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Four years of waiting

You wouldn’t be mistaken to think of Narain Karthikeyan as a patient man. The story goes that he had to wait till the age of 18 to be allowed to drive on public roads by his father.

india Updated: Mar 25, 2011 01:38 IST
Vinayak Pande

You wouldn’t be mistaken to think of Narain Karthikeyan as a patient man. The story goes that he had to wait till the age of 18 to be allowed to drive on public roads by his father. Compared to that, his four-year hiatus from Formula-1 must have felt like a heartbeat for the Coimbatore native.

In all those four years — Narain was a test driver for Williams until 2007 — he always maintained that his involvement with F-1 was not over and that he would make his way back somehow.

It seemed like a promise he would come good on when, in 2007-08, he won two feature races in the now defunct A1 Grand Prix series. The 2008-09 season promised much but a second place in the sprint race at Brands Hatch was the only highlight of an otherwise lackluster season.

The global economic crisis forced the series to go into financial insolvency and the 2009-10 season was cancelled. The development hit Narain hard, as it was a series he was fond of racing in.

“It was a fantastic series,” Narain told HT recently. “It was a big deal to race for India and to win in Britain where we beat the host nation.”

Narain didn’t have much time to dwell on the loss of A1GP, however. The aim was to get into any kind of racing car so as to not be idle. A lot of hunting led to a drive in Superleague Formula, a racing series where teams sponsored by football clubs face off against each other. Narain raced six of the first seven rounds of the 2010 Superleague season (which included a win at Brands Hatch) before turning his attention to the most unlikely of racing series — NASCAR truck racing beckoned Narain as he looked to continue his involvement with motorsports.

It is this dogged determination to be at the wheel of any racing car which gives Narain confidence that his return to F-1 will not be as much of a struggle as Michael Schumacher’s.

“Michael stopped racing altogether and did a fantastic job to come back the way he did,” Narain said of the German legend with whom he will share the grid this year.

“In my case, I have been racing always, and racing a variety of things.”

With the start of the season almost upon us, only the harsh judgment of the stopwatch will tell us if Narain will even make the grid for the Australian Grand Prix.

Even if he doesn’t, he can take solace in the fact that, by hook or by crook, he backed up his words and made it back to F-1.


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