If there ever was an ideal way to get things started in the Volkswagen Polo R Cup this year, today's Race 1 was it. Crashes, restarts, awe-inducing overtakes and proper bumper-to-bumper racing - it was all there to be seen at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore today.
After a close qualifying session which saw the top four drivers qualify within a tenth of a second of each other, Karthik Tharani Singh beat Lee Keshav to pole position. However, on the very first lap of the race, Karthik rammed into Anshul Shah's Polo, with Venkatesh Shreyas and Prabhanjan too crashing into each other. That led to the race being red-flagged, and Karthik and Anshul hobbled into the pit lane to get their cars fixed before the race was restarted.
Karthik didn't make it out to the grid again. Anshul did.
And what a drive it was. He made a really fast start this time, and piled on the pressure on race leader Keshav. The battle was fascinating to watch - Anshul very nearly grazing Keshav's bumper in the corners, and Keshav managing to fend him off every single time. It was only a matter of time, though, and on Lap 9, Anshul sneaked up on the inside of Keshav's car, made a bit of contact, and slotted into first place.
Still, there was more to come. Anshul's aggressive overtake made sure Keshav lost composure, and Karminder Pal Singh and Angad Singh Matharoo found their way past him. On the very next lap, Karminder overtook Anshul, and on the penultimate lap, Angad pushed Anshul further down into third place.
The race ended with the top three looking like that, but the officials noticed that Karminder had gone past Anshul when the yellow flags were out, and slapped a 30-second penalty on his final time. That sent him spiraling down from first to ninth, and pushed Angad to the top spot, who was followed by Anshul (giving him his first-ever Polo R Cup podium finish) and Keshav.
At the post-race ceremony, Sirish Vissa, Head of Volkswagen Motorsport said, "This is a very nice way for me to start here as the new Head of Volkswagen Motorsport India. My team has been excellent since the beginning of the season and have worked hard behind the scenes. I hope the rest of the races are as exciting as this one. Our focus this year has been to invest in drivers and their development. What remains constant though is our endeavour of grooming of young racing talent in India from grass root level. With the inclusion of a mid-season test drive and a mid-season fitness camp we strive to increase drivers' development."
Day 1 was full of frenetic action, and if tomorrow's race is even 63.78% (calculated using infallible TopGear math) as exciting as today's run, it should make for an entertaining Sunday.