Performance tuning and motorsport in India is still a long way from the level it should be or it is capable of achieving, the country produces more engineers than it knows what to do with! That being said, the country is home to the fastest SOHC 1.5-litre Honda City VTEC, not just in India, but also in the world!
Joel Joseph who owns and runs Race Concepts, a tuning garage and motorsport team, located on the outskirts of Bangalore, India, built the car with an aim of revolutionising drag racing in the country. Joel in fact has garnered a lot of attention for his work over the past couple years having pretty much dominated the drag racing scene in the country along with numerous wins and championship titles in the National Road Racing Championship. Joel is the country’s most accomplished tuner when it comes to Hondas, and a visit to his workshop reveals an array of both specially tuned road cars as well as racecars, all embellished with a big “H” on their nose, though his crown jewel is a car that looks more out of an episode of the Jetsons than a car that was once meant for the road.
With India’s burgeoning car market adding newer models to the road by the year, a big question was why use a car from 2002? Joel’s answer was immediate where he touched on the car’s capable D15B VTEC 1,500cc engine as well as highlighting the fact that, “In order to strike the right balance between reliability and performance, it’s important to get an all rounder, which the old 2002 Honda City VTEC is. It’s light and nimble and comes with trusted Honda engineering which in turn means the basics are right.” The car currently produces a mind boggling 600 bhp!
The journey though, to a supercar shaming 600 bhp has been long and arduous. Joel in fact began tinkering with Honda engines in 2010, a full 7 years ago. The biggest challenge cited by him in terms of building the car was finding the right balance between, affordability and performance. The interesting part about that statement is the fact that the team at Race Concept have had to manufacturer their own bespoke parts in order to keep costs down, often finding a balance to accommodate the more expensive imported parts such as the transmission, clutch, engine components, chassis, composite body parts and electronics.
The next big challenge was reliability. “The engine of the car was tested extensively and was run in for approximately 10,000 km before being placed into the drag chassis.” Says Joel who also highlights how though the engine is ideal for tuning, “It can also end in disaster when done incorrectly.” In fact Joel seems equally proud of the car’s reliability as he is of the overall performance figures he and his team have been able to achieve. The final challenge touched on by Joel was the, “manufacturing and sourcing of race parts – Such an injectors, fuel pumps, ignition coils, clutch, mechanical components etc which are part of upgrades or wear and tear.” He has an extremely valid point when he says, “Since our country does not have any performance vendors or outfits, it’s a challenge to import and get them in time, just in case you have a very tight deadline. And its expensive to stock them due to the high costs involved.”
It’s good to see the hard work pay off as the car has taken top honours and beat the quarter mile times of various supercars, and the car currently clocks a time of 11 seconds in the quarter which makes the fastest in the country. Coming to the future of drag racing in India, Joel sees no reason why India can’t match standards elsewhere given the right kind of investment. “The fact that a drag race requires far less infrastructure than road racing or rallying makes it easier for organisers to schedule more events” says Joel, “In fact if we have a few dedicated Drag Strips there is no reason why we can’t have international standards.”
There is no doubt that this behemoth produced by Race Concepts is right now the poster car for drag racing in India. Built not bought seems to be accompanying slogan for the car at the end of each drag event. Which is a saying coined more by fans of the car as opposed to the folks at race Concepts. As for the title of this article, I’ll leave you with the following videos to make my point. Here’s looking forward to the next iteration of India’s homegrown supercar slayer! Photos via Race Concepts.