The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Learning from Narain’s mistakes

Life moves around in circles, almost, in circuit lanes. Every time you are back for a pit stop it’s déjà vu time. Been there, seen, it, and never too happy for it if you’re an Indian.

Narain Karthikeyan has been the pioneer, so to say, in this country, daring the Formula circuit, knocking on Formula One doors. He has tested for Jaguar and for Jordan, and despite posting pretty fast lap times, has not been able to get that call-up that every race driver is eagerly waiting.

Money itself is the problem, one hears. You need to invest heavily before you can expect returns.

Narain is a settled driver today, Formula III and Formula Nippon and other variations, around such chassis and such electronics, approaching but not quite yet near Formula One specs. After years of struggle, he has got his sponsor (Tata and JK Tyre) and financially he can work out things from here. He can afford to wait it out a little longer.

Same isn’t the case for the new kid sensation on the block, Karun Chandhok. It isn’t just that this 18-year-old is in a hurry, which he is. But the fact that money hasn’t been in indefinite supply and isn’t likely to be, does worry somebody today who can hardly wait to get his investment back.

Karun, the youngest Asian Formula 2000 champion, said he was hoping to ride the experience of Narain to a quick entry to Formula One (last season he had six podium finishes, thrice runner-up and thrice third).

“What I am trying is at least a Test driver entry into any F1 team,” said Karun. “Probably the mistake would be to stick to Formula III, while waiting for the F1 call-up. I need to get as many tests as I can afford and manage and push in through even the test driver route.”

Each Formula One team has to have two cars, at least two regular drivers and two more test drivers.

The new strategy has been discussed in detail in the Chandhok family. Vicky, Karun’s father, has been in motorsport for as long as he can remember. “I have done it for years, I remember the Calcutta races and this thing thrills me still,” he said. “But now times have changed and you invest big time to reach big time.”

How big time is evident in the family having to sell off a rather large property near home to raise Rs 90 lakh, to supplement the shortfall (from the sponsorship) for the Rs 2.2 crore expenses estimated for the year. It is a commitment that has been taken from the heart. “I am betting a great deal on my kid, because I feel he can make it,” said Vicky.

Incidentally, Karun is now known as the future of Indian motorsport. “Look, Narain has shown us the way,” said Karun, “he has been the main inspiration for me, he has given me self belief, but then his mistakes have formed my learning curve.”

Karun is the tomorrow, Narain, probably has already seen his best days. That’s the cruelty of life.

“Beginning this year, Karun will be in the new mould,” said Vicky. “He is taking in the computer tech support and supplements fast. India should see one good race to the top soon.”

Meanwhile, in Mumbai recently, local lads Jigar Muni and Ashok Jadhav, finished first and second, respectively, in the seniors class category at that city leg of the JK Tyre National Karting Championship.

It was a fast race and the track was taking the Genesis 6.5bhp karts well. The laps contained an uphill, in a decent gradient, but that hardly reduced the speed.

Muni will be there at the grand finals, to be held around mid-December, probably in Delhi. The Calcutta leg will be held on November 24.

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