Pune-based rally team, Slideways Industries, is all set to debut the Volkswagen Polo 1.6 in the Indian National Rally Championship at the AVT Premium South India Rally in Chennai this weekend. The Polo is the first all-new car to debut in the INRC in over six years and the first hatchback in the rally championship in over a decade. And it comes with first class pedigree, the WRC-spec Polo having just won two of the last three rounds of the World Rally Championship.
Team Slideways Industries, backed by Pune-based Pinnacle Group, will enter two Polos in the South India Rally driven by Sirish Chandran (co-driver Nikhil Pai) in the 1600cc class and Rohan Pawar (co-driver Nitin Jacob) in the Junior INRC class. The cars have been built to FIA Group N regulations by Chettinad Sporting in Coimbatore under the guidance of Team Slideways Industries’ technical director Byram Godrej. The car is powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that develops over 110 horsepower thanks to revised ECU mapping and modified intake and exhaust and drives the front wheels via the standard five-speed gearbox. The only change
permitted to the transmission as per regulations is the inclusion of a limited slip front differential. The suspension retains the standard layout and geometry but the dampers are high-spec three-way adjustable units made by renowned European manufacturers Ohlins and Reiger.
The team completed an extensive test session in Coimbatore last week to fine tune the suspension setup and check the reliability of the car. “Over two days we drove the Polo hard and fast and despite hitting everything we could find the car didn’t breakdown, which is a very encouraging sign for a car that hasn’t been rallied till now”, says Sirish Chandran. “Being able to survive such punishment is a testimony to how well built and incredibly tough the standard road-going Polo is.”
The team also enlisted the help of seven-time national rally champion Naren Kumar to fine tune the suspension and at the end of the test session he declared himself happy with the performance and setup. “The suspension is very good, nearly as good as the N+ suspension we used to run on the Cedias”, says Naren.
Safety has been given utmost priority and the roll-cage has been designed to the highest international safety standards while also increasing the strength of the shell. “The Polo is an inherently tough car and the torsional rigidity of the shell is unbelievable, so much so that this is the first rally car I’ve worked on that doesn’t even need strut braces”, says Byram. “On the handling and reliability front the car is now sorted, what we need to work on is the engine but we will do that after the first rally in Chennai. Inherently the engine is very torquey and that will help us immensely in tight stages, particularly the hairpins where the Polo is sure to make up time over the other cars.”
Under Group N regulations the gearbox ratios cannot be altered but the Polo’s shorter ratios will prove to be an asset, making up for its heavier body shell compared to other cars on the grid. Another big advantage the Polo has is its compact dimensions and hatchback body shell which makes it more nimble and chuckable. “We are hugely excited to debut the Polo in the INRC”, says Rohan Pawar, team principal, Slideways Industries. “The car is fast, reliable and crucially exciting to watch. You can’t expect rally fans to come out and watch cars which have long since ceased production in India; they have nothing to relate to. With the Polo rally enthusiasts can now look forward to a contemporary car which looks great while being driven fast and I am sure it will be a game changer for the INRC, especially with the factory support of Volkswagen Motorsport.”
Team Slideways Industries has received extensive support from Volkswagen Motorsport in terms of spares, technical know-how, performance parts and logistics support. VW Motorsport has in fact dispatched a truck-load of spares including a spare engine and gearboxes to the South India Rally to support not just Slideways Industries but any competitor who runs a Polo in the INRC.
The team will also run two Balenos, for Byram Godrej (co-driver Prajval Pai) and Aniruddha Rangnekar (co-driver Harrish Kumar) in the 1600 class.
“We have concentrated our resources on running two Polos and making sure both are reliable; after all to win you have to first finish”, says Aniruddha who was instrumental in forming the team. “By round three we hope to have all four Polos ready and by the time we get to our home rally in Nashik I am sure the car will have made the headlines everywhere.”
IRC/INRC Calendar for 2013
Round 1: 22-24 March: MMSC Chennai (Gravel)
Round 2: 12-14 April: Northern Motorsports, Bhuj (Gravel)
Round 3: 17-19 May: Kolkata , RRPM (Gravel)
Round 4: 07-09 June: WISA, Nashik (Tarmac)
Round 5: 25-27 October: K1000, KMSC Bangalore (Gravel)
Round 6: 29 Nov -01 Dec: MSCC, Chikmagalur (Gravel)