There is always a reason to see the glass as half-full if you are willing to be open-minded, no matter how old you get...
Timing and irony really is something else. Aside from being a source of amusement, it helps one puts things into perspective as well. Much like how I saw a notification the day the United Kingdom announced a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. India had already announced its intention to only allow electric and electrified vehicles to be sold by 2030.
It just so happened that the day I saw that notification, I was in Goa for the Rain Forest Challenge India, where a Gypsy with a Baleno engine was belching out black smoke just a few minutes earlier. It struck me at that point that the country whose citizens are notorious sticklers for tradition and the ‘old ways’ - and also happens to be a major motorsport hub – had unequivocally made a statement about where the automotive industry was headed.
Not to mention things connected to it like motorsport. As far as circuit racing was concerned, the rise of Formula E and the glut of new manufacturers is sure to drive electric technology forward as the premier single seat electric series heads towards a seemingly inevitable merger with Formula 1 sometime down the line. But what do the changing winds of the automotive industry have in store for things like cross-country rallying and off-roading?
It seems pretty much unimaginable for those to exist without an internal combustion engine driving things forward, right? Well, not necessarily as far as former nine-time motorcycle national rally champion Jagat Nanjappa is concerned. The 66-year-old who won his last title twenty years ago let loose a broad grin at the very mention of electric vehicles in off-roading. He raved about how the placement of an individual electric motor at each of the four wheels would greatly improve power distribution. As well as the far fewer moving parts and near instant power delivery and torque allowing off-roaders to pull out of far stickier situations than if they were in a petrol or diesel vehicle.
He even speculated the possibility of quarter mile (approximately 400 meters) drag races being won in less than three seconds if electric motorsport applications are developed with the same zeal as internal combustion based ones were. Of course, such developments both in drag as well as circuit racing could even see drivers resort to wearing G-suits to counter the increasingly violent movements their bodies will be subjected to.
Bottom line is that every paradigm shift throws up possibilities for adaptation and innovation that can lead to some pretty spectacular results. Why spend your time pining for the way things were when you can spot and act on opportunity that could be staring you in the face?
Maybe I am being too simplistic about it, but seeing Nanjappa’s energy and enthusiasm for what could be as far as electric vehicles are concerned offers a glimpse into how a positive mindset can help one deal with big changes. It is worth noting that we didn’t address the superficial concern of sound in motorsport. Only what really mattered at the end of the day; how much power and speed one can extract from electric vehicles.
It is a challenge to let that part go of course, given the many ways available for people to reminisce about the ‘good old days’. But the infectious optimism of people like Nanjappa is a good way to start. Respect the past but embrace the future and have a bit of fun while you’re at it. After all, what’s the point of motorsport if you’re not having fun with it?