spec roll-cage and a cockpit that's unlike any other Polo hatchback on the road isn't the most comfortable place to be. The body-hugging seat equipped with a six-point race harness keeps you snug in place.
The instrument cluster is just a digital readout with engine revs, speedometer, temperature and other crucial parameters. Then, there are buttons for the fuel pump etc. and then there is this red thing for the fire extinguisher. There are no fancy carpets or interior lining. Just a plain metal floor separates your bottom from scrapping the tarmac below. The aluminium pedals though are a more familiar sight if you happen to own a high-end Volkswagen. On the outside, the Polo R Cup race car has been tweaked for better downforce. A large spoilers adorns the bootlid, hood scoops that actually help air vent out of the engine bay and a lowered stance. One thing that won't go unnoticed is the large racing alloy wheels shod with slick tires for extra grip.
This was my first time on racing slicks and that is part of the reason why I rate this experience better than the Audi R8 V10 I drove a few months back. Firing-up the engine can be described as a procedure unlike the one-touch start of the road cars of today. When the engine does come to life the cabin fills with the sound of horsepower screaming at you to stomp on the accelerator. And so you're off. Ahead lies the pit lane exit and beyond that its a race against time. Every time you go round the circuit you tend to correct your mistakes- maintaining the correct entry speed, getting your braking right, not locking-up the wheels although it has a race-spec ABS.
I had read about race cars in the past but never knew how exciting they can be. I was always conscious of the fact that this car could spin out if I am too aggressive with it. But surprisingly, you feel the car through your bottom. It communicates with you and correcting slight oversteer is more enjoyable and rather intuitive. I wish they had their stop watches running. I would've loved to set a lap time and compare it with those professional souls who drive these cars on a regular basis. In India, motor racing is all about money less of talent. Given the chance, there will be more like me who would be more than willing to test their skills on the race track in a proper racing car. Simply breathtaking! Also, please do checkout the video that would soon be online...