The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Racing into the fast lane
A race in progress at the Rotax Max Karting Championship; (top) Amittrajit Ghosh at the National Racing Championship

Narain Karthikeyan is not done with the fast-paced world of Formula 1 ' at least not yet. If you didnít already know, Karthikeyan finished second on the time sheets while testing for the Williams F1 team recently. He lapped the track faster than Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber, the official team drivers and other team cars. What will transpire from this rather good showing remains to be seen in the days to come.

What is as exciting, though at the national level is the fact that the National Racing Championship run by JK Tyres has thrown up a handful of interesting names, including that of one Bengali ' Amittrajit Ghosh driving for Team Valvoline. No, itís far from being a case of ĎSourav gelo, Amittrajit eloí! The former as everybody is aware is the most successful team leader ever in his sport in India while the latter is just starting out in his career and as yet, there is no guarantee that he will race his way to very top.

Track racing in India has three categories ' Maruti Esteem saloon cars, Formula Maruti single-seaters (FISSME) based around the mechanicals of the Maruti 800, and the Formula LGB (based around the Esteem engine). The categories that really matter though, in terms of building experience, are the last two. The season started with a round at the Kari Speedway in Coimbatore. The overall winner in FISSME in that round was veteran-of-sorts and former karting champion Rayomand Banajee. Gaurav Dalal and Amittrajit Ghosh traded second and third spots in the two races. The Formula LGB overall winner, winning both races, was Ameya Walavalkar, ahead of Gaurav Gill and Sarosh Hataria.

The second round was at Sriperumbudur, near Madras. Amittrajit started the first FISSME race in front but Rayomand (yes, he was competing in both categories) overtook him. But his race was over soon as he collided with Amittrajit. Amittrajit was penalised 30 seconds thus putting Gaurav Dalal in first place, ahead of Amanpreet Ahluwalia and Gypsy rallying specialist Sunny Sidhu. Amittrajit fought back in the second race to take the win ahead of Dalal and Rayomand. In the LGB class, Ameya Walavalkar won the first race and came in fourth in the second race, which was incidentally won by Sarosh Hataria.

Sriperumbudur was the venue for rounds three, four, five, six and seven. For round three, the clouds were out in full force, thus bringing track temperatures and grip levels down. Amittrajit took pole position for the first race and led from start to finish, ahead of Dalal and Sahil Shelar. The second race was similar with Amittrajit winning again ahead of Shelar and Rayomand. In the LGB class, Rayomand impressed by coming from behind to win the first race. The second race saw Sarosh Hataria leading from start to finish, ahead of Rayomand and Aditya Akkineni. Round four was on a warm, humid day and pole sitter Gaurav Dalal won the first FISSME race. Amittrajit finished third. However, Dalal spun out of race two, handing victory and the championship lead to Amittrajit. The LGB class saw Rayomand Banajee streaking to the chequered flag in the first race, but settling for second behind Hataria in race two.

Round five saw Rayomand first at the chequered flag in both the races in the LGBs. In the FISSMEs, Gaurav Dalal took pole for the first race and went on to win, ahead of newcomer Aditya Patel. Race two was halted following a spin but at the restart, it was Amittrajit who made it to first place. Round six saw Rayomand Banajee taking the win from fifth place on the grid in the first LGB race. In the second race though, he finished third behind Aditya Patel. In the FISSME category, Aditya Patel won the first race ahead of new boy Karna Kadur and old boy Rayomand Banajee. The second race saw Kadur finishing first with Gaurav Dalal third. Amittrajit, still in contention for the championship, blew his engine, thus ending a miserable weekend for him.

So it was that for the first time in eight years, the JK Tyre event went to the last round with three drivers ' Rayomand, Hataria and Ameya Walavalkar in contention for the LGB championship and three ' Amittrajit, Dalal and Rayomand ' in contention for the FISSME championship. It was possible that Rayomand could do a double but luck and the gods proved otherwise.

In the first FISSME race, a drive shaft problem put paid to Rayomandís hopes. The others drove on the wet track as if it was a bright sunny day and soon cars were everywhere except the track. Amittrajit started on pole and went on to take the win. Second Team Valvoline driver Aman Ahluwalia finished third from the 13th spot. Amittrajit Ghosh clinched the championship with a second spot in the second race tallying 95 points in total to Dalalís 94. The LGB category was even more exciting as Rayomand and Sarosh Hataria finished with 98 points each and Rayomand took the championship with more second place finishes than Sarosh. Rayomand and Walavalkar did not start the first race due to engine failure but Sarosh won race two.

Aditya Akkineni won the other racing championship ' the Rotax Max Karting Championship held at the Kari Speedway in Coimbatore. The nursery for budding racing drivers, the Rotax karts use 28bhp engines fitted to a chassis built by KnK Karts of Goa. These little things are extremely fast and can touch between 140 to 160kph on the straight depending upon the gearing. The engine revs up to 14,000rpm very easily and acceleration is tremendous ' in the supercar league. However, it was not nearly as exciting in terms of drama ' every round was won by Aditya and in the final round, he qualified on pole but opted to start the race in last position just so that he could get some overtaking practice.

Photographs by the author

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