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Coordinates: 13°12′37″N 80°09′08″E / 13.21036°N 80.15213°E / 13.21036; 80.15213

Sholavaram is a quiet town 24 km (15 mi) north of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is primarily known for its Lake and the motor racing track.

Sholavaram lake is one of the many water bodies that are used as water sources for Chennai.

The race track once used to be an air strip during World War II; racing events were conducted between the early 60's and well into the late 80's. Racing events usually took place during the month of February every year until the Madras Motor Sports Club built a new track at Irungattukottai near Sriperumbudur just outside Chennai. The Sholavaram race track still evokes strong memories and nostalgia from several drivers and spectators.

Racing categories included Mopeds(sub 50cc bikes), Scooters, 100cc motorbikes, 250cc motorbikes, 350cc+ motorbikes, Superbikes and Cars like Fiats, Standard Heralds, Dolphins, Ambassadors, Indian formula cars and custom-built 4 wheeler open class cars. Some of the most powerful cars from Formula 5000s, Formula Two and Formula Atlantics participated during the racing events.

While the Sholavaram races was a boon for the local nascent talent,over the years it started attracting overseas riders and drivers. The most famous contingent was from neighboring Sri Lanka (Ceylon then..)with names like U.D Jinadasa,Raja Perera on their YAMAHA TZR and Zacky Deen as regulars. Towards the end (late 80's) even some riders from Malaysia (Sonny Soh,Abdul Aziz) and UK pitched in with their effort to give an even more wider international flavor. Notable local riders on imported bikes were Sherif Dyan and his nephew Hasmat Sheriff- who probably had a lightning good reflex to be out of the blocks ahead of the pack!Other famous local riders on Indian bikes were Subash Chandra Bose,Royapuram Abdullah (his daughter Alisha is now a racer of high standing), Royapuram "RD"Santosh, "Bullet" Bhasky to name a few,Dr.Saboo,Kamlesh,Shanbag made it an absolutely memorable period with their modified Heralds and Fiats.The legendary Kari ushered in the era of modified Maruti Single seater racing car which eventually paved the way to some big names emerging in this field like Vicky,Akbar Ebrahim and others.

Race track is still present but with some damages and it is used for four wheeler driving lessons.

Sholavaram is now used For Rc Flying for Many Aeromodelling Enthusiast in the city. Every Sunday Morning there will be Flying Meet Organized by Local Radio Control Aircraft Flyers with At least 50 RC Planes and Helicopters lined up for Flying . Many People come just to watch the Planes flying in Air with a great amusement

Notable drivers[edit]

The track in its heyday attracted drivers from Sri Lanka, United Kingdom and other European Countries.

Notable cars[edit]

Apart from Ambassadors, Premier Padmini's and Standard Heralds, many formula cars have scorched the track. FISSME's (also known as Formula Maruti) made its debut here in the tracks in the last year 1988.


The track was originally an unused Worldwar II air strip with a T-Shaped layout with long straights. The main straights had a long grandstand where the spectators had the full view of the racing action and the pits. This track attracted the crowds, making the stands jampacked during the motor races. The tight nature of the track and the inexperience of some drivers resulted in many drivers straying on to the haystacks in the runoff areas, much to the merriment of the onlookers. In later years, S-shaped-chicanes were added to make the track more challenging.

Typical racing schedule in the 80s[edit]

The races typically used to be held on the first Sunday of February. The races used to commence at 8AM and go on till 4PM. The morning schedule was devoted to short races and two wheelers. Typical races in this segment used to be sub-50cc motorcycles, 100cc bikes, scooters and 250cc Jawa and Yezdi bikes. Indian made Fiats, Ambassadors and Heralds used to race next. Then, the attention used to shift to the more serious and speedier races involving 350cc bikes (International) and Formula India and Formula open class cars. These were the sprints typically lasting 4 to 6 laps.

The afternoon longer races of 15 to 25 laps. An interesting feature used to be the that multiple championships would be held in the same race, mixing different kinds of vehicles. It was not unusual to see a Formula India open seater car of Karivaradhan trying to lap a much more heaveier and lumbering Ambassador car.

Classic car racing battles of the 80s[edit]

  • Maharajkumar of Gondal, AD Jayaram, Maharajkumar of Wadhvan, David Peiris
  • B Vijayakumar vs Niaz Ali "Spirit of Calcutta" (Fiat battles)
  • Farad Bathena, Kamlesh Patel, Sunil Shanbhag, Karivaradhan (1980)
  • Vicky Chandok v Vijay Mallya
  • Vijay Mallya v Jim Crawford

Prominent Bikers of the 80s[edit]

  • Hazieman bin Abdul Aziz and Sonny Soh (1979)
  • G Subash Chandra Bose - most award winning Indian biker at Sholavaram
  • Chris Mortimer
  • Sadao Asami (then ranked #4 in the world )

The atmosphere[edit]

Being the Mecca of Indian racing, the atmosphere at Sholavaram was electric with a buzz around Indian and international racers. The stands were made of casuarina poles. Detailed program guides were available for a price for the spectators, meticulously listing every category, race, driver, car and badge number. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu used to attend the races. Frequent announcement of cricket scores would add to the rapturous ovation of the spectators. Since the racing venue was away from Chennai, the return of the spectators after the event would be a dangerous imitation of the races of the day.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Madras Motor Sports Club [7]
  • Niaz Ali's Two Seater racing car [8]
  • FMSCI,then Motorsports Governing Body [9]
  • Maharaj of Gondal's Jaguar XK 150 [10]