The Buddh International Circuit – Formula One or not, it’s still breathing
The Buddh International circuit is the best race track in India, as it should be for a Hermann Tilke-designed Formula 1 track that F1 world champions heaped praise over. The sprawling circuit was a part of the Formula 1 circus for three years from 2011 to 2013 but was then dropped by the FIA following a tax dispute. Skeptics of course predicted a quick demise citing reasons such as high maintenance costs but the BIC continues to thrive, F1 or not. That’s what we have gleaned from our tete-a-tete with Rajiv Murishwar, business head at the BIC. “The Buddh International Circuit is is very much in the green and it is doing fantastically well. We are running full throttle in operations, in our funding and also doing good revenues.”
In fact, it is host to a long list of events and the track hire and ancillary costs are worked out according to the need of the customers and keeping in mind important factors such as the state-of-the-art race control room, high end communication systems, manpower (marshals and instructors), even transponders for lap times and so on. In essence, it all turns out to be great value for money and that keeps manufacturers and others coming back year after year.
Keeping it alive and thrilling – The events and academies
The BIC is host to numerous national and international racing championships such as the Volkswagen Ameo Cup and single seater races that are a part of the JK and MRF racing championships. The EuroJK series which is part of JK Tyre Motorsport’s NRC calendar feels more at home on the BIC due to the length of the straights and the speed that the drivers are able to carry around corners, same too with the MRF F2000 cars. And the facilities for spectators are of a very high order with the JK championships and the Tata Truck Racing series seeing overflowing grandstands. The circuit is also a popular location for numerous automobile product launches, media launches and also national and international automobile shoots.
“Arrive and Drive facility makes the track accessible to enthusiasts”
Almost all high-end brands such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz conduct their corporate experience programmes and driving academies at the Buddh International Circuit. Audi India conducts its sportscar experience inviting Audi owners to experience Audi’s S and RS cars on the circuit. Mercedes-Benz hosts its AMG performance driving academy. Adds Rajiv, “We also host open track days where we invite supercar and superbike owners to buy a session from us and experience the track. We also host arrive and drive and time trials.” The BIC has hosted racing academies by Atomic Motorsport, RACR and Apex Racing Academy. Even track days for KTM riders are organised here by Apex Racing. Since the track has close to 16 gruelling corners, a high speed straight and elevations, it is also used for research and development by manufacturers, motorsport teams and performance tuners.
Arrive and Drive at India’s premiere race track
The ‘Arrive and Drive’ program gives enthusiasts an opportunity to drive a race ready car to and experience the Thrill of Driving on a race track. A 20-minute session costs Rs 7,000 for cars, Rs 4,000 for motorcycles above 500cc and Rs 3,500 for under 500cc. They also offer bonus sessions on a purchase of three sessions or more.
The latest innovation by the BIC is a membership card available at Rs 5 lakh (+GST) for 6 hours of track time and Rs 10 lakh for 13 hours of track time per year. The card can be used anytime in the year and the card holder can bring upto five guests to the circuit.
It’s all an effort by the new track management to ramp up use of the BIC’s facilities and make it more accessible to enthusiasts who can experience the joys of driving a circuit that the Indian Grand Prix winner Vettel described as, “A great circuit, which is what we judge the most… you enjoy the circuit” and 2009 F1 world champion Button chipped in with, “It’s one of the circuits which definitely gets a big tick.”
Words by Hari Kudchadkar