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Made in Coimbatore, raced by Mick Schumacher

The only two formula car manufacturers in the country are in Coimbatore. So, if you want to buy a race car or start a championship, Kovai is where you come down to.

Updated: Nov 29, 2017, 11.51 AM IST
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Besides making cars race in European tracks, the city is also known for manufacturing the most affordable formula or race cars in the world.
Besides making cars race in European tracks, the city is also known for manufacturing the most affordable formula or race cars in the world.
(This story originally appeared in on Nov 29, 2017)
Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher's son Mick, a promising star on the international racing circuit, drives three races a year in a formula car manufactured in "namma kovai". Formula racers Freddie Hunt and Mathias Lauda, sons of Formula One legends James Hunt and Nikki Lauda, too race in Kovai-made cars. Ondipudur to be precise.

The only two formula car manufacturers in the country are in Coimbatore. So, if you want to buy a race car or start a championship, Kovai is where you come down to.

Every year, around 22 drivers who participate in the MRF Challenge Championship, drive Kovai-made Formula 2000 cars on tracks in Dubai, Bahrain and Chennai. These cars are designed and manufactured completely by city-based J A Motorsport, the motorsports division of the automobile designing and engineering company Jayem Automatives. They are the only formula car manufacturers in Asia tohave their cars driven in Europe and by European drivers.

J A Motorsport, which was started by Jayem Automotives in 2008 to manufacture 32 track day car kits for a French manufacturing company, today has more than 50 formula racing cars in two classes - MRF 1,600 and MRF 2,000 - and track day cars. "It was around the time that the Indian Grand Prix was announced that MRF decided to develop racing cars and approached us because they knew our engineering capabilities," said former formula three champion and managing director of J A Motorsports J Anand.

"Our car's design and quality is so good that it gives top drivers like Mick Schumacher the confidence to drive them. Our cars can now be challenged or driven in any circuit in Europe," said Anand who was crucial in the company signing an agreement with Dallara, one of the bestformula car manufacturers in the world.

Besides making cars race in European tracks, the city is also known for manufacturing the most affordable formula or race cars in the world. The credit for this goes to city-based L G Balakrishnan and Brothers Company Limited, which also owns Kari Speedtrack. Whileformula cars abroad cost at least 1,00,000 euros, this company based in Ganapathy manufactures formula cars for Rs 3.5 lakh. "The aim was to bring in the lowest cost of racing in the world to India," said former formula racer and automobile designer L G B Vijayakumar.

Vijayakumar decided to design a new car using the Maruti 800's engine and ensuring that every part for it could be bought off the shelf, from any Maruti dealership, in 2000. It took him a year but he came out with a set of 16 cars in 2001 called the LGB 1300, which can go up to speeds of 170 kmph.

The main challenge in the industry seems to be the lack of sponsorship. "Manufacturing race cars cannot be the main business but only a hobby that you can hope to break even with," said Vijayakumar. "We need more race tracks and race drivers and only then will more people venture into manufacturing race cars," he said.

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