India’s top auto journalists recall their extraordinary riding experiences


We asked India’s top auto journalists for extraordinary experiences when they did something new

The first time I witnessed how car-crazy Italians really are

I’ve heard about car-mad Italians heading to Fiorano just to be able to stand outside Ferrari’s test track and watch through the cracks on the walls while the supercar maker’s drivers tested their latest cars. But to witness first-hand how passionate they are was a different experience all together. I was in Maranello, Italy, to test-drive the 458 Italia; it was just a few days since the convertible had been launched. Getting on to the highway near Ferrari’s wind tunnel facility was easy in the morning and I was taking the opportunity to drive top-down despite the nip in the air. Surprisingly, I kept hearing a lot of honking, something that is very rare on European roads. It was only after a truck driver from two lanes away honked and waved to me that I realised that they were all appreciating the car. All through the day while I drove, other cars would pull close and passengers would stick their heads out to shout ‘Bellissimo’ (handsome; alas not me!). At the lunch and coffee stops, random people came up to see the car and strike up a conversation, including a few cops. Heading back to the hotel in the evening, I was accosted by a couple of drivers in Lamborghinis who sandwiched me in between and wanted me to race them. That one sweeping, windy stretch of the highway was reverberating with the angry exhaust notes of three super cars.

S Muralidhar,

Consulting Motoring Editor, The Hindu BusinessLine

The first time I met with an accident

It was on the 1986 Himalayan Rally. My co-driver Jangoo Nicholson and I took part in a Maruti Gypsy. We were the ‘youngest and the oldest’ team as I was then 22 years old and he was 72! Jangoo (who footed the bill for the entire event) would take the ceremonial flag off everyday and would give me the wheel in the competitive sections. I was pushing hard – a bit too hard on one of the night stages near Almora – and flipped the Gypsy, which ended up upside down against the mountain side (and thankfully not in the valley below). Jangoo was sleeping and he woke up with a shock, hanging upside down like a bat! Our roll cage and four-point safety harness had done its job and luckily the only thing bruised was my ego.

Hormazd Sorabjee, Editor, Autocar

The first time I fell in love with a bike

When I was 21 years old,

Typically rash stupid and bold,

I went through a phase called the double 'A' -

My automotive adolescence so to say.

As a compromise between power and money,

I was given the Rajdoot Yamaha 350,

Yes, the one with the miserable fuel economy.

Though the four-figure petrol bills,

Gave my wallet nasty chills,

The machine gave me amazing thrills.

The bike was built for mad, suicidal speed,

And that was my strongest need.

Under me, my Rajdoot Yamaha,

And the road was my virtual Suzuka.

You feel an incomparable high,

When on the road in harmony, you fly,

The bike’s an extension of your body, you two are one,

You think about changing a gear and it's done.

Roaring into a corner you come,

The wind in your ears a loud hum.

Physics says you have to fall, and gravity does try,

But you make poor old Newton sigh,

He rolls over and over in his grave,

Wondering why, according to his laws you don't behave.

Your confidence soars,

Louder the bike roars,

The throttle is like a baton in your hand,

The pistons and the crank, the best orchestra in the land.

And it is Wagner's Valkyries to your mind,

The sound of the engine screaming toward the red line.

The adrenaline and dopamine in your blood make it boil,

But, on the next corner there's spilt diesel oil…

Then comes the fall,

With a shower of sparks, bike, you and all.

You hit the tar at a hundred and one,

Dragged along with the bike, remember you two are one,

But now it isn't so much fun.

You have burns due to friction,

And pain has reached a new dimension.

You are laid up in bed for quite a while

And now it is old Newton’s turn to smile.

The Yamaha RD350 was a cult bike the world over. In 1983, when Escorts introduced it in India as the RAJDOOT YAMAHA RD350, it gave Indian youth a taste of the wild, haywire and exhilarating speed and acceleration that motorcycling is all about. Affectionately called the Rajyams (or fearfully The Yamraj aka the God of Death), it built up a reputation that no other Indian bike comes close to. Even today, almost 3 decades after the last one was produced, for those who have experienced and owned it there is no sound as sweet and exciting as that of a Rajyams screaming at 8,000 rpm.

Rishad Saam Mehta, Automotive Writer

The first time I won a medal for something meaningful

The Isle of Man TT (IOM TT) races are among the oldest running motor races and also the most prestigious in the world. In 1986, I was racing at the Oulton Park motor raceway, UK. Bill Smith spotted me while I was riding and asked if I would like to race in the IOM TT.

One year later, in 1987, I was on the ferry from Heysham to the Isle of Man for the greatest challenge of my life. The race is held on public roads around the Isle. Each lap consists of 59.7km and the race comprises four laps (238.9 km).

It is the most demanding, challenging, and dangerous race in the world. You are travelling between stone walls and lamp-posts at more than 250 km/h.

I happen to be the only Indian to have completed the race and won a bronze medal. I have won a number of races but finishing the TT was more satisfying than winning any race.

Aspi Bhathena, Editor, Car India; Bike India

The first time I drove a vintage car

My friend once bought a car for (Euro sign)100, from the widow of its first owner, for whom it was his most prized possession. The car was about the same vintage as I am and of course I wanted to drive it. So without giving it a second thought, we decided to do an inter-continental drive with it to the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi, and while at it, we also decided to set a non-stop driving record with it!

The car was a VAZ-2101 Zhiguli, known behind the iron curtain as the Kopeyka. So in the autumn of 2012 we set out right after the Paris Motor Show. The car was old but it came with its own workshop neatly laid out in its boot, the problem being that we knew nothing about fixing a Zhiguli. Luckily our route took us through eastern Europe where everyone’s father had owned one and knew how to repair it.

When the car broke down it was quickly repaired and depending on where it broke down we had experts working on the car in minutes. When it broke down outside a school in Slovakia, we has the headmaster fixing it; when it broke down in front of a fire station in Bulgaria, we had a fire-engine-load of firemen repairing it; and when it broke down on the Turkish-border, we pushed it down the slope into Georgia where the immigration office at the border check-post wanted to leave his cubicle to get the car started again. We did set the record for non-stop driving from Vilnius to Tbilisi, and we did it in a nearly half-a-century old Lada.

Yogendra Pratap, Editor, Auto Today

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 28, 2020 7:24:32 PM |

Next Story