Twists & turns aplenty in run-up to i1’s debut | india | Hindustan Times
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Twists & turns aplenty in run-up to i1’s debut

india Updated: Nov 09, 2011 23:48 IST
Vinayak Pande
Vinayak Pande
Hindustan Times
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Getting your foot in the door is never easy. Darshan M, the CEO of Machdar Motorsports should know all about that as he undertakes the ambitious task of setting up a domestic motor racing series with the intention of raising the sport’s profile in India.

That would explain getting low-cost, one-make cars from Great Britain’s Radical Racing. The intention to create buzz would explain roping in Sachin Tendulkar as brand ambassador and Shah Rukh Khan and the head of a well-known management school as franchise owners for the i1 Super Series.

A FEW SETBACKS

A motorsports series is nothing without drivers, however, and that’s where there have been setbacks. Heikki Kovalainen, Ralf Schumacher and two-time Formula One champion Mika Hakkinen have refused to sign a letter of intent, while Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandhok and Jarno Trulli have signed on the dotted line for now but their participation will not become official until they are signed by one of the nine franchises the series is supposed to feature.

“We are talking to 15 different drivers,” said Darshan while speaking to HT. “There are some people that we cannot agree with commercially, some that we don’t think are viable at the price points that they are expecting, so there are some commercial deals that will happen and some that won’t happen.”

When the 27 drivers are announced, there are three categories that they will be divided into. The international category will comprise of foreign drivers who are or have, at some point of time, competed in F1. The Indian category would comprise of drivers of Indian origin who have experience in global motorsports.

Finally, the standby category will comprise entirely of domestically based Indian drivers. Darshan hopes to see the series comprise entirely of Indian drivers within the next three to five years, when the talent pool of drivers in India has sufficiently been developed.

WHERE TO RACE?

Just as important to the development of a driver is exposure to a world class driving facility, which is where things get tricky again. India’s very first F1 grade circuit at Greater Noida that got rave reviews from the entire grid will not be available until next March.

The series’ inaugural season calendar features the Buddh International Circuit as a venue in mid-January and late-February, but it’s news to Darshan.

“I read about that in the paper today,” said Darshan. “But I don’t recall Mr. Gaur telling us anything personally, we have shaken hands and agreed to race.” Should it come to shifting the venue to the Irungattukottai circuit outside of Chennai, however, Darshan says there wouldn’t be a problem provided the circuit is upgraded to a Grade 2 or Grade 3 venue at the very least.

More franchise owners are to be announced this week according to Darshan with the finalised entrants, teams and liveries being unveiled at a circuit (yet to be confirmed) sometime in December.