A file photo of Karun Chandhok.
Unlike most F1 weekends this season - when he is busy providing colour commentary from the London-studio of an F1 broadcaster - Karun Chandhok will be racing during the weekend the Indian Grand Prix is held. Before you rush to the Buddh International Circuit ticket counter, a caveat; he'll be doing so thousands of miles away from Greater Noida - at the Shanghai International Circuit, in the final round of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
He may be far away from the rarified air of Formula One (except for the Singapore GP all his on-air gigs are restricted to the London studio), but the racer in him is loving it. "Do I miss F1? Yes, who wouldn't? But, I'm a realistic person. I didn't have enough sponsors in place for an F1 ride, others like Narain (Karthikeyan), (Bruno) Senna, (Charles) Pic had sponsors willing to spend 6, 10, in some cases, 12 million dollars to land the seat. I didn't want a test driver's seat, even though that was an option. I was yearning for action, as a driver you have to keep your skills sharp. They only way you can do that is to constantly race. That's why this move made sense for me," Chandhok told Hindustan Times in a freewheeling interview. Excerpts
How different has racing in the WEC been from F1?
The format is completely different. There are three of us. Me, Peter (Dumbreck) and David (Brabham), we all alternately drive the car. As soon as one driver ends his shift, the next driver jumps in. In the last race at Silverstone, I drove for three hours, while Peter and David were on for 90 minutes each.
Your teammates at JRM are very experienced drivers. What have you learnt from them?
Peter first raced in Le Mans in 1992 and David in 1999, so they've been there and done that. I've seen that one can really make a future doing this. If I manage to get a deal with one of the factory teams (Audi, Toyota), I think this can be a long association.
Your JRM team manager Nigel Stepney is a well-known name in the motorsport circles, some may say for the wrong reasons. How has working with him been?
People associate him with Spygate (the F1 espionage saga that caused a furore in the 2007 season). It's a shame because he was part of a core group of 20 including Ross Brawn and Jean Todt who revitalised Ferrari in the mid-90s after years in the doldrums. He's a man who is very stern with his words. When he says something, you listen. He commands great respect.
How different has the challenge been from F1?
The mental challenge is far greater. At Le Mans (during the 24 hours race), I was given the graveyard shift, I was driving from 02:00 to 05:00 am. As I was nearing the end of my shift, the mind began to play games.
You must've slept like Rip van Winkle after the event?
Actually, I managed to sleep during the race. After my shift got over at 05:00 am, I'd been up for about 25 hours. Our team had built a campsite three minutes from the track. I took a shower and caught four hours of sleep. Hard to imagine I could sleep in such a noisy environment, but I was completely exhausted after my shift and slept oblivious to the screeching decibel count.