We’re rather fortunate, in 2019. A mere decade ago, the choices you had if you wanted a go-faster ride were limited to a chosen few, or to do-it-yourself. We’ve had a long tradition of the latter in the motorsport world, but here are a few firms that can help you out with your street sled.
ANANT PITHAWALA, N1 RACING
The story of Anant and N1 Racing is – quite literally – ‘race on Sunday, sell on Monday’. Back in 2005, N1 started importing and selling go-faster parts for cars, especially for the motorsport market. It wasn’t great business, but that was what they did. Then in 2009, Pithawala got into racing. He and a few friends prepped a Maruti Esteem for what was then called the Indian Touring Car Championship. They did well, got noticed, and business picked up.
While he has been through the grind, tuning whatever was locally available and what customers rolled into the shop with, these days N1 Racing does brisk business with VW-group cars — Skodas, Volkswagens and Audis. The reason, says Pithawala, is that they’re popular cars internationally, and so have a great deal of support in the aftermarket. In particular, turbo cars with either petrol or diesel motors have the most promise to make more power reliably.
“A Stage 1 remap for VW-group cars, or most diesel, in fact, is the least you can do. You’ll typically get 20-30 per cent more power. Prices start as low as Rs 20,000 for a remap, and can go up to Rs 1.5 to 2 lakh”, he says. His favoured ride these days – one he himself is building for motorsport – is a Skoda Laura 1.8 TSI. He’s tuned 18 of them so far, and no one makes less than 300 bhp.
N1 RACING – Mumbai, 98212 21791
Prices start at Rs 20,000 for a Stage 1 engine remap
ACHINTYA MEHROTRA, AM RACING
Another example of racing turning into a business opportunity, Mehrotra imports and sells go-faster parts for JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cars. Who says motorsport doesn’t pay in India? AM Racing is a company he set up in 2016, and he’s been participating in Autocross and Gymkhana events since 2008. In fact, he’s the only Indian to win a Gymkhana event – the Asia Auto Gymkhana Competition last year. His weapons of choice are the Maruti Suzuki Swift and Ignis, and he claims to have both the fastest Swift and fastest Ignis in the country, which should excite a great many folks who own these popular cars.
Mehrotra keeps it simple by selling proven parts to enhance the performance of Japanese cars. He finds the light, agile and cost-effective to work on, but stays away from the “tuner” tag, preferring to leave the engine mods to others. His catalogue includes wheels, brake pads, lowering spring and air filters for JDM-spec cars, and he will import speciality items on order for these cars as well.
AM RACING – New Delhi, 95994 97155
Prices start at Rs 7,000 for pads, Rs 23,000 for springs
MANIK BHARDWAJ, RACETECH
If you’ve been even peripherally involved with supercars – as an owner, an owner’s friend, business or as an automotive journalist – chances are that you’ve heard of Bhardwaj. Racetech, a company he set up after stints working with Audi and Porsche, is the premier supercar shop in India, boasting the sort of work that was previously unheard of outside the hallowed halls of speciality tuners in Europe. We know for a fact that his client roster includes the whos-who of the well-heeled, but he keeps it discreet.
For his part, Bhardwaj considers his customers to be extended family. Understandably, it’s not the sort of crowd one nickel-and-dimes with, but he’ll get the job done if it’s for one of his own, no matter how small. For one supercar owner, he had an old Maruti 800 restored to factory spec, because of an emotional attachment — it was the customer’s father’s first car. It’s a far cry from a multi-crore supercar, but there you go.
To give you a sense of just how specialised Racetech’s work and reputation is, they’re responsible for the only TechArt GT Street R in the country – it’s a supercar built on top of a Porsche 911 that is usually only possible to build or buy in Germany, at the TechArt facilities. Racetech is the first company outside Germany to have built this custom spec for a customer, and it serves as a model for other shops around the world doing super-speciality work. 720 bhp, 920 Nm. #MakeInIndia? Fuck, yeah.
That’s not to say that Racetech won’t take care of your more mass-market Lambos, Ferraris, Audis or BMWs – those are very much part of the usual workday, as are the odd European track jaunt for the extended family.
RACETECH – Bengaluru, 080 4171 2727
Prices start at “if you have to ask…”
PRATAP JAYARAM, MANTRA RACING
The Jayaram family is the stuff of legend in automotive and motorsport circles. In three generations, they’ve contributed immensely to the community, and are a household name. Pratap Jayaram and his son, Sharan, run Mantra Racing, and their stuff is, well, the stuff of legend.
Pratap Jayaram has been intimately involved with Reva – India’s original electric car – since the very first one, and continues to do prototyping for electric vehicles for all major Indian manufacturers. That’s a significant endorsement in itself. It is unusual, then (but not surprising), that he himself has built and occasionally races a Reva with a 1300cc Hayabusa motorcycle engine. We haven’t seen it go, but we’d try not to blink.
Mantra Racing is also one of the few tuner houses that cater to bikes as well as cars. Most Kawasaki ZX10R superbikes in India, for instance, tend to run their special tunes. They’re fairly egalitarian as well, with many developments for small-capacity local bikes. They’ll do ECU remaps for KTM 390s and Pulsar 200s, for instance. Jayaram races a Maruti Baleno that’s been significantly enhanced from stock. How enhanced? “We’ve spent Rs 60 lakh on the mods,” he explains. For that amount of money spent on an economy hatch, I’d expect escape velocity. But that’s just me.
With a wide swathe of activities, decades of experience and interesting local developments, Mantra Racing is the worst-kept secret in automotive tuning.
MANTRA RACING – Bengaluru, 098866 16036
Prices start at several thousand to several lakhs. Speciality builds and products only