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The fast and the luxurious

You are driving a lemon of a car, 12 years old, bought with borrowed money. A brand-new Ferrari appears and disappears in a flash of power and style. You are about to mutter a swearword, directed at the unknown figure at its wheel. Wait! Put yourself in his shoes. Trust me, you’ll begin to see him in a whole new light. Under one of those designer shoes lies access to incredible horsepower. He, however, cannot have it in its fullest measure. He is reined in by something called ‘speed limits’. On the fringes of Chennai, not only road bumps and men in uniform, but also bovines enforce speed limits. Agreed, a car of this nature is not just about speed. But, even to enjoy its various charms at a cruising pace, it requires stretches relatively free of traffic, human, animal and vehicular.

And then, it’s lonely at the wheel of a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. That takes him to problem number two. He needs a the community of people driving similar cars in his neck of the woods. Being in such company, he will inevitably develop a liking for their cars. That activates problem number three. To experience the full potential of the other cars, he has to plan driving holidays abroad. These outings involve hiring such cars and driving them on a scenic or a fast stretch (such as the German Autobahn).

Now that you feel inclined to commiserate with him over his difficult life, welcome to the world of hyper-car owners and the unique challenges they face as they try to experience such cars meaningfully.

The Madras Exotic Car Club, founded in 2012 by Manoj Lulla, is an effort at tackling a part of this ‘problem’. Drawn from various brands, the cars in the club vary. Some are built for performance. Some, for luxury. And some others, for a bit of both. The element common to these machines is that they are unusual and less-seen.

Going by its posts and popularity on Facebook and personal testimonies by a few of its members, this club seems to have forged a community of people, who own such cars and want to hang out together.

“There are around 25 members. And around 30 cars, including the finest examples of Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Bentley, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz AMG, Audi and BMW M-series,” says Lulla, who worships his Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4. Anyone who has asked him for its keys, knows just how much.

The group meets on Sundays for what is called a breakfast drive. “It often starts around 5.30 a.m., when we hit ECR or GST Road. We conscientiously follow rules. These cars can be enjoyed without driving them fast. We cruise. While enjoying driving our own, we enjoy looking at others’,” says Lulla.

These weekly trips provide a high. But it is not enough. So, every few months, members say, they meet at the Irungattukotai racetrack. Everyone agrees this is great fun. But their hearts crave for more. And the craving is satisfied only by newer driving experiences, in other cars and other places. As they combine magnificent machines with scenic stretches and terrific tracks, these outings make memorable pages in enthusiasts’ motoring albums.

On invitation, Lulla has driven a C63 AMG, a CLA45 AMG and an A45 AMG on a frozen lake, 100 km from Salzburg, an Audi R8 V10 at Seville in Spain, and a Lamborghini LP 550-2 Gallardo at the F1 track in Malaysia.

The excitement is palpable as Varun, another modern car enthusiast who owned a Jaguar XF not very long ago and drives a Volvo V40 now, relates the experience of driving a Jaguar XKR-S at the Buddh International Circuit, on invitation from the car major. Varun travels often to France on business. There, he has hired cars, including a Ferrari F430 Spider, and headed out on fun trips. “The roads of France make for unforgettable driving experiences,” says the auto enthusiast.

Balsingh George seeks driving experiences in Europe, regularly. “On an average, I do four trips every year. Sometimes, six,” he says.

He manages to organise these drives across Europe, involving hired cars, because he has a house in Switzerland. From the mountain passes in Switzerland to sections of the German Autobahn, where speed controls are relaxed on some sections, these drives provide variety — the reason he does them year after year.

He, however, has an interesting revelation to make. He has driven his SL600 to Kodaikanal and his Ferrari 458 Italia to Krishnagiri.

And this is what he says: “Driving conditions in India are more challenging. And therefore, more interesting.”

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 5:49:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-niche-world-of-chennais-hypercar-owners/article6321378.ece

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