It was a relatively cloudy day at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC), which was great, because nobody wants to race under the sun in May. The clouds were out and the engines were roaring, but before giving us a first look at the official two-seater cars to be used in the league, we were given a briefing about what the league is actually going to be.
X1 or Xtreme1 is a franchise racing league which is the brainchild of renowned international racers, Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim. It will comprise eight city-based franchise teams, each comprising 2 cars and 4 drivers. Probably the most interesting aspect about the league are the drivers – in a first-of-its-kind format, the roster will include both male and female drivers, with a mix of experienced drivers and young rookies. Four venues have been decided on – the BIC in Noida, MMRT in Chennai and two other street circuits whose approvals are awaited. The league is set to take off in October this year, and will span 12 weekends, with 40 races in total.
Now, it was time to finally see the cars for the first time. They looked good, sounded fantastic and were well-built. I was pretty impressed by the build quality of these cars, and proud of the fact that these were a Make-In-India project, constructed by the engineers at KCG college of technology in Chennai. We were told to line up to take hot laps around the circuit as passengers with Armaan and Aditya in these newly unveiled cars. As soon as I was strapped in with my helmet on, the signal was given to take off, and the car hit 170 kph in no time. The experience was invigorating in its truest sense. To be driven around a race track in a car like this was thrilling, but of course, I would have enjoyed it much more if I had been the one driving it. There were way too many people waiting for their turn, and I was soon dropped off where I was picked up – just like that, it was done.
I got out of the car, composed myself and made my way towards Aditya Patel to have a little chat with him. I had to ask him what was on my mind. How on earth do you decide to start a franchise motorsport league in a country that hasn’t given much commercial importance to any sport other than cricket? He smiled and confidently said “I have been in motorsport for a few years now, and I have seen the kind of following it has in India. When there’s a Moto GP or an F1 race, you see Twitter blowing up. That’s how I knew there was an audience. Now, cricket and football will always be tough to beat, but that’s the thing about motorsport – everyone loves cars. And I think that’s what makes it so relatable. That’s what makes it so easy to enjoy.”
Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim
Soon after my chat, I was in a cab, disappointedly travelling at a boring speed of 80 kph to the airport. This is when I actually realised the power of the car I had just been in, and the cheek-flapping speeds I had experienced. I was brimming with excitement about a league like this finally being introduced, but at the same time, it got me thinking about how it would work with people who weren’t really fond of cars or were unaware of racing in general. Franchise sports like cricket, football and even kabaddi have audiences that are willing to consume them in India, but motorsports is very niche. That being said, introducing the concept of street circuits in India is long overdue, and X1 could be bringing that back in the best way possible. Also, a motorsport league like this does have a lot of room to grow and evolve. Patel mentioned how they would ideally like to grow from X1 and branch out into X1 Middle East, X2, X3 etc, and how they would like to replace the current dinosaur-juice powered cars with faster electric cars. Yes, they’re great for the planet, but part of the thrill of motorsport is listening to an internal combustion engine screaming its guts out at a racetrack, and as long as that is around, motorsport will have an audience.
• It is the world’s first professional franchise-based motorsport league
• It will consist of 8 city-based franchises
• It will include 32 male and female racers, with a balanced mix of experienced professional racers as well as rookies
• It will also hold street races, apart from professional racetrack settings
• It will host its very own large-scale E3 Sport competitions, along with actual races