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Old 28th January 2010, 02:56   #1
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Default A tribute to Sundaram Karivardhan - A Legend in Indian Motorsports

We on Team - BHP , badly need a thread dedicated to the Motorsports legend Karivardhan.

Posting some of the articles on internet. That will give you a breif intro about Kari and who Kari was to Indian motor sports ?

This is a place to give the homage and Tribute to Kari the great Legend !!!

Sundaram Karivardhan or short Kari (June 20, 1954 Coimbatore, India–August 24, 1995 in the same town) was a legendary figure of Indian motorsports. Apart from being a successful formula car racer, was also a designer and constructor of several formula cars, his most famous design being the Formula Maruti open wheeled race car. His low cost cars helped other racers, notably Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandok, and Armaan Ebrahim to their entry into motorsports. A wealthy industrialist, he was later killed in an air crash, aged 41.

Race Car Constructor:-
One of his early complete in-house designs was the 300 BHP Formula Monoposto based on the Formula Atlantic Chevron B40 model nicknamed “Black Beauty”. But until the late 80's, motorsports was only for wealthy drivers. In an effort to make racing more affordable in India and improve grassroots level racing he designed and tested a small single seater, dubbed as India's Formula Ford, with a Maruti 800 engine, and adapting easily available parts, sometimes made in-house. His second design was a two seater car named McDowell 1000 using a Maruti Gypsy 1.0 liter engine.


A FISSME of Formula Maruti Single Seater racing Car

FISSME (Formula India Single Seater Maruti Engine) widely known as formula Maruti was launched in 1988 in Chennai's Park Sheraton just before the annual Grand Prix races in MMSC track. Notable drivers taking part in the inaugural race were J. Anand, Akbar Ibhrahimand R. Gopinath, all of them would later become national champions in Formula 3. The inaugural race was won by Akbar Ibhrahim.
Later years saw drivers like Narain Karthikeyan,Karun Chandok, Armaan Ebrahi and other future national champions making their debut races in a Formula Maruti series, until the class was discontinued from the mainstream championship in 2006. Still these cars race in junior championship, and are the most affordable open wheeled formula cars in the world costing not more than US$ 300 for a single race.

Motor Rallying
Kari entered in very few rallies, among them the Karnataka K-1000 in Bangalore. He later launched the JK Rally team in 1992, when JK Tyres wanted to enter into rallying which was previously dominated by MRF Tyres. In the 1990 season he spotted a young Hari Singh from Chandigargh taking part in the Coimbatore Rally and, seeing his talent, offered him to tune his car, enabling him to win the Indian Championship title 5 times. During the early 90's he quickly converted all Maruti GypsyRally cars to fuel injection when tuned chips gained popularity.

Racing Team
Kari's racing team was Super Speeds, and the main sponsor was Lakshmi Mills. The early cars had a white and blue body shell which was later switched to black and gold. The company that built his cars was P&B Engineering. J. Anand and [COLOR=#0000ff]N. Leela Krishnan were some of the notable drivers from his team before the duo switched to rival Team MRF

Kari was interested in many areas of mechanics, and that included his interest in aviation as his family owned a Cessna airplane. In 1989 he started a small manufacturing plant near Coimbatore to manufacture Power Gilders using a Yezdi 250cc motorcycle engine, later a Rotax engine. He would often test his gliders flying to the Ooty Mountains, Dindigul,Kovilpatti, or Kayattar near Tirunelveli. The small airstrip in Coimbatore later became the Kari Motor Speedway

Fatal Crash
He died on 24th of August 1995 while flying a Puspak trainers aircraft. The purpose of flying was to log some additional flying time as required to retain his flying license. The accident was widely mourned by the racing scene. He was about to make a full mark in the automobile scenario and his last press interview was with Car and Bike magazine and Motor Show programme days before his crash.
His demise almost created a vacuum in Indian Motorsports with dwindling crowds in the Chennai track and after the 1997 season made the MMSC scrap the All India Grand Prix Meet altogether. In 2002 his long-time friend and co-racer B. Vijaykumar stepped in to build and launch Formula LGB and Formula Rolon race cars and also constructed a race track in his hometown which is a major motorsports hub.

Widely known as a gentleman racer, his unselfish ways and dedication to the development of Indian motorsports attracted many new talents into Motorsports. Kari also earned admiration from several quarters more for his character than his racing talents. Though born in one of Coimbatores wealthiest families, Kari was easily approachable by several people irrespective of social barriers. Kari was nevertheless considered a unique man with his soft-spoken nature and publicity shy nature. He was good in spotting new talents and training them to become professionals like Akbar Ibhrahim and five time national Rallying Champion Hari Singh.
Kari's Team Super Speeds later became a Limited Company now a part of L. G. Balakrishnan Brothers and today has a motorsports division which constructs the Formula and Formula Rolon cars.
The race track in is named after Karivardhan, and in Karamadai in Coimbatore an is named after him. Some of his former employees have their garages named in his honour. His Intended based car was named Kari 65 in his honour with 65 being his racing number.

These are Kari's words given to a press interview in 1994 "We are on step two on a scale of 10 in circuit motor car racing today. The Sriperumbudur race track is the beginning. We will need to import Formula Three cars into India and corporate sponsors can make that happen."

A man with vision, Kari, even in 1994, was looking far into the future. He was very keen that younger Indians (Karthikeyan must have been a teenager then) took to the sport. He knew this was not an easy task. "Today, we have only two types of drivers at Sriperumbudur. The top drivers and the absolute newcomers. Motor sports is an expensive sport. Consider just tyres for instance. On an average, one needs four tyres for every 15-lap race. Tell me, how many youngsters can afford this expense?" he had said.
Kari wanted corporates to adopt the Novice class. "We necessarily have to promote the Novice class and make it affordable. For this, we need substantial sponsorship, where cars, tyres and mechanical support come easily for newcomers. Only then will track racing take off," Kari had said.
Kari became a legend in his short lifetime, which ended tragically in an air crash in Coimbatore in 1995. By then, he had set high standards for the likes of Karthikeyan to follow. By a coincidence, Kari is distantly related to Karthikeyan.
Kari won his very first circuit car race, driving a modified Fiat in 1974 on the Sholavaram race track in Chennai. There were few who could hold a candle to the man in Indian circuit car racing. He drove imported Saloons, a Formula Atlantic and even a Formula Monoposto, which he designed in his workshop in Coimbatore.
Kari, a mechanical engineer with a specialisation in machine design, was the managing director of the Coimbatore based textile major, Lakshmi Mills. Kari was not only an ace driver, but also a car constructor par excellence.
When the speedy Suzuki 800s (Marutis) hit the Indian market, Kari was the first to modify them into formula racing cars and dubbed them as Formula Marutis. No wonder then, as many as 26 Formula Marutis designed by him, raced in the 1994 national championships in Sriperumbudur.
That year, Kari, driving a Formula Monoposto 1,600 cc car, finished second to Belgian Flory Roothaert who drove a superior car fitted with a Renault Godinho engine. Analysing his defeat to Flory, Kari had observed, "Flory has a very powerful engine this year. The difference between our engines is about 30 horsepower. It is difficult to beat him with a handicap like that." But the competitor in him said, "I will be coming back next year with a new chassis and a new engine."
Kari's Chennai based buddy, Vicky Chandok, whose son, Karun, is following in Karthikeyan's footsteps says, "Kari was an enigma. He was a visionary in Indian formula car racing. He just wanted to build cars and race them. The 1989, 1,000 cc car, that he built in Coimbatore still forms the backbone of Indian motor car racing."
However, life was not just motor sports for Kari. Ever the family man, he had spoken to this writer on the Sriperumbudur race track, with his son Arjun seated on his lap, watching his wife Vijayshree race a Formula Maruti car built by him.
Former national motor racing champion, Chennai based Akbar Ebrahim, a Karivardhan protégé says, "I owe my success to Kari. He worked very hard with me. He taught me discipline and commitment. Basically, the importance of being consistent from the first lap to the last. Ever the perfectionist, Kari permitted just 1/100th of a second difference between any two laps. He would make me repeat all the laps otherwise." Akbar agrees that if Kari were alive, his relationship with Karthikeyan, could have been identical to the one shared by Gavaskar and Tendulkar today.
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Last edited by foby.sebastian : 28th January 2010 at 03:11.
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Old 28th January 2010, 04:14   #2
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Absolutely a tribute well deserved

I still remember the motorsports discussion we used to have during school days eventually ended with Kari and his machines. He definitely is a great icon for racing in our country.
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Old 28th January 2010, 08:23   #3
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Check out the FISSME - (FORMULA MARUTI) , another Kari contribution
Attached Images

Last edited by foby.sebastian : 28th January 2010 at 08:25. Reason: text editing
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Old 28th January 2010, 09:08   #4
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A superb thread - Kari was a gentlman racer. I've watched him race at Sholavaram as well as MMST in the early years. He and his boys from Coimbatore were a treat to watch.

Kari's exit from a turn was clean and to the limit! each time!

He used to tune cars for J Anand who drove F3 cars then. Today J Anand tunes cars!

Most guys in Motorsport fraternity respect him!

Last edited by headers : 28th January 2010 at 09:09.
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Old 28th January 2010, 09:58   #5
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It was absolute treat watching him on Barrakpore (Calcutta) track in 1983. Had a good long talk with him too. Managed to interact properly because I was there as CMSC official photographer.
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Old 28th January 2010, 10:46   #6
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Great write up Foby. Truly Kari is a legend in indian motor sport scene. I am sure people who have interacted with him or known him would agree that he was a gem of a person.
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Old 28th January 2010, 11:51   #7
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@Foby - First of all, thanks for bringing back to us the memories of a gentleman and a truly amazing motorsport fanatic.

I happen to know a gentleman in CBE who was a team member (mechanic) in Kari's racing team. The man happens to have a sports steering wheel in his garage that once belonged to Kari. He also has a picture of Karivardhan and this steering wheel are garlanded and is worshipped each day. Such is the respect that Kari commands till date. A truly exceptional person.

If only he were to be alive, he would have changed the landscape of motorsport in India. Gosh, good ones die young!

TC - Kiran
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Old 28th January 2010, 13:16   #8
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Thanks for starting this thread Foby.

Have heard only good things about this legend. Kari was truly ahead of his times.
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Old 28th January 2010, 13:30   #9
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Foby - Thanks for starting the thread, really brings back the memory. I used to collect the posters of KARI driving his black car 65 with Lakshmi Mills logo on it as my family was associated with the company for almost 50 years, i was (still) a great fan of him even though i was very young at that time. Very bad that i couldn't even met him once.

I have seen people having his photo in their living rooms and worshipped as a respect.

It's a great loss for his family/Coimbatore and India

Like mechanik aka Kiran mentioned, Good ones die young!
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Old 28th January 2010, 17:35   #10
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foby...thanks a ton for this thread. Its giving me mixed feelings as Kari was nothing short of a hero to me.

My Mother used to work for Lakshmi Mills and one fine day when I was about 10 years old, she introduced me to him saying I was a car freak. I still remember that distinct smile on Kari's face as he ruffled my hair and said "Hey I love cars too".

After that, year after year, and without my even asking for it, a 'Pits Official' pass to the Lakshmi Mills pit garage used to come to me a couple of days before the races, first for the races at Sholavaram and then for the ones at Sriperumbudur.

Life was bliss at the Lakshmi Mills pits...bottles and bottles of Thumbs Up at your disposal, packets of biryani from Moghal's stacked neatly in hot packs, the sweet ear drum shattering roar (music) of the Black Beauty (thats what competition No.65 was called) as she was tested & revved to the limits before each race, the smell of burning rubber as the Black Beauty coasted into the pits after another win, the celebrations in the pits and last but not the least, Kari's warm smile.....everything feels so fresh in memory.

He nurtured Indian Motorsport into what it is today..He will be missed.
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Old 28th January 2010, 17:39   #11
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The legend never dies ..... he always lives in our hearts.

Fellas please post more photos of Kari , if you have some.
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Old 28th January 2010, 18:04   #12
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One of the most meaningful threads posted here ever - It took 4 to 5 years for someone to realise Kari needed/deserved a place in teambhp, better late than never. I suppose some of us were to too young and most people on this forum now are from a much later generation. He was a legend when we were kids. Great guy

Last edited by canonball : 28th January 2010 at 18:08.
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Old 29th January 2010, 12:23   #13
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Dear Mr. Rudra Sen can you share some photos of that era since you were a official CMSC photographer?
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Old 31st January 2010, 11:51   #14
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Thanks for this thread.

The Gentleman he was first and foremost and competetor next.

He helped me complete about 90 Kms of a rally in 1979.

It was the night ride section on day 2 some where on the Virajpet Mangalore section, my friend and I were riding an Yezdi RK. Until the previous stage we were running overall 5th and 1st in the non-sponsored teams category. We lost the auxilary electricals completely and was without the head light or the auxillary rally light.

We were at a loss and was wondering what to do. It was next to impossible to ride out gaht section without the light. Most of the bikers pssed us and no one even cared to stop (many slowed down to ask what happended).

Then came the cars. We could see them coming up from the foot hills. The first car ( a Fiat/ President with his twin carb set up howling) came up the hair-pin where were stuck and passed us in a flurry of dust. Suddenly the brake lights came on and the car reversed to us.

The driver popped his head out and I could recognise Kari. Kari asked me what the problem was. His next question was what was our position on the previos stage. On hering we were 1st non-sponsored, with out hesitation he told us to ride on in front. He told us to set the pace and he would follow with his lights on full.

Mind you he was leading the rally for cars and by offering to sit behind us he was willing to risk his place for our sake.

The rest was history for us. Full credit to my rider Timmy, he set such a scortching pace only one car managed to over take us (the pair of Kari & us) that was the car of Tirumal Roy. Roy won that leg but Kari finished second 8 minutes behind.

We finished that leg 22 minutes behind with overall 14th and 3rd Non-sponsored.

latter on we went and thanked Kari and introduced ourselves to him and thanked him. He told us to come and talk to him when we were ready for cars as he felt - seeing us ride - that we had the haed for speed.

But circumstances decided otherwise for Timmy and I that we had to give up dreams for more sedate lves burdened with family responsibilities.

To this day Kari's act of scrificing his first place for two unknow kids like us remain the higest kindness any one has shown me in my life.

Rest in Peace Kari

Best Regards & Drive/Ride Safe


Last edited by r_nairtvm : 31st January 2010 at 12:01.
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Old 31st January 2010, 12:04   #15
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Originally Posted by rallystar View Post
Dear Mr. Rudra Sen can you share some photos of that era since you were a official CMSC photographer?
This was 1983-84. Agreement with CMSC was to hand over all exposed material. I may have some shots with my other camera body and I need to find those. It may take a little time as they should be (if they are there in the first place) in Calcutta. I'll try my best to get those.
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