For thousands of fans in India, they are motorsport royalty. Both Aditya Patel, 27, who holds the Indian speed record driving an Audi R8 V10, and racing sensation Armaan Ebrahim, 26, who won the 2016 edition of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia series, are second-generation champs. Aditya’s father Kamlesh is a former rallyist and racing pro, and Armaan’s dad Akbar was a pioneering Formula Three champion.
But there’s more that the two motorsports aces have in common than just pedigree. Even before they reached their teens, they were spotted early and groomed by JK Tyres after impressing experts on the go-karting tracks of Chennai.
As they join HT Brunch for a shoot and joke comfortably with the female models at the Jaypee Greens Golf & Spa Resort after a day of racing at the Gautam Buddh Circuit, Armaan and Aditya come across as amiable athletes who love to liven up proceedings after hours. But put them inside a GT car and they turn into speed devils ready to burn rubber on the tarmac.
Pit girls, champagne celebrations at the chequered flag and a need for speed. Our impressions of the life of a race driver have been formed through movies such as Rush. But Armaan says race drivers are exposed to a different side of motorsport. “The glamour is not for us. Our cars look glamorous, no doubt! These are the cars you aspire to buy. But the glamour is for the sponsors, for the business associates, for the crowd. We are part of the glamour and the entertainment. What people don’t see is the grind behind the glamour,” he says.
Life for a top athlete is tough. But it must have its perks, right? We hear speed demons like Armaan and Aditya get to enjoy the fast-mover advantage with the ladies… Fact or fiction?
“It is a misconception that we find it easier to convince girls to go out with us. We are not fast like that,” retorts Aditya. “It is indeed tough at times. I haven’t been in a steady relationship for a long time. We don’t have much hope when we spend so much time on the track,” is how Armaan puts it. “But sometimes we get lucky,” he adds. “Ask Aditya how he hurt his back (winks)?” “Let’s just say… I’ve started my off-season training. Three days into it, I hurt my back!” says Aditya diplomatically.
For six to seven months a year, Armaan and Aditya race. What do they do when they are not in the thick of racing season? “We look at each other’s face in the gym twice a day, six days a week, getting hammered with the physical conditioning. It is all about innovating new regimes of training to keep one interested and also finding better ways to help us get better in the car,” says Aditya. “We strive to get better whether on the physical or the mental side,” Armaan elaborates.
“For instance, I use a simulator replicating race-day situations. I sit there wearing my racing suit and helmet and gear. The simulator also has a video of the track we will be racing in next. It is virtual reality at a basic level, but done in a dark room which is hot, to replicate the conditions inside the car. We do that for 45 minutes to an hour. It stimulates my senses and helps me get tuned-in a week before the race.”
Still, life for India’s racing sensations can’t be all work and no play? Armaan and Aditya know how to let their hair down after hours and even have some useful tips for those who want to party with their significant others in and around Chennai.
The southern metropolis has shed its image of being a city of maamis (lingo for conservative women, the Tamil equivalent of behenjis), says Aditya. “Over the years, even the maamis have got hipper!” quips Armaan.
All right! So, where does he like to take his hip and happening dates for dinner, we ask Armaan. “It depends, you could go to a bar or you could go get some food. You could go in for expensive meals, or really cheap meals. There are a lot of options in Chennai. It depends on the date as well!” says Armaan. “Breakfast is a good time to visit the Murugan Idli Shop, but that is after the date, basically!” says Aditya, and wild laughter ensues.
According to Armaan, spending time on the waterfront is always a good idea. “I like the beach and love to surf in my free time. Chennai has a lot of nice places to go for dinner by the beach. There is Surf Turf where you can spend the weekend. You wake up and you are looking at the sea. There is also a resort on Temple Bay called The Wharf, where you can dine right on the waterfront. A little less fancy option could be a shack in Mahabalipuram that gives you a bohemian feel,” says Armaan.
“Surf Turf is nice. But I like going to a restaurant called Momoyama for Japanese cuisine. I guess my dates are more about the food and less about the ambience. And The Shiraz Art Café, an Iranian joint close to the beach, where the young and artistically inclined like to hang out,” adds Aditya.
Aditya and Armaan’s career trajectories have taken off in a similar pattern. Tearaway rookies on the karting track, then single-seater racing for a few years, then driving GT Cars with leading manufacturers Audi and Lamborghini respectively.
They even have a sporting icon in common: Aytron Senna. What do they find the most fascinating about the legendary driver, apart from, of course, the fact that he flashed like a meteor on our popular psyche and then, tragically, like a James Dean on a race track, died in a car crash?
Senna evokes the romance of racing’s golden days. “He excelled in an era when the cars were much more difficult to drive. You had no driver aides. Technology was more focused on the engine and chassis. As the years went on there was greater emphasis on driver aides. That is where the drivers from the pre-90s era command so much respect,” announces Aditya.
Life for motorsport champions isn’t a big, beachside party. But our champions from Chennai sure know how to liven it up!
Armaan Ebrahim, 27
The youngest driver in the A1 Grand Prix at the age of 16, he made a mark in open-cockpit single-seater events before competing in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia Pacific series.
Motorsport pedigree: Dad Akbar Ebrahim is an Indian motorsport pioneer
Favoured chill zone: Surf Turf in Chennai, where he can spend a weekend surfing, eating gourmet cuisine and partying with a few friends
Aditya Patel, 28
The fastest Indian on four wheels in the subcontinent, he recently drove an Audi R8 v10 Plus at 332.2kph at Hyderabad’s Outer Ring Road. After winning the JK Tyre Junior National Karting crown at the age of 12, he now competes in the Audi R8 LMS Cup championship.
Motorsport pedigree: Kamlesh Patel is a former rallyist and racing pro
Favoured chill zone: The resto-bar Radio Room in Chennai and his home in T-Nagar, where he can call his friends over
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From HT Brunch, December 18, 2016
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