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2015 Tata T1 Prima Race Truck: Review

The Tata T1 Prima Race Truck attacks the test track like a monstrous beast swoops on its prey. Hearts pouncing, we play spectator. At My Instant Search we've driven all sorts of cars - from everyday hatchbacks to tarmac shredding sports car, and sometimes even field ploughing tractors...
2015 Tata T1 Prima Race Truck driven at the Tata test track in Pune
At My Instant Search (MIS) we've driven all sorts of cars - from everyday hatchbacks to tarmac shredding sports car, and sometimes even field ploughing tractors. We’ve been lucky to have pretty much experienced the entire spectrum. But, this Tata has somehow managed to flip us – the lot of the unshockables.
Try to imagine this - a car with the biggest slick tyres imaginable; a lofty roof twice as high as a full sized SUV; at the back the skeleton body baring its entire underpinning; and a monstrous 8.9-litre motor catapulting it in to the horizon!
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the latest Tata T1 Prima Race Truck set to compete in the season two of the truck racing series.
The rear design of the 2015 Tata T1 Prima race truck
So when I got a chance to drive and experience it on a Tata Motor’s test track before its official global unveiling, how could I chuck this rare opportunity? Now, getting in the one storied high cabin of the Tata T1 Prima Race Truck was a task in itself. The door sill was way beyond my stretch, but I somehow manage to overcome the 22.5-inch wheels, pulling myself into the cabin and finally flopping on to the specially installed bucket seat on the passenger side (usually there’s just a driver’s seat).The stripped cabin with bucket seats in the new 2015 Tata T1 Prima Race truck
As in most racing vehicles, the cabin of the Tata T1 Prima Race Truck was stripped off all its civility and has a roll-cage bolted for the driver’s protection. It neither had a dashboard nor any plastic panels to cover the mechanicals. This is what the sets of Mad Max would look like. There were a slew of switches and buttons which I could not make much sense of, but what did make sense was a stub and sporty, detachable racing steering wheel. A new addition is an over-sized rear view mirror inside the cabin.
My instructor for the moment was a burly man, on a strict high protein diet (possibly a Mad Max extra). And after a series of pre-driving rituals like sliding in the key in the ignition which lit up the driver’s console, releasing the hand brake with a ‘swishing’ sound, and ensuring that the gear lever was in the neutral position he cranked up the Tata T1 Prima Race Truck and mashed the accelerator pedal.
The Cummins sourced 8.9-litre motor roared to life, rocking the cockpit with a jolt. Instantly, the six-cylinder’s strong power rating of 375PS at 2,100rpm and gigantic torque of 1550Nm at 1,300rpm flashed in front of my eyes. I was excited and intimidated at the same time by the sheer capability of this machine and the fact that there will be dozens of these racing down the final straight at the Buddh International Circuit pretty soon. What a sight that would be?
We take the 2015 Tata T1 Prima Race truck on the test track
During the pre-drive presentation, Tata Motors executives had explained that though this is the same engine with the same power ratings that were raced last year, the team had worked non-stop to recalibrate for brisker acceleration and performance.
2015 Tata T1 Prima Racing season 2 will start at BIC
The Mad Max extra quickly shifted through the first four low gears, to make use of the remaining six higher ratio gears booming through the short-ish straight of test track. The exhaust has been chopped off to save weight, giving the Tata T1 Prima Race Truck a goose bump inducing soundtrack.
Back at the starting point, this time I was harnessed on to the driver’s seat, which by the way uses a new and more rigid seat structure. Imitating the instructor’s pre-driving ritual and crack up the motor and my throat feels dry out of excitement. This is probably the biggest racing vehicle I have driven ever. I wait for a few seconds to let this feeling sink in.
Starting with caution, I gawkily shifted through the low ratios gears to gather enough momentum for the straight and play with the remaining six high ratio gears. The short gear ratios remain unchanged but the rear axle ratio has been revised from 5.126 to 4.3 for better acceleration. And it’s surprisingly quick off its feel for a truck of this size. The engineers had mentioned that they’ve managed to snip-off 350kg from last year’s race truck by reducing not-so-important body parts, using lighter springs and fifth wheel coupling.
The new Tata T1 Prima Race Truck sheds extra leaf springs and rides lower than older model
The Tata T1 Prima Race Truck uses just three leaf springs at the back instead of the usual six, and two in front instead of the three leaf spring setup of last year. This has helped in reducing the chassis height by 55mm. It feels rather bumpy and spine rattling, like an exaggerated ride quality of sports cars, but the stiff suspension manages to control the body roll so that racers can arrow through fast corners.
The Tata T1 Prima Race Truck can hit 130kmph mark now
I gather enough courage to keep my right foot planted firmly on the accelerator, and it charges ahead with vengeance touching three digit speeds. The new truck has broken the 110kmph speed barrier of the outgoing model, and can now manage 130kmph - commendable for a five ton monster.
The only question echoing at the back of my mind was - will this “five ton monster” carrying such speed come to a stop before I run out of tarmac? So, here’s a word of advice for all first time race truck driver, like yours truly. Triple caution while braking, as the brakes are extremely sensitive and responsive on the Tata T1 Prima Race Truck. With the new pneumatic cooling system with 120-litre water tank, which replaces the older electrical system, the brakes work like a charm and shed speed in no time. Also the differential lock arrangement can make the truck skip and, in extreme cases, even turn if one does not apply the brakes progressively.
For a truck, it feels easy to manoeuvre but I was struggling to get a clear vision around turns, with the safety net on the window flapping around and a huge outer rear view mirror. Wonder how truck racers manage to maintain such speeds throughout the circuit.
There are plenty of improvements over the older truck, like revised caster on the front axle, new side coverings and impact beams as per international racing standard, addition of mudguards and also a towing hook incase the truck needs to be towed off the racetrack. Another interesting change is repositioning the tail lights to a more secure place behind the rear beams, to avoid damage in case of a rear impact.
Tata has announced the T1 Prima Truck Racing Season 2
Bringing the Tata T1 Prima Race Truck to a halt, gently, I climb down the cabin still reeling with the experience. It’s interesting to see Tata Motors add some glamour to the otherwise mundane commercial vehicle segment by intruding this racing series in India. Now I have a burning desire to see the T1 Prima Truck Racing Season 2 with 12 trucks competing on the Buddh International Circuit.


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