Saurav Bandyopadhyay made a successful return to the racing arena in 2017, earning plenty of plaudits for his campaign in the inaugural Volkswagen Ameo Cup.
Bandyopadhyay last raced in the 2012 season of the Polo Cup before sponsorship issues forced him to sideline racing.
At the beginning of the year, he stumbled upon a video of VW’s new 205-bhp Ameo car. And having racked up enough cash over the last five years, he felt now was the time to get back into the driving seat.
“I’ve been trying to get back to it every year,” he told Motorsport.com. “Funds were an issue. But I was saving up money, bit by bit. So, this year I was ready with the funds.
“I saw some videos of pre-season testing that [National Champion and VW test driver] Karthik Tharani had posted on Instagram. The car looked incredible going into C1 at the Chennai track. I had to drive this.
“So I was really, really excited to drive this car. I pushed hard and made it happen somehow.”
Despite registering a few days before the pre-season test, which in turn took place on the same weekend as the first round, Bandyopadhyay took little time to get on top of the Ameo racecar. During his very first weekend, he was racing at the sharp end of the pack.
“Getting to grips with the car was not the issue,” he said. “I think during pre-season testing, the first or second session itself I was among the top five or six.
“The work that was required was going from that top five to the top took a little time.”
It took precisely two rounds or just four races before Bandyopadhyay was fighting for the elusive race win. In the opening race of Round 3 and the Thane-based driver eased to a 7.3s victory to show that he had lost none of it in the five years he spent away from racing.
More creditable performances followed in the next few races, including a victory in Round 4. However, the final two races of the season didn’t go according to plan, dropping him down to fourth in the standings.
It was at that point that he realised that his five-year hiatus had had some detrimental effects. While there was never a question about his pace, as proved by his pole lap, lack of wheel-to-wheel experience meant that he became vulnerable to rivals in a tightly-contested season finale.
“The last week after I came back was not good and I was pretty disappointed,” he rued. “It took a few days to get over it.
“But I’ve not raced for a while. So while racing in the pack, I was still a little tentative, especially in the wet race. I made a mistake and lost three places.
“But going into the last race, I was still starting third. I was confident but one of them made a very aggressive move on me and I lost three places right at the start.
“I got really angry but when you drive in anger you are not putting in the best lap. Then I even retook a place and I was making another move. I just braked super late, went into the grass and lost three places again. So, keeping my composure was an issue racing in the pack.”
Having expressed dissatisfaction over not finishing as high in the championship as he would have liked to, Bandyopadhyay is now eager to return next season and fight for the title.
“Yes, definitely. That's the goal,” he said. “After the pace I’ve shown, it’s definitely a reason for me to work harder and get the money together.
“Whether it’s my own money or sponsor money, either way I really want to be there and have a shot at the championship.”