With just a few days to go for the highly-anticipated inaugural Indian Formula One Grand Prix, my mind goes back three decades to the time when JK Tyre took the decision to promote motorsports in our country. Our involvement began with the Himalayan Rally in early eighties when motorsports was in its nascent stages in India.
As we always knew that motorsports is the only available and potent platform for the auto and auto ancillary industries to demonstrate the performance of their products, there was absolute clarity in our mind to pursue this subject.
Since the beginning, our vision was always to take motorsports to the masses and for that to happen we realized it was important to make the sport accessible, affordable and sustainable. We shifted focus from rallying to the more spectator-friendly form of circuit racing - and this led us to institute the National Racing Championship in 1997.
Our primary motive, also, has always been on unearthing fresh racing talent, and it gives us great satisfaction to have been able to play a big part in shaping the careers of Indian race drivers over the years, including the two Indians in F1 - Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok and young F1 hopefuls Armaan Ebrahim and Aditya Patel.
Very few people in this country are aware of the fact that karting is actually the first step towards becoming a racing driver. With the vision of producing global racing talent we established a national karting infrastructure in 1997 across 7 cities and initiated the first national-level karting competition in 2000. We subsequently launched the National Rotax Karting Championship in 2005 with high-speed karts as the first step in a long-term programme for systematic progression in the motorsport ladder for any enthusiast who wants to pursue racing as a career option. The company in the last 10 years has invested over `100 crore towards the development of motorsport infrastructure across the country.
This year we took over the Formula BMW Pacific Series and rechristened it the JK Racing Asia Series as part of our endeavour to put more and more Indians in international racing in the future.
The Asia series is rich in talent and a premier feeder series to Formula One. Six of the current Formula One drivers, including the two-time champion Sebastian Vettel, are products of this series.
Our involvement with motorsports has been mutually beneficial, as it has helped us constantly upgrade the quality of our product to meet the challenges of grueling conditions.
While six new world class facilities like Turkey, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Korea, China, and Malaysia do not have their national on the grid, we in India boast of two drivers making it to the coveted 24 and couple of more are on verge of making it big.
The writer is Vice-Chairman and MD, JK Tyre