A dustbin-sized exhaust hangs off the back of an Evo X parked in a sleepy bylane of Bangalore. We are in search of the #BrenGarage, a supercar fleetI recently discovered on Instagram, and by the go-faster stickers adorning the Evo’s flanks we’ve come to the right place.
We present ourselves at imposing black gates that slide open to reveal a leafy and rather spacious courtyard. In one corner is a Cayenne but before my eyes can pick out whether it’s a regular diesel or a full-on Turbo my attention is diverted by a big ol’ wing perched on the rump of a 997 Turbo sitting on searing red wheels. Manik, our friend from Racetech, coughs politely and diverts my attention to another Turbo, this one a blue 991.2 Turbo S. Something catches the corner of my eye. It’s a Macan Turbo. And none of these cars are why we’ve come to Bangalore in the first place.
We’ve come to check out the evo Car of the Year, only one example of which has been delivered in India and the Bren Garage is its home. In Porsche circles this is A Very Big Deal – you can’t just walk into a Porsche dealership and write a cheque for a 911 R. Crazy as it may sound in this day and age where manufacturers – Porsche included – are on a relentless quest to increase numbers, cars like the 911 R remain super exclusive. You have to be approved by headquarters to turn over a ridiculously large sum of money for a 911 R.
The 911 R isn’t here, well not in the courtyard at least. The Bren Garage is one level down, in the basement, and we are led down a flight of stairs to be greeted by a searing yellow Huracan. Next to it is an Aston DBS, an earlier generation R8 V10 Plus, a 458 Speciale, another 911, a Cayman GT4 and the car we’ve come to see, the 911 R. And that’s when it dawns on me – the Bren Garage has three of the past evo Cars of the Year! The Ferrari 458 Speciale (2015 eCOTY), the Porsche Cayman GT4 (2016 eCOTY), and the Porsche 911 R (2017 eCOTY). Ridiculous!
Evo India might be only three years old but the evo Car of the Year tradition goes back 17 years andis one of the most coveted sports car titles anywhere in the world. Even though many of the eCOTY contenders aren’t on sale in India (new NSX, M4 GTS, Golf GTI), the idea behind lavishing half the real estate in the Indian edition every January was to educate you, dear reader, and ourselves too, on the best sports and performance cars in the world. With our finger on the pulse of the Indian enthusiast we also knew that some of the stand out cars would find their way to Indian garages. But to find all three eCOTYs under one roof? I can’t help but ask Boopesh Reddy, the man behind the Bren Garage, if it’s a mere coincidence.
“I really don’t know. I think I made decisions every year according to my gut feel. And coincidentally evo also rated the cars very highly. The decisions about Speciale and the 911 R were never looking at evo, I ordered it before evo magazine announced it (as eCOTY) in 2014 and 2016. But the 2015 eCOTY, GT4, I did look at the review and said, let me buy it.”
The 458 Speciale is the only Ferrari in his garage and on the way here Manik and I were talking about why only 4 Speciales (one an Aperta) have been sold in India whereas the 488 count is already well over a dozen. Granted the 488 is faster and more technologically advanced but the Speciale is just… special. It is the last of the breed, the naturally aspirated Ferrari, and it’s just blindingly obvious that it will be an instant collector’s item.
“I think it depends on the maturity of the person”, says Boopesh who has driven it at the BIC and just two days before we met did another track day at the MMRT. “The naturally aspirated engine gives great response on the track and the engine’s sound is like music to your ears. When you drive it on the track, it brings happiness, a smile to your face.
Boopesh, like all sensible enthusiasts, clocks most of his miles on the track. “I love to drive my cars. It’s about the
performance, the capability. In India, the best way is to take it to the track and that’s where you will know what the
cars are made of and you’ll discover many more things as a driver.”
“These high performance cars are capable of handling track days, they’re not like cars 20 years ago, the engineering has gone way ahead. The parts are getting lighter and more durable, look at the carbon ceramic brakes as an example. They can be used on the track and there will be no wear and tear except for the tyres.”
At the last track day at the MMRT he did 100 laps in the Cayman GT4. “I had a lot of fun in the Speciale but I did miss something. Most of my life was spent in manual cars so I thought that the Cayman GT4 is the car that I just have to pick up. And I think that was a fantastic decision.” These days anything above 20 lakh rupees is sold exclusively with an automatic transmission, so much so that Porsche haven’t even homologated a manual transmission variant of the new 718 Boxster and Cayman. But our country still has a fair share of (moneyed) enthusiasts and six Cayman GT4s have found (loving, I have to assume!) homes in India.
“I did 50 laps over two days in Chennai and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. And every time I went out, there was more to learn. And at the end of 100 laps I felt so attached to it. There is so much driver involvement.” I spy a Racelogic VBOX Driftbox suction-mounted to the rear window of the GT4 and wonder if Boopesh is a lap time
junkie. “I don’t chase lap times, I chase happiness. That’s my motto for Bren garage. We are living busy lives and there are memories that only cars can give you.”
With the number of Porsches in the Bren Garage, I just have to ask if he is a Porsche addict. “I love Porsche; they make fantastic cars. There is so much engineering and they haven’t ever lost their character.” And what does he think about his latest acquisition? “It has no big wings or anything but it’s such a simple car. You can hear all the mechanicals working inside the 911 R. It’s like you don’t want to be disturbed and it takes you back to an era where the involvement of the driver was important. Today we have so many things, mobile phones et al that we don’t enjoy the moment. I think this is one car that makes you do so. The seating position, the clutch, the gearshift, it is so phenomenal, it feels like it has been customised for me. I think this is going to be among the best naturally aspirated engines ever. And imagine this light car with four-wheel steering; it is unbelievable. It’s one car everybody would dream of driving.”
With world-wide production of the 911 R capped at 991 cars, getting hold of the car, even with so many Porsches in
the garage couldn’t have been easy. “I think Porsche understands that I’m a passionate collector and I understand the cars well. I have visited the Porsche museum and I know the brand’s history. But I also think I got lucky.”
Boopesh has been a car enthusiast all his life and with the Bren Garage he intends not only to collect exclusive cars but also use them. “All the cars here are going to be driven around and enjoyed, not just parked. I remember I used to dream about Lambos, Ferraris, the Cup cars. I had no access nor the money to buy those cars then. Now I have an opportunity and it’s good to live it up. When you have the opportunity, you have the dream, you must do it.”
So what’s for the Bren Garage in 2018? “A car from England. I don’t want to name it but possibly a McLaren.” And would Boopesh like to hazard a guess on the 2018 eCOTY winner? “I think this time it’s going to be a McLaren. The new one.” Doesn’t take a genius to conclude that this month’s cover star is going to make its way to India very soon.