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Since 1st March, 1999
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Enter, the F1 Indian
- Karthikeyan to race in Melbourne with the big boys

Feb. 1: Michael Schumacher leads after 15 laps, Narain Karthikeyan from'

Be there in Melbourne on the first Sunday of March or at least in front of the TV, so what if it's a Sunday and it'll be 8:30 in the morning.

The 'fastest Indian in the world' will roll into the starting line-up in a yellow machine alongside the fastest of the world in the most glamorous of all sporting events, Formula One racing.

Schumacher, Barrichello, Alonso, Raikkonen, Montoya, Karthikeyan ' the first F1 Indian.

It was announced in Mumbai today that the 28-year-old Indian had been picked by Jordan, one of only 10 Formula One teams.

'In principle, I've agreed to drive for the Jordan F1 team for the 2005 season,' he said, accompanied by his sponsors who have stumped up the cash, the lack of which had once earlier squashed his ambition of joining a Formula One team.

'It's a momentous day for me and it has indeed been a long journey. Today, I can see my dream of becoming India's first F1 driver become a reality. The last 48 hours have been very tough and very hectic. We've had good news in the end, so it has eventually been worth all that.'

Jordan Grand Prix, which is based at Silverstone in Britain, told The Telegraph that 'we are at advanced stage of talks with him and expect to make an announcement in the next few days'. Karthikeyan expected that 'we'll be signing the agreement in the next couple of days'.

Tata Motors, Bharat Petroleum through its brand Speed and JK Tyres are the sponsors that have bankrolled his cruise into the fast lane of motorsport. It is said to be the most watched sport after cricket in India with the last 19 races grabbing the eyeballs of 60 million Indians.

Although Jordan finished ninth in the F1 season last year, Karthikeyan has the example of Schumacher, the undisputed champion of the moment, to follow. Schumi started his F1 career with Jordan. Speaking from hometown Coimbatore, his mother Sheela said jubilantly: 'I knew he would do it.'

Karthikeyan recounted the struggle he went through to arrive at where he is today, particularly the disappointment in 2003 when Minardi wanted him on its team but he was unable to raise the huge sums in sponsorship required to secure the offer.

It may have been a blessing in disguise as this year Jordan will be powered by the latest Toyota engine in a car that boasts a chassis touted as one of the most nimble in the circuit. Last year, it had an ageing Ford engine.

Last month's takeover of Jordan by Midland Group owned by Canadian Alex Schneider may have helped Karthikeyan land the deal. Trevor Carlin, the sporting director of Team Jordan, was the sporting director of the team Karthikeyan represented when he took part in Formula 3 racing.

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