Weekend at the Race Track

Weekend at the Race Track

About three weeks ago, some of us were treated to a weekend at the race track at the Sepang International Circuit. The SIC was hosting a number of races of various classes and categories that weekend. As far as we were concerned, it was the Lamborghini Super Trofeo International Racing Series. This is a one make race where drivers compete in identical Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo cars, based on the Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2. Super Trofeo here, literally means super trophy. I read that there is a dedicated team of specialists in Lamborghini that provides expertise in the GT series and the Super Trofeo series. This is, the Squadra Corse.

My colleagues and I gathered at the office on race day and as I left home that morning I could feel a sense of pride (among other emotions) as we were going to see one of the founders of Carnauba Autospa compete in a speedy Lamborghini. I guess race day is supposed to be hot and it really was a dog day afternoon by the time we got there. As we parked our not so fast Myvi, we could see groups of people walking hurriedly towards the track and we heard the roar and whine of race engines of another race in progress. The roar and revving of race engines got louder and the smell of racing fuel, lubricants and smoking rubber permeated the air as we picked up pace. Some of us went to the hospitality lounge but my colleague and I looked for "our car"... number 98 driven by "our man" Datuk Kumar Prabakaran. By chance we found pit number 27 nearby and there he was.

We saw him with his technicians and manager going through the paces and managed to ask him about his race suit which didn't seem do any favors in this terrible heat. Apparently there's an inner suit that has cooled water in a tube shaped and functions very much like a refrigeration cooling system that keeps the driver relatively cool in stifling conditions. We hung around the pit soaking everything in amids the revving of loud engines and pretty soon things began to pick up pace. Assistants began to help suit up Datuk Kumar Prabakaran and put his hi tech helmet in place. There was an air of seriousness and everyone in the team had their game faces on. We grabbed a cool drink and a quick bite at the hospitality lounge and we made our way back to the pit with hordes of other team supporters.

One by one the race cars started to leave their pit for the starting grid, warming up around the track as they did. We quickly walked over there with many of the other supporters. The pretty grid girls with their short skirts and smooth looking thighs had taken their position too, at the respective starting point of each car. Many pictures were taken at the grid. All of us, about 25, took group pictures with Datuk Kumar Prabakaran in his car. A short while later, in the blazing heat, the klaxon sounded for us to clear the track. I gave him a thumbs-up and a quick prayer later, I left the track. I can only imagine his thoughts and emotions at this moment in time but I thought he looked pretty fly.

As I left the track I noted the similarities in Datuk Kumar Prabakaran's car with the other cars such as the wide tires, low center of gravity, and aero dynamic parts and the same type of engine, it dawned upon me that the outcome of the race will depend a lot on the skills of the driver and his team. Many of us gathered around the television sets to see the cars race towards the first turn and the famed Sepang hairpin. We were thrilled to see Datuk Kumar Prabakaran speed past 3 other cars toward the first turn cementing him firmly in the race. If he can hold his pursuers off, and if all the other variables favor him, he would stand a great shot at the podium. He will need to do that for 50 minutes I was told.

As the race moved on lap after lap I googled about what it means to be a race car driver. They need to be extremely fit to endure the rigors of racing. In some races they lose between 2-4 kg of their body weight and they need to endure the forces of gravity as they speed around the circuit and also not to be overweight for obvious reasons. They also need a balance of aggressiveness and cool headedness for over taking maneuvers and to resist the other driver's pressures. Good drivers must have a good understanding of the car so that they can help with the set up. Perhaps most importantly is skill in knowing the limits and being able to feel the car and a damn good instinct.

By the 40th minute Datuk Kumar Prabakaran was third in his class skillfully defending his position, trying to fend off his pursuers. One of them tried to nudge him off, in a failed over taking maneuver but came out worse instead. After that all he had to do (easier said than done) was not making a mistake that should see him speed pass the checkered flag. There was jubilation through-out the team and his merry band of supporters as most saw on the screen that Datuk Kumar Prabakaran came in third and made the podium. As the cars came in the pit lane, the podium finishers parked their cars separately and his name was announced we roared in applause. We saw him pop the champagne flanked by the first and second drivers as in the tradition of motor sports world over.

Soon after euphoria, it was time to leave and I could not but help to think about how it all began in France in 1897, from Paris to Bordeaux and back, at a distance of 1178km with an average speed of 24.15kph. Today at Sepang, they were speeding around 260kph. Thanks to technology and to the many drivers through-out the years, motor sports has come a long way in designing more challenging circuits, faster cars and very much improved safety.

Roaring Pass

Datuk Kumar Prabakaran with his "trofeo"

At The Podium

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