'Volkswagen joined MRF to synergise motorsport associations'
Indian motor sport saw a huge change recently when Volkswagen decided to walk out of the JK Tyre Racing Championship to join the Madras Motor Sports Club (MMSC)-promoted National Racing Championship that is supported by MRF tyres.
The German vehicle manufacturer said the switch was to synergise all their existing motor sport associations with the Chennai-based MRF.
"We, as a group, already have an association with MRF that is now going on for several years with the Skoda Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) programme, which is huge. In addition to that, MRF is also a racing tyre supplier for Volkswagen Racing UK," Volkswagen Motorsport India head Sirish Vissa told IANS.
Volkswagen Group and MRF have a working relationship outside India with factory-supported Skoda Fabias running on MRF rubber in the APRC. Czech automobile maker Skoda is a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen.
"When we were looking at where we are going in the future with our motor sport activities, it made a lot more sense to draw on the synergies that exist like the existing relationship with MRF and sort of piggy bank on that and make something bigger out of it. That is the reason why we are going with MRF," added the 43-year-old.
Vissa said that leaving JK Tyres was a big loss as they had developed a strong bond which lasted for six years. It was in 2010 that Volkswagen entered the Indian motor sports scene with the Polo R Cup, also adding the Vento Cup last year.
"JK have been a fantastic partner. Without them we wouldn't have gotten the programme to where it is now. So definitely it is a big loss for us to walk away from this existing relationship. But at the same time we are trying to draw on the synergies that exist and are already working very closely with our new partners," he added.
The one-make touring car series will this year be held at the Kari Motor Speedway (Coimbatore), Buddh International Circuit (Greater Noida) and the Madras Motor Race Track (Chennai).
Earlier, the championship winner of the Vento Cup would have moved on to the JK Tyre Racing Series which features FB02 cars, powered by 1.2 litre BMW bike engines. But now the winner will get a drive in the MRF Challenge Formula 1600 -- the victor of which will progress to the elite Formula 2000.
"Now the 2015 junior champion (Polo Cup) will get a Vento Cup drive this year, like before. The winner of the Vento Cup last year will get a 1600 drive. Essentially, there is not a night and day difference. Now, there is an additional progression path for the winner because if he wins the 1600 championship then he will automatically be given a drive in the 2-litre from MRF," said the Bengaluru-born.
Significantly, the change in tyres is big in motor sports and, hence, will also affect the German car makers, who will have to adjust their Polos and Ventos to the new characteristics of the MRF Tyres.
"MRF tyres have different characteristics; so we are re-working our entire suspension package for the car. So it will be dampers, new spring rates to get the handling the way we want it," concluded Vissa.