So, apparently to run a motorsport series in India the trick is not in getting drivers from the country or teams with a domestic flavour. Reducing motor sport to a consumer good, its success, like that of the products in your neighborhood departmental store, depends on its saleability vis-à-vis the people it is associated with - cricketers or Bollywood big-wigs in most cases.
Machdar Motorsports' business model is pretty simple - piggyback on the popularity of Indian cricket's most bankable name, Sachin Tendulkar, whom according to CEO of the organisers Darshan M, they've signed to a lucrative multi-crore, multi-year deal.
As of now, there is no TV deal, tyre supplier or engine supplier. Neither are the teams or drivers in place. Nor has the approval of the international governing body for the sport, FIA, been garnered. The cars will have a Radical SR3 chassis, the most popular model of the Peterborough-based English racing car manufacturer.
As of now, this is all that's been firmed up.
How it will work?
This is supposed to be a city-based franchise series, with nine Indian cities each getting a club. Teams will have two drivers each, one from India and one foreigner, racing across seven tracks in Asia (Two in India; Greater Noida and Chennai, one each in Doha, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Abu Dhabi and Pattaya) between December and February, subject to approval from the FIA.
The base price for buying a franchise has been set at $5m (Rs22.3cr). None have been sold yet. However, the Indian motorsports grapevine is abuzz with speculation that this figure is not firm with franchises being offered for much less to big names.
JK Tyres motorsport head, Sanjay Sharma, who's been associated with Indian motorsport for over two decades, tells it as it is. "They're selling clubs for $5m and their operating costs for a season are slated at $2m (R9cr). What's the return on this investment? They haven't got a TV rights deal. Can they bank on revenue generated at the venue? Tough to see how they could. The Yas Marina circuit (slated to host the Abu Dhabi race) can't sell out an F1 race and nor can Sepang. I wonder how many people will turn up for a no-name series?"
There's talk that it could usher in a new generation of Indian talent, but the bare fact is that finding Indian drivers who fit the bill will be a task in itself. "All nine franchises will have an Indian driver each," Darshan said, before FMSCI (the Indian national body), who've given the nod to the series, president Vicky Chandhok asserted a more likely scenario.
"Handling a 250 kmph racing car is no joke, Indian drivers will only be selected if they're deemed fit and ready to handle the car," said Chandhok. Following which, Darshan echoed a similar sentiment - a quick U-turn. A sign of things to come, perhaps?