SPEED FEST
evo India|February 2021
The track day culture is booming, as we found out on the Winter Edition of The Speedfest
AATISH MISHRA

IT’S A CHILLY WINTER MORNING AT THE Buddh International Circuit. The jackets are out, hands are stuffed into pockets and a sense of anticipation hangs heavy in the air as we wait for the gates to open. Beyond those gates lies India’s finest stretch of tarmac — 5.12km of blacktop that twists, turns, rises, falls and, more than anything else, excites. Hallowed grounds, where the likes of Michael Schumacher, Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton raced less than 10 years ago. Beyond those gates also lay a collection of India’s finest sports cars. Top-shelf metal — many tuned and fettled with top-shelf components — sitting pretty in the pits. And all that sitting around would last only as long as it would take us to get from gate to pits. This was after all, The Speedfest Track Day Winter Edition. All hell was about to break loose.

If you’ve been following evo India for a while, you will be familiar with The Speedfest. A bunch of hardcore enthusiasts that that have a collection of cars that would have left a 16-year-old me with a mess in my pants. We featured their collection of GT Porsches, their 911 Turbos and they even lent us an X7 for a comparison test. “Speedfest is nothing more than a group of enthusiasts who love to drive, coming to the track and spending two days of pure bliss and fun on the tarmac, trying to get the best out of their cars and the best out of themselves,” says Sahil Contractor, one of the members of Speedfest who we’ve gotten to know over the last few months. He was here with his BMW M3, appropriately tuned in the pursuit of a hot lap time.

That, as you would have already discerned from the photographs across these pages, was one of the tamer cars here. There was a little bit of everything — Porsches, AMGs and BMWs; mid-engined, rearengined and front-engined; manuals, RWD and AWD. The Speedfest is agnostic to the cars you own, even featuring front-wheel-drive cars like the Skoda Octavia RS in the past. There were some track-focussed machines like the 991-generation Porsche 911 GT3 RS. There were older cars like the 997 Turbo S and the W211 E63 AMG. There were BMW M2 Competitions, M3s and M4s. Many had been worked on, being stripped down to track spec and putting out ridiculous amounts of power. We weren’t planning on missing out on the fun either and so we called in the big guns. The Mercedes-AMG GT R, AMG’s most track-focussed car sold in India, developed at the most fearsome track of them all: the Nurburgring.

These guys aren’t professional racecar drivers, mind you. They are enthusiasts from around the country who own performance cars, and know better than to unleash their full potential on the road. Instead, they come to a track like the BIC and have at it. Take the 992-generation Porsche 911 Turbo S that was parked in the pits. Incidentally, it was the first Turbo of this generation in the country and had arrived right after the lockdown lifted. That car has a claimed 0-100kmph time of 2.7 seconds but we all know how conservative Porsche is with its performance figures. Amrit, the owner, says he has tested it and managed 2.52 seconds. It would be suicidal to unleash that sort of performance on a road in India. The track then, allows him to really exploit it and push it to its limits.

“The idea is that you are safe, you are fast and you want to improve. Those that had performance cars didn’t have a place to safely drive them. The Speedfest is a way to make that happen, which is why you’re seeing possibly some of the most sought after cars at the Speedfest and drivers pushing themselves beyond what they imagined or what we thought they could ever do,” continues Sahil, when quizzed about why they come to the track.

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