'F1 the catalyst that changed the way things work in Indian motorsport'


SIRISH Vissa, the head of Volkswagen Motorsport India, is responsible for infusing new ideas, promoting new talent for the overall development of Motorsport as a leading sport in India.

A serial entrepreneur with close to two decades of domestic and international Motorsport experience, Vissa has been instrumental in the foundation and success of two companies (Shineyu Engineering Technologies Private Limited and Racetech) into the manufacturing and automotive sectors. 

He is also one of the only Indians to master motorsport engineering by playing a significant role in developing a car for the prestigious 24 hours LeMans endurance* race.

Vissa offers his perspective to 
Nikhil Jadhav on Indian Motorsport in general and the newly launched Vento Cup in particular.


Looking back on the 5 years that the Polo R Cup has been running, could you outline how it has benefited the Volkswagen brand?
For a company like VW who is late entrant into the Indian market, Polo Cup definitely helped us build a very strong brand image and with Polo Cup we have reached a completely different target audience wherein we emphasized the quality of the cars in terms of reliability and performance and robustness when pushed to the limit, so its a very strong brand building activity for us.

So why was the need to shift to Vento cup when Polo R Cup was providing you a good brand awareness?
There are several reasons for that, one is after 5 years of Polo cup we wanted to refresh everything and Vento was designed specifically for India. So it made more sense for us to race something that was designed for our market. Another reason was we need to bridge the gap, we need to give our drivers cars which are bigger (sedan) which are easier for them to adapt,as most of the cars in international races are sedan.

Could you offer an idea as to the investments that go into mounting and delivering a property like the Polo R-Cup?
Polo R Cup is over, lets not talk about that but with reference to Vento Cup the entry or driver fee for junior or pro is 8 lacs (Rs800,000), for senior is 12 lacs (Rs1.2 million) and international driver is 14 lacs (Rs1.4 million).
When do you plan to gradute drivers from Vento Cup to series in Europe?
We have already been sending drivers through our Polo R Cup like Rahil was a part of Shiroku Cup. Currently our motive is to give drivers a platform to test and hone their skills. 

Do we see more venues this year for Vento Cup?
I think we should and we have only one more venue to go that is Chennai and i have been told that most of the issues that were holding us are sorted so Chennai should not be a problem. We want to explore new places as last year we had an invite from Sri Lanka and we wanted to go over there as there are lot of motorsports lovers over their but we could not go due to business decisions. But if we consider all the curcuits in our country i think we should be there.

Last few year we saw Vento cars practicing in Polo R Cup, was this the kind of ground work activity you started for Vento Cup?
Yes, in anything that we do we spend lot of time in developing the cars. We wanted to understand the dynamics of the car and how we can make it better and faster.

Do you plan for rally this year?
No, our main focus this year will be the Vento Cup but we are present in rally in the sideway as a part of our customers program, we got around 16 customers as a part of customer sports initiative.

How many total entries you expect in each class?
We are expecting around 20-24 entries in total, but we are expecting more of junior & pro class entries than the senior and international. 

Are you looking to develop a team culture backed by a company?
No with Vento Cup we are not looking to do that.

Do the drivers get the training throughout the year or for a limited period?
The process is we select the driver and put them through a very intensive training program before the first weeknd of the race.So we carry out this process throughout the entire season.

Calender for racing?
It starts in June and ends in November in Delhi

Indian Motorsport took a huge hit after the F1 story was short lived. How did / do patrons of motorsport such as yourself handle the negative fallouts from such a setback?
The situation is not that bad, but the delight that we motorsport lovers have is all our domestic racing get their grand stands full. If there are 20,000 audience filling up the stands to see our racing which happened last year, i think that should be encouraging signs. Its unfortunate at the moment the F1 is not a part of our country but we have the best facilities, best infra and training i dont think it will be long to get F1 back in India. 

The naysayers say that Indian motorsport today is back to where it was in 2010 before F1 came to India. What would you say to them and what does the future hold in your view?
I dont think so we are back in 2010, and also lets give credit to F1 as they opened the door for us and today we are cashing on it, also when we say we got 20,000 people filling up stands to watch a domestic championship racing it never happened before this. On the other hand we have also started producing good events, making new programs for the drivers so all in all its a good situation that is panning out today and it is totally backed by a particular industry. So right now the industry is in a good health and the sport gets lot of support because of that. Moving forward we see everything going our way, we got the best facilities, best technology, best programs for drivers and because of which we see drivers at the age of 14-16 fighting for the honours and not in their 20's which was the case earlier.

F1 was the catalyst that changed the way lot of things worked in motorsport in India but because of that the whole ecosystem has picked up.