The Volkswagen Ameo Cup used to be called the VW Vento Cup – for 2017, Volkswagen Motorsport India decided to introduce the VW Golf based Ameo sedan for competition. The one-make race series has been around since 2009, and now consists of 10 races (with practice, qualifying and race day), and this year twenty two aspiring drivers were selected after months of grueling tests during driver selection. The races are to be held at Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore, at Madras Motor Race Track in Chennai and Budh International Circuit (a Formula 1 circuit from 2011 to 2013) near Delhi.
The Ameo is basically an enlarged Golf with a boot. Normally a subcompact runabout for the Indian market, the Ameo race version has a 205 HP/240 lb-ft torque turbocharged inline 1.8 litre 4 cylinder motor mated to a six speed sequential gearbox with XAP shifter system.
Adjustable mono-tube KW race suspension with Eibach springs can be set up according to individual driver's preferences. Tyres are provided by MRF, wrapped around 17 inch lightweight race alloys. For safety, the Ameo Cup cars come with FIA spec rollcages, fire extinguishers and OMP race seats and harnesses.
Affan Sadat Safwan
With racing experience in British Formula 4 as well as the local rallycross championship, Affan Sadat is no stranger to racing. At only 20 years old, the young talent from Chittagong participated in the 2016 Vento Cup in India and came in 7th, gaining valuable experience for this year's Ameo Cup.
Q: What kind of motorsport or motorsport training have you been involved in before?
A: I have track experience in Buddh International Circuit in India (one of the race locations for the Ameo Cup) and Brands Hatch International Circuit in the UK. Brands Hatch was also like training for me, while giving a test for my racing license.
Q: What do you expect from your participation in the VW Ameo Cup?
A: I am aiming to be the junior Champion in this season of Volkswagen Ameo cup, which consists of 10 races.
Q: How did you train for the VW Ameo Cup? How do you normally prepare for a race?
A: As there are no tracks in Bangladesh, I do plenty of racing simulation for several hours daily, which increases my accuracy in controlling the car and knowing the tracks.
Q: What do you normally drive back home?
A: I have a bone stock Toyota Starlet Glanza V with the original 4E-FTE turbo motor.
Q: Do you have any advice to other people wanting to check out motor racing?
A: I would request the government to build a track for people interested in motorsports, because there is a lot of hidden talent in the country. For now, these talented people can go to India and go through tests to get a racing license, at least of a national category so they can participate in the national races in India. It starts from the National B racing license, which I have right now.
We caught up with Avik Anwar, three-time local Rallycross champion and director of Car House Limited, to talk about his entry into the VW Ameo Cup 2017. He's a car geek through and through, and has participated in track days in Canada.
Q: What got you into track driving?
A: I started watching Formula 1 at a very young age and I wanted to be a F1 driver but obviously my circumstances didn't allow it. I went abroad to study Economics and that's when the opportunities opened up for me to explore track driving.
Q: You've won the Rallycross Championship thrice. What was that like?
A: The challenges in the Rallycross Championship did not really make me work that hard since I won once with a broken leg and once in an underpowered car, so I would say it was a stepping stone towards something bigger. I think the Ameo Cup might be that.
Q: What do you think your chances are?
A: One of the organisers saw my profile and said I should definitely be in the top 5, although it will be very challenging because the favourites to be in the top 10 are champions in some discipline or the other (open wheel, karting, etc.) in India so it won't be easy. I race to win, so let's see. It's a championship, so I don't have to win every race – consistency is key and I am good at that.
Q: How do you usually prepare before a race?
A: Fitness is a huge requirement. I have been working hard at the gym and burning at least 2500 calories a day. Sleep and diet are important as well. I watch a lot of track videos and I recently got some open wheel track experience in Canada. I also have a similarly powered car to the Ameo Cup car – a Honda Civic Type R, so I know what to expect. There's also a lot of simulation driving with Gran Turismo, which always helps.
Q: So how close is simulation racing to actual track driving, since you have experience with both?
A: The difference is huge. In real life there are so many factors that aren't simulated – wind, for example. Matching lines is also quite difficult, not to mention the physical strains on your body because of the racing suit, cabin temperatures and so on. It takes a lot of preparation, so it's not like someone can suddenly decide to be a race car driver – you have to be mentally and financially prepared.
Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore, India.
Avik Anwar going through fitness training in India.
Fitness training for drivers in India.
Start of practice session for Round 1. Car pictured is Avik Anwar's race Ameo.
Avik Anwar and Affan Sadat share a moment during fitness training.