Tatas may throw open truck racing to other companies

Murali Gopalan Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2018

R Ramakrishnan, Senior Vice President, Product Planning & Strategy and Customer Value Creation.   -  Aditya Bedre

Company also keen on taking T1 overseas and increasing its India frequency

As Tata Motors gears up for the third season of the T1 Prima Truck Racing Championship on Sunday, plans are already underway to take this concept to the next level.

“We are evaluating the possibility of opening this to more Indian manufacturers beyond Tatas and our Prima trucks,” R Ramakrishnan, Senior Vice President, Product Planning & Strategy and Customer Value Creation, said in a recent interview.

If this were to happen, it could include the likes of Ashok Leyland, VE Commercial Vehicles (the joint venture of Volvo and Eicher) and Mahindra Trucks and Buses. “We compete in the truck business anyway and could extend this to racing too,” Ramakrishnan quipped.

There are multinational truck companies operating in India too such as Daimler Commercial Vehicles, Volvo, Scania and MAN Trucks. Whether they will also throw their hats into the racing arena here remains to be seen even though they are part of similar racing events overseas.

Tata Motors limited this event to itself initially as there was a lot that had to be done in creating awareness and managing various aspects. There was no point working with other OEMs in the early stages as it would have been difficult putting so many things together.

The company is also keen to extend the T1 concept beyond the Buddh International Circuit at Greater Noida to other geographies where truck racing events are not uncommon. These include Europe, the UK, parts of ASEAN and North America.

Interestingly, one of the Prima race trucks was sent to the UK where it was showcased at many weekend race events. According to Ramakrishnan, people there could not believe it was an Indian truck and the response was overwhelming. It was also a clear signal that the company’s trucks were good enough to participate in other events overseas.

The other plan being contemplated is to increase the frequency of the truck race beyond an annual event as is the case right now. “These could be in the form of regional events leading to a national championship though the limitation is that there are only two race tracks, Buddh and Sriperumbudur near Chennai,” Ramakrishnan said.

Yet another idea being explored is to bring a range of different sized trucks to participate in the race. For instance, these could include the relatively lighter Ultra range, Xenon pickup or even the Ace. These vehicles do not need a surface like Greater Noida or Chennai to race on and can make do with smaller tracks across the country.

Tata Motors kicked off the T1 initiative in 2014 largely to create brand awareness for its Prima range. The concept of truck racing was an alien concept here but T1 turned out to be so successful that the crowds at Buddh International Circuit doubled to 50,000 the following year.

Beyond pushing the Prima brand and showcasing its prowess, Tata Motors was as keen to bring “some amount of respect and glory” to the trucking profession in these races. As Ramakrishnan put it, it was meant to acknowledge the driver whose lifeline is the truck as he lives and sleeps in it.

“He seldom gets the dignity he deserves. This initiative was one way to focus on the driver and make him the object of adulation,” he added. It is precisely for this reason that Sunday’s race will be extra special as it will see Indian drivers participate for the first time in T1.

Published on March 18, 2016

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