Time, as physicists will finger-waggingly have you know, is relative. Take for example, two vastly different quantities of time — on one hand, you have eight years and on the other, 11.05 seconds. Now, I haven’t really learnt a whole lot in the past eight years, so I have little hope of learning anything in 11.05 seconds. Or do I? Well, at least I now know that persistence will get me into trouble. This is the only time I’ve been scared for my life inside a car. Something as mad as this had to do it, of course, though I absolutely did not see it coming.
This is a story that began ten years ago in Bangalore. Ex-Motoring lady, Vaishali Dinakaran, and I had barged into the home of Pratap ‘Bobby’ Jayaram to feature the Jayaram GT, a homemade special that quite blew us away. Jayaram has been a part of virtually every electric automobile project in India, though it’s his trysts with internal combustion that are infinitely more interesting to me. And that late evening, it was something else in a dark garage that caught my eye.
It looked like a Maini Reva, one of the many electric cars Jayaram has worked on, but something was off. It had flared wheel arches and I could just about decipher the outline of a roll cage in it. When I asked what it was, he replied with one of his characteristic boisterous laughs, ‘Something to make people think!’ Pressed more, he said it was a project he had begun but had stopped work on for other things. ‘I have to have the time and money to blow away my time and money!’ It was a Reva, all right, but only in the loosest of senses. Sat in its tiny backside was a Suzuki Hayabusa motor. Whoa. A RevaBusa.
A paradox is a logically unacceptable statement. And there, a few feet away from me, stood the most glorious definition of the term I’d ever seen. The motor from one of the most iconic motorcycles of all time inside India’s first electric car. I was an immediate fan. With barely any restraint, I blurted out the demand that the car be completed at the earliest so that I could feature it in the magazine. I don’t quite remember the exact response I got, but I have a faint recollection of being gently pushed out of the garage to the sound of more characteristic boisterous laughter. And that was that for a few years.
Every now and then, I checked in on the progress of the car, but it seemed as if the project was on permanent hold. Eagerness gave way to a quiet wait. The RevaBusa seemed to give a new meaning to the term ‘drag racing’, as it dragged on for years on end. For something that was intended to be the fastest Indian-made car, it sure was taking its time coming. But I’m sure that Jayaram and his son, Sharan Pratap, who now run their motorsport outfit called Mantra Racing, were even more impatient. And then last year, I got the call.
‘Kartik! Did you see the RevaBusa’s video?’ Jayaram said, referring to the first drag-racing event the car had entered in. Just the sight of a Reva flying away from more expensive machinery was enough to send the crowd into a frenzy. The little beast was born. And I had to get my hands on it. Since then, every time I visited Bangalore, I dropped by the Jayaram residence to see the RevaBusa. It was always in a state of development; the first time I went, it had nitrous oxide feeding its greedy motor, and the second time, it had a massive turbocharger. After each successive event, the father-son pair decided they could do better and kept working away to get to their ultimate aim — 9s in a quarter-mile.
A short while before I managed to convince Jayaram about letting me feature it, he clocked an 11.05-second run and became the national drag racing champion. ‘Before I open it up again for work, you better get over here and do your bloody story!’ he chortled over the phone one day. And just like that, I was in Bangalore within 48 hours, an airstrip arranged for a date with the RevaBusa. It was finally happening. However, as is the case with those with limited foresight, what I failed to see due to my anticipation was what I’d gotten myself into.
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