TRACK DAYS, LAP CHARTS, DRAGGY times, dyno pulls, a mad scramble for special edition Porsches and an Urus delivered every week — the sportscar and supercar scene has come a long way over the past decade or so. I should know. My first taste of a 911 was half an hour up and down the Worli Sea Face in Mumbai with the importer glued to the passenger seat. That’s it. “Now go pen eight pages,” said my then editor… and I ended up exceeding the word count and got an extra spread. We were starved of sportscars and we made biryani out of the few scraps handed down to us. Then came the R8 and things really started to get going. To be fair, AMG was around for longer, and my knuckles were still sore from the rap I’d got for destroying the SL 63’s rubber during an award’s jury round on the track. But it was Audi that really turned things around for sportscars and got the whole trackday culture going with their driving experiences. Plus they indulged us when we suggested (what were then!) crazy stories.
On the basis that the worst they’d say is no, I had proposed to take the first and only R8 in the country to discover India’s fastest road. And Audi said yes. Of course there were mileage stipulations and a fair amount of stress over the size and number of speed breakers but… they said yes! And neither did they have a problem with us bringing along a superbike for perspective. Audi R8 meets Suzuki Hayabusa in Jaisalmer was, if I may indulge myself, a seminal story for that era, and reinforced the enthusiast credentials of Overdrive, the magazine I was helming. Starting from the dunes of Sam and almost arrow-straight all the way to Jodhpur, the road was mad fast, baby-butt smooth, and utterly devoid of traffic including the dangerously ubiquitous bovine variety we find these days. The R8 had the indescribably brilliant gated shift, pre-dating the mania for manual gearboxes on the 911 R and GT4 by a decade. And the video remains among the ones I am most proud of, despite the horrid pre-GoPro in-car camera angles putting into focus my even more horrid sunglasses.
A DECADE LATER LAMBORGHINI IS THE boss. The Italians have used the foundations laid by Audi and the R8 to build India into one of their most important markets. Sure, in absolute volumes, India is nowhere, but in terms of perception and market share, Lamborghini rules. And contrary to what you’d think, the Urus hasn’t eaten into but rather has increased sales of the real raging bulls, the sportscars and supercars. On last count there were seven of the ultra-hardcore Aventador SVJ’s in the country, including one of only 63 SVJ 63s ever made. That’s a ₹8.5 crore Nurburgring lap-record setting supercar! India is so important that mere weeks after its global launch the Huracan Evo arrived on our shores — and today we have not one but two of them snaking through these hamlets, crabbing over speed breakers, being chased by little kids absolutely astonished by the sights and sounds.
India is also one of the few countries where Lamborghini outsells Ferrari, even if you discount Urus sales. That said, Ferrari is, well, Ferrari. The red streak here is the 488 Spider, which has now been replaced by the F8 Spider, but when the opportunity to drive a prancing horse presents itself, no matter the vintage, you’d be mad to say no. And it offers a good middle ground to what we have at the front of the convoy. A McLaren!
I have to clarify that McLaren is not, yet, in India. Parveen Agarwal bought this car in Bangkok and he flies down a technician from there every time it needs a service. The hype, though, around the brand is insane. Thanks to Senna, Hakkinen, Hamilton, Alonso, and now Lando, everybody knows of the brand and its gold-plated provenance. Thanks to the recent uptick in Formula 1 fortunes, there’s a lot of goodwill around the brand too. It’s surprising that McLaren’s road car division hasn’t cashed in on all of this here in India, but one can only assume it is a matter of time. And despite no official presence, there are already seven McLarens registered in the country (a few more come and go on carnet), and the papaya 570S Coupe at the head of this convoy is the only one of its kind in the country.
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