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Force India's Mallya dismisses A1 chief's remarks

india Updated: May 02, 2008 11:47 IST
Force India's Mallya dismisses A1 chief's remarks

Force India owner Vijay Mallya rebuked A1 Grand Prix chairman Tony Teixeira for criticising the Formula One team on Thursday and accused his series of "promoting mediocrity".

Teixeira, who heads the self-styled World Cup of Motorsport, told Reuters on Wednesday that Force India were sending a wrong message to millions of Indian racing fans because the team had no Indian drivers and no chance of winning.

He said his own series, with India's Narain Karthikeyan already a race winner, sent out a message that Indians could be winners.

In a strongly-worded statement, Mallya questioned the South African's competence to speak on Indian motorsport aspirations.

"Trying to reach out to India's youth by encouraging participation in and the temptation of winning a title in a series that does not even begin to compare with GP2 or F1 is just promoting mediocrity amongst young Indians who aspire to be world class," he said.

"This indeed is a wrong message which seems to be an act of desperation given the huge and growing support for Formula One and the Force India Formula One team."

Mallya bought the Spyker team last year and renamed it, signing up Italian Giancarlo Fisichella and German Adrian Sutil as drivers with Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi as tester.


Hopes Dashed
That dashed Karthikeyan's hopes of returning to Formula One after a season racing with Jordan and then two as a Williams tester.

"India wants to see Indian drivers winning," Teixeira had said, speaking before the final race of the A1 season at Brands Hatch this weekend. "I don't see Force India winning a race in F1 for the next five years."

Mallya suggested Teixeira would be "better advised" to comment on his own country, pointing out also that Formula One champions Ferrari had no Italian drivers but were not considered any less Italian for that.

"I am sure that Indians could win so-called world titles at B or C grade levels of any sport quite easily but competing at the very highest international level is not only a matter of pride but proves a nation's ability to participate and do so," said the billionaire.

Mallya said Force India were committed to identifying and bringing an Indian driver through to Formula One and hoped to achieve this within five years.

"Irresponsible and ill-informed statements will not change the waves of support for Force India or India's growing enthusiasm for Formula One," he added.

The reaction from India's two major tyre makers, who promote motor sports within the country, was mixed.

"You can't force Mallya to have Indian drivers unless they are up to standard," Tony Rodricks, motorsport head of MRF Ltd., told Reuters, adding that Karthikeyan was a fading force.

However Rodricks also said Mallya, who heads India's motor sports governing body, should have done more for Indian motorsport in terms of local infrastructure.

"In India, no car or oil company is in the fray and only we and JK Tyres are putting in the money and promoting motorsport," he said.