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Story & Photography: Aniruddha Mulgund
When we saw Suraj Aru thrash the MK-IX at the unforgiving NATRIP racetrack at the BAJA 2015 endurance race in Pithampur, we were highly impressed. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on it

The MK-IX is the ninth car built by Team Nemesis Racing of the College of Engineering, Pune (COEP), and over the eight years of their association with BAJA, the team has clinched three titles. Last year, when they finished second (hence the #2 participation number) behind GS Racers, they missed the bull’s eye by only 12 points. For a team with such an immaculate track-record, there has to be a strong reason, and when asked them about their car, the team graciously offered me a ride in it. I quickly slapped on my thin-soled shoes and racing gloves and headed to their college ground.

The first impression was good at BAJA, but the second one was even better; up-close and personal. This diminutive little buggy doesn’t look as if it was built by wrench-twiddling amateur engineering students. It weighs 160 kg only — a good 50 odd kilos lighter than its closest competitor — and the team’s experience in building ATVs is evident in the lavish use of internationally customised components. The quality of welds on the chromoly (a special material brought in from Australia, hence USP number one) multi-tubular chassis is reminiscent of the one you’d see on the trellis frame of a KTM. The fibre body work meshes with the skeleton frame and is held in place by aluminium rivets. The finish on the firewall is just as good as it is at the front braces.

The 305-cc Briggs & Stratton Intek OHV engine puts out 10 PS and sits snugly in the cage-work at the rear. This over-square engine offers a moderate grunt since the RPM is limited to 3,800 only. Nothing to write home about, but let’s not forget that this has been restricted by engine regulations in BAJA. The drive is transmitted via a CVT to a double reduction gearbox, and, finally, a custom differential. The intelligently designed differential (USP number two) eliminates the need for a bell housing, thus shaving seven kilos off conventional gearbox designs. Power is sent to the wheels wrapped in Carlisle off-roading rubber. These are mounted on compact and light custom hubs (USP number three). Braking duties are handled by twin-pot Bybre callipers that bite into the laser-cut custom rotors on all the four wheels. Suspension duties are shouldered by Fox Float 14.1-inch struts that allow the MK-IX to manoeuvre around the ruthless terrain in Pithampur. A hexagonal steering wheel sits atop the short-stem steering column, which is mated to a custom centralised steering rack (USP number four).

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