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Old 13th January 2015, 23:57   #1
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Default My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Feels like only yesterday when I first entered a race track and heard loud Superbikes going flat out. I genuinely felt scared for a few minutes after realizing what I was getting myself into. Thankfully I was only 16 and the excitement of riding a race spec GSX-R quickly overshadowed the fear.

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Me riding #34 at the Bira Circuit - Thailand

I've never looked back since. After a couple of years of training on Superbikes my first professional chance came when I was invited by Red Bull to take part in a young rider program (think I'm the only one from India till this day to be invited). Being very inexperienced I obviously did not make it. But if I had then very likely I would have been racing in MotoGP by now.

After that missed opportunity I got back into studies and work. But the racing dream was still very much alive. I soon realized it was too late for bikes. My logic was simple. I had very little time and I could not afford to fall and break bones which would put me out for weeks if not months.

Being equally passionate about F1 made it easy to make a switch to four wheels. And by now we had our own BIC and F1 race. This opened new doors and opportunities in India.

I never raced karts. The superbikes made up for that. The first time I drove a car on the track I felt insanely safe and confident. By the end of the two day training program I had managed to top each and every session with great consistency. And earned myself a very rare nod of approval from Mr Akbar Ebrahim

First year of racing was in 2013 JK Tyre VW Polo R Cup. I must say this is the best path into racing in India. I cannot praise this championship enough.

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My car getting some love

I had a very successful debut season. Always being in the top 5 and taking the fight to the seasoned drivers. Even leading the races a few times and almost winning one (if not for a very unfortunate fuel issue which put my car into limp mode).

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Me on two wheels - This was voted the picture of the year 2013


So after years of buildup I was finally able to put it into practice and come out decent. This gave me more confidence to pursue racing with full commitment.

2014 was a big jump. I made my Formula racing debut and towards the end my International debut. Looking back I cannot believe I managed to race 4 different cars in one racing season!

My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream-f1600.jpg
The fastest race car in India - MRF Formula 1600


I had an amazing year. Going from a new face to a title contender. I managed an unbelievable 3rd in the MRF Formula F1600 National Championship. And I almost won the JK Tyre Polo R Cup championship. But then this happened:

My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream-polo.jpg
I'm in the middle. The red car lost control and crashed into me. Leading to a DNF and taking me out of the championship fight


I also made a guest appearance in the JK Tyre Formula BMW championship in the final round of the season. Sadly didn't go that well as I faced seat fitting issues and later gearshift issues. But overall it was a valuable experience and I really enjoyed it.

My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream-10733927_951577888203924_6330439635180494923_o.jpg
It may not be the fastest but it's definitely the best looking racecar in India


And now finally. The big one. I made my debut in a Formula 3 level MRF Challenge race car. This car is next level! I cannot explain how amazing it is to drive. Every corner, every gearshift, every second in this car is an event.

My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream-f2000.jpg
The Dallara F2000 - Almost as fast as an F3 car


This is the real deal now. Unlike in India where only the top 5-6 drivers are great and the rest are good. This international championship only has the best of the best. So even being in the midfield for a newcomer like me is a big deal. I'm about a second off the top drivers and that is enough to put you 10th on the grid. With one more round to go I am aiming to finally close the gap and fight for top 5 positions.

-----------

For 2015 I have big aspirations. There's a very remote chance to still make it to Formula 1. To make that happen I need to be racing in Europe right now. For which I need to raise $1M by April 2015. Haha

It's overly ambitious but it's not impossible. I am trying my best to raise sponsorship and make it happen. The coming months are going to be very exciting.

In the following days I will share more about driving in each championship and racecar. Feel free to ask questions!

"If people are not laughing at your goals, your goals are not big enough" - Azim Premji

Last edited by goingout : 14th January 2015 at 15:47. Reason: Hit submit too soon
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Old 15th January 2015, 12:16   #2
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Motorsports Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 15th January 2015, 15:14   #3
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

All the best buddy for your dreams and your future!

Being a motorsport fan, I hope that we do get some Indians on the top of the Global Motorsport scene. Sadly this will take a while with the sort of importance being given to all the sports other than Cricket.

The funny part Motorsports is not even considered as a sport by some.

Sponsorships are something which are keeping some really talented drivers away from achieving their dreams. Hopefully, people will realize soon.
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Old 15th January 2015, 16:10   #4
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Really proud to see you pursuing your dreams earnestly.

Here's wishing you success

Do share your driving experiences of the cars, it would be an interesting read for most of us.
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Old 15th January 2015, 17:07   #5
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Wow! You've just become someone's idol!

Proud to see that India's got such good talent as you.

All the very best for your bright future in motor sport !

I'd love to read about your experience in those evil machines.
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Old 15th January 2015, 18:01   #6
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Thank you guys! I've been a member of TBHP since 2005 I think. I remember going for one of the first meetups in Delhi where the highlight was Autopsyche's Octavia haha.

It's been a long journey from drooling on every supercar thread on TBHP to racing formula cars with the likes of Hunt and Lauda to name a few. Very proud to share it here

I did a lot of research before I got started. Here's a very honest insight into this complicated but fascinating world of motor racing.

Thankfully we have a very well setup platform by Volkswagen India in the form of the Polo R Cup (Now Vento Cup from 2015). This makes it very straightforward to enter racing professionally in India. After racing internationally and in multiple championships I can say this with full conviction that the VW program is one of the best I've seen anywhere. People say it's very expensive but honestly they have no idea what motorsport is. This championship is probably the cheapest in the world. Even more when you consider how good the tech and support is.

Before appearing for the selection event I took level 1 training from Meco Motorsport (Mr Akbar Ebrahim himself). This was one of the best decisions I made. The things he taught me still apply to all cars I drive. His coaching made my foundation very strong.

Thanks to the training I qualified for the Polo R Cup 2013 with flying colors. Here are some tips on how to nail the selection event:
  • Take professional training. There's no point doing something if you're not willing to prepare.
  • Become fit. Fitness is very very important. More on this later.
  • Don't believe that being rash on public roads or driving supercars make you a good racing driver. They are very different.
  • Do your research. Watch onboard videos. Anything you can to help you learn more.
The VW Championship is a great way to not only race cars but also become part of motorsport and experience everything you've dreamed of. They put on quite a show. Everything from fitness camps, TV interviews to fancy parties.

My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream-1523839_10152506821161397_8286783686363346319_o.jpg
The Polo R Cup cockpit is very safe. Moving from this to a Formula car was quite a scare

The car is very easy to drive. The most tricky part in any touring car is braking. With ABS this car is 10 times easier than the older Diesel ones. The gearbox is also a modern dual clutch 6 speed paddle shift.

Any decent racing driver can bring this car to it's 99% potential. The last second is where the talent shows. It has to be a mix of both smooth and aggressive driving based on the type of corner.

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Me leading the race in Coimbatore

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Perks of being on the front row

My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream-10869757_558605210940577_4035079870453093254_o.jpg
Quite a sight. Not just the car but also the fully packed grandstands in Delhi. Yes, all these people drove from different parts of NCR to BIC for a National Racing event.


To be continued...

Last edited by goingout : 15th January 2015 at 18:03.
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Old 15th January 2015, 18:11   #7
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Wish you success ahead. Your success story inspired me a lot. Though my family still doesn't own a car, I want to be a car designer someday. I sometimes laugh at my own dreams. But I have enough hope and people like you who motivate me to chase this dream of mine.
Would love to know more about the Polos they use in the Polo R Cup. The last pic you posted of the Polo has a TSI sticker. Which TSI engine does it use? I too have been a huge fan of this championship since it was launched in India. So now they would be using Ventos?
Wishing you an eventful and race-filled 2015!
Please keep this tread updated. Would love to hear more about your motorsport career.
Regards,
Neel

Last edited by petrolhead_neel : 15th January 2015 at 18:17.
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Old 15th January 2015, 21:43   #8
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Quote:
Originally Posted by goingout View Post
Feels like only yesterday when I first entered a race track and heard loud Superbikes going flat out. I genuinely felt scared for a few minutes after realizing what I was getting myself into. Thankfully I was only 16 and the excitement of riding a race spec GSX-R quickly overshadowed the fear.
All the best for the future races. Saw your videos on the other thread. Nice to see many interesting battles, sadly we can't see it on TV. Even worse when the organisers don't put the results on their websites.

Please do keep uploading videos.
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Old 16th January 2015, 11:01   #9
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Awesome! A sort of hard-to-explain proud feeling was felt when reading your posts. It's as if I'm there. Go for it. It's good to see sponsors coming forward to support Motorsports.
We, as a nation need to grow up and move away from the herd mindset that's so prevalent. There are so many ways to live and the best would be to live by doing what we love the most; not by doing what most people are doing.

Journeys such as yours are an inspiration and I really liked the motto "If people are not laughing at your goals, your goals are not big enough".

You're already made an impression. The youngest bhpian is influenced
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Old 17th January 2015, 00:51   #10
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

More about the Polo R Cup racecar:
  • Engine: 1.4L TSI. (Turbocharged + Supercharged) This is an imported engine for the racecar.
  • Power: 180 BHP @ 6200 rpm
  • Torque: 250 Nm @ 2000-4500 rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed dual clutch semi-automatic (we use the paddles)
  • Differential: Limited Slip
  • Suspension: Sachs racing suspension with 3 anti-rollbar settings
  • Brakes: AP Racing front callipers and discs, rear discs. With racing ABS
  • Kerb weight: 1195 kg
  • Tyres: Bespoke JK Tyre Racing slicks and wets
  • Fuel: 45 litre tank. Standard 97 octane petrol.
This was the car from 2012 to 2014. For 2015 they have changed the championship to VW Vento Cup. Just launched yesterday.

My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream-10827993_575726045895160_5627572086454519465_o.jpg
New 2015 VW Vento Cup - Replaces the VW Polo R Cup

All the specs are the same but the car is 30kgs heavier at the back. Though I am sure it is going to be faster as it doesn't have a rear wing (the Polo used to bog down after 180 due to drag). This one will keep going. Should also have less understeer for the same reason. But it would move around a lot more under heavy braking.

The biggest highlight of this car is the braking. It is mighty! Huge brakes, racing ABS, Slicks and a rear wing make it stop like nothing you have driven. In fact it can brake almost as late as the FBMW in Delhi!

Little insider info. The car can easily generate up to 250 bhp. But due to the lack of 100 octane fuel (at a logical cost) it is not possible to run it higher. And also due to the hot Indian weather.

There's also a fully developed Push-To-Pass system ready for this car. It would give drivers 8 rounds of extra 50 bhp for a few seconds to make overtakes. But again for the above reasons it cannot be used at this stage.

Another interesting fact. JK Tyre have worked very closely with VW to develop just the right amount of grip for this car. If they want they can develop a much stickier tyre which would make this car a lot faster. But because this is an entry level championship with a lot of rookies it is best they learn to drive with medium grip before they move up.

Back to racing:

After a very successful 2013 I returned for 2014 as one of the title favorite.

From Round 1 itself everyone expected me and Karthik Tharani (now the champion) to have a straight fight for the championship. And that's how things begun with me and him always being neck and neck in every session. In fact the first round of the season he beat me to pole by 0.007 seconds!

As fate would have it we both had one of the worst start to the season in our own ways. His car didn't launch at the start and I got the most comfortable lead in the world. But towards the end due to a crash I had to slow down. The driver behind me got overambitious and ran into me. Robbed me from my first win!

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Dream start which was not meant to be. Me leading the first race of the season. Only to be hit later and loose it. Eventually finished 3rd.

Fast forward to mid season and I was lying somewhere in 6th and Karthik Tharani a lot worse. What a fail!

I knew once we come to Delhi things will get better. Coimbatore is a relatively easy circuit and many times the not-so-good drivers can still manage good results there. Once you race on a proper F1 circuit the gap becomes obvious.

Before the second half of the season began VW organized a two day mid season test in Delhi (BIC). This was a great opportunity for every driver to get loads of track time with no pressure of racing.

A very rare and weird problem in my car popped up on my first lap itself. After multiple failed attempts to fix it eventually I ended with 0 laps on day one of the test. While other drivers were driving all day!

Day two I was given a spare car. On my first lap itself I did a laptime which was 1.5 seconds faster than the fastest driver! And he was already a second faster than everyone else.

With a big grin on my face I knew this was my window. When the test concluded I had done only 10% of the laps compared to everyone and was still the fastest by a good margin.

This continued on the race weekend and I managed my career first Pole position. Once again Karthik Tharani was only 0.050 off. That's how hard we were pushing each other!

My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream-.jpg
First Polo R Cup racewin. And don't be fooled by the cute blonde. She's got more experience than the whole gird!

I managed to win 2 out of 3 races that weekend. The second race was the best race of my life. I started 8th (reverse grid) fell to 12 due to my launch control not working. Then fought my way through to win. I was probably going to win the 3rd one as well but I got crashed into at C1 which lead to a DNF :(

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JK Tyre/VW give really nice trophies. And Rs 50,000 for each racewin.

This brought me up to 3rd in the championship and based on my pace I once again became the title favorite. Karthik was way behind.

Round 4 the world turned upside down (literally). Because I was also driving the Formula BMW back to back I was under a lot more pressure both mentally and physically. Thankfully my closest title rival was having a very average weekend and I had probably the best race pace.

Race 1 the disaster happened. A moron driver (same guy who hit me at Round 1 and in fact every round) lost control of his car and slammed straight into me. This ripped apart the driver side door, window and also damaged the steering. Once again I had a DNF and this time it was game over. I lost too many points to be able to fight for the championship.

My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream-10403774_558127150988383_4940100869444170300_o.jpg
Not good. I wanted to beat up the guy but thankfully didn't see him after. Haha

Eventually I lost the championship by just over a race win worth of points. Considering how bad my weekend was this was still very close. If I had just managed to get on the podium in the first two races then I would have easily won the championship!

But I am proud to see Khartik Tharani win the championship. Man you can't win with fate. This guy had no shot and managed to score a perfect 3 wins worth of points while at the same time all the guys in front of him had the worst weekend. He truly deserves it.

I plan to race the VW Vento Cup this year. If it doesn't clash with my other racing plans. It's a really fun championship and under the leadership of Sirish (20+ years of international motorsport experience and genuine passion) it is also one of the most fair and well run.

Up next. The MRF Formula F1600...

Quote:
Originally Posted by petrolhead_neel View Post
Wish you success ahead. Your success story inspired me a lot. Though my family still doesn't own a car, I want to be a car designer someday. I sometimes laugh at my own dreams. But I have enough hope and people like you who motivate me to chase this dream of mine.
Would love to know more about the Polos they use in the Polo R Cup. The last pic you posted of the Polo has a TSI sticker. Which TSI engine does it use? I too have been a huge fan of this championship since it was launched in India. So now they would be using Ventos?
Wishing you an eventful and race-filled 2015!
Please keep this tread updated. Would love to hear more about your motorsport career.
Regards,
Neel
No dream is too big buddy

I don't belong to a racing family. No one pushed me into this sport. If you're passionate about something you will find a way to achieve it. Do surround yourself with good company. It will really help and inspire you to work harder and dream bigger.

I wish you all the best with your studies.

The car specs are mentioned above.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ecenandu View Post
All the best for the future races. Saw your videos on the other thread. Nice to see many interesting battles, sadly we can't see it on TV. Even worse when the organisers don't put the results on their websites.

Please do keep uploading videos.
Thanks! I have loads of awesome onboards on the F2000 and Polo as well. Will upload them soon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rav11stars View Post
Awesome! A sort of hard-to-explain proud feeling was felt when reading your posts. It's as if I'm there. Go for it. It's good to see sponsors coming forward to support Motorsports.
We, as a nation need to grow up and move away from the herd mindset that's so prevalent. There are so many ways to live and the best would be to live by doing what we love the most; not by doing what most people are doing.

Journeys such as yours are an inspiration and I really liked the motto "If people are not laughing at your goals, your goals are not big enough".

You're already made an impression. The youngest bhpian is influenced
That means a lot! I have usually preferred to stay low profile but as I'm moving forward I felt it's about time I shared my experience.

Sponsorship is still very tough. What has improved is the support from companies like JK Tyre, VW and MRF. They have taken things up to a new level and now we finally have world class facilities. And it's still the cheapest in the world as everything is heavily subsidized.

Sadly even after that it's too expensive for most of us. Likewise there are many rich kids who come but lack the talent. You need both.

I'm racing with a few rich and talented kids from India and I must say they are as good if not better than the European drivers. But again they can only make it through family money and links.
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Old 17th January 2015, 07:35   #11
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Wow! Amazing story that. Thank You for all the insights.

All the best for the upcoming season and wish you move up the ladder soon.
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Old 18th January 2015, 10:44   #12
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Congrats and wishing you a grand success and the entire India will be very much happy to see you in F1. Can you provide us more insights about the physical and fitness training that a professional driver like you do in your preparation ?
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Old 19th January 2015, 18:36   #13
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Congrats Buddy!! What a narration. Kudos for giving us an insight into the life of a professional racing driver [an Indian one I mean] & what they have to go through. This should really inspire more youngsters to join the fray. I already see one young BHPian inspired

Good luck for your future races & keep posting your updates.

Quote:
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[*]Don't believe that being rash on public roads or driving supercars make you a good racing driver. They are very different.
Hit the nail on the head. Youngsters willing to take up motorsports as a profession should realize this early in their career.

BTW,how do you guys train your mind to stick to city speed limits while driving after you done with driving at race track speeds.

I have a hard time after doing Highway speeds for couple of hours & getting into city speed limits feels like crawling for a few minutes
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Old 21st January 2015, 09:32   #14
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Wow, that's an awesome story to read. Congratulations and wishing you best of luck buddy . We'll be watching your progress. What's your name BTW, I haven't got it yet.
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Old 21st January 2015, 10:07   #15
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Default Re: My Racing Journey - Chasing the impossible dream

Quote:
Originally Posted by goingout View Post
For 2015 I have big aspirations. There's a very remote chance to still make it to Formula 1. To make that happen I need to be racing in Europe right now. For which I need to raise $1M by April 2015. Haha

It's overly ambitious but it's not impossible. I am trying my best to raise sponsorship and make it happen. The coming months are going to be very exciting.
Man, that's quite a journey and an interesting one too with lots of up's and down's.

Thankfully motorsports is getting a lot more attention today than ever before and it's good to see talented folks like you chase your dreams.

Wishing you the very best ahead and I sincerely hope you get to raise that $1Mn and more for your F1 debut.
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