With his race cars getting the thumbs up from international drivers like Tio Ellinas and his company working as an extension of Tata Motors, there’s no stopping J Anand on and off the track.
Just back after the Airtel Indian Grand Prix, Jayachandran Anand is evidently happy with the performance of his F2000s at the support race on the Buddh International Circuit. The MD of Jayem Automotives Ltd (JAL) is gearing up to head to the Middle East, where his cars will be débuting internationally at 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship in Bahrain. We catch up with him ahead of his trip and he takes us for a tour of the garage of his race car manufacturing unit, JA Motorsport, nestled between Jayendra Saraswati Vidyalaya and Govt Boys High School in Singanallur. “This is the first time that an Indian made car (similar to a F3 car) is being driven outside the country by top European drivers, some of whom have tested Formula 1,” the former racing champion points out, as he pulls up in front of the garage.
The F word
The F2000 is a collaboration with Italian company Dalarra, who have worked with almost every super car manufacturer from Ferrari to Buggati. Some of you may recall Narain Karthikeyan driving the 210 hp car around Express Avenue, Chennai, last year when it was unveiled. All 20 of the F2000s are in Bahrain preparing for their big day, Anand tells us, as we walk past the line up of F1600s. Otherwise reticent, Anand lights up as he starts talking about cars. “We have a team of around 32 Europeans and 50 Indians working on these cars,” he adds about the support staff. “Each of them has individual tasks and a check list, with no room for error as the drivers sit one inch above the ground, travelling at 250 kms an hour.” We don’t have to take his word for it; after all, these cars have been crash tested by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) in Italy and approved.
A very approachable person, he has contributed a lot to motor sports. For me, he was my idol when I started racing. He’s one of the best talents we have produced — VR Naren Kumar, seven time INRC Champion
The F2000 is not the only big toy Anand can boast about, what with the two-seater Inde 2.0 already giving super cars a run for their money on the track. What started as a conversation with a few friends sparked the idea for a track car that would be cheaper than super cars, but perform just as good. “After a couple of laps, the super cars start giving problems and it is very expensive to repair them and there is a waiting period for spares as well,” Anand points out, adding that they decided it was time India had something like the track cars in Europe. “The Inde 2.0 is faster than some super cars by close to 10 seconds a lap! The idea is to buy the car, put it on your trailer, hire a track and drive,” he exclaims. What’s more, this two-seater that resembles a Le Mans car allows you to take a friend along for the drive. “We have got a lot of inquiries from within the country and the Middle East as well,” says Anand about the Inde 2.0 that costs approximately `48 lakhs plus taxes, with a waiting period of just about four months. He also shares that the FMSCI has plans for a series for gentlemen drivers. “The Indian Federation is also interested in promoting it as when the cars are being bought by enthusiasts and business people who own large corporations, they in turn tend to sponsor young drivers,” Anand explains. Though he says that the plans are still being worked out, he says we could expect a three-hour endurance series where a gentleman and a professional will be sharing the car.
From cotton to car city?
JAL, the parent company of JA Motorsport, are primarily into automotive research and development and also happen to be the strategic partner of Tata Motors. With an association of over nine years, the city was taken by surprise when Ratan Tata visited JAL along with Cyrus Mistry just days before the former’s retirement last December. Keeping their plans highly confidential, all Anand shares is that they have “exciting things” lined up. “We are working as an extended part of Tata Motors and coming up are some new models and variants of existing models,” is all he reveals.
That said, Anand does share his opinion on the potential of Coimbatore as a racing hub. “The city is very entrepreneur driven. We have the best colleges and produce good engineers and blue collar man force. Apart from the power cuts, which is a big problem, we have other things like the raw materials taken care of,” he says, adding that despite this he finds it easier to attract people to work for them at their Pune unit than in Coimbatore. “That’s because the city needs more entertainment. We hire a lot of young engineers and managers and at the end of they day they need to go out somewhere. Thankfully we now have two malls and a lot of new restaurants coming up, so I think we’re slowly seeing a change,” he explains.
Racing then and now
Having worked with the legendary Karivardhan (former racer, designer and MD of Lakshmi Mills) before getting into automotive research and development himself, one could say that racing is Anand’s biggest inspiration. “He prepared my first Maruti 800. At that time the Dolphin was the fastest car and the 800 was the only front wheel drive car in India. That meant you have to drive unconventionally to be fast. I was able to do that and Karivardhan and me proved that the Maruti 800 was the car to race in,” he recalls. After racing the Formula Maruti, Anand went on to become a five-time Formula 3 champion, but ask him about his most memorable race car and his answer comes without any hesitation. “The Fiat 1100 or the Premier Padmini,” he bursts into a broad smile for the first time in our conversation as he recalls racing in what was once a cult car. “It was very unreliable — we used to to modify the car to such an extent back in the 1980’s that the Fiat used to produce close to a 100 hp. The engine was like a grenade and you would not know when it was going to blow,” he laughs. “You had to be careful and know how to push the car. It was very difficult to get parts and imports were restricted. Even a helmet was difficult to get. That made us become self sufficient — we had to make everything ourselves and learn new things,” he reminisces. So where does he see the industry heading in the near future? “Right now hybrid cars are picking up. But world over, electric cars will be the next big thing,” he concludes.