What India can learn from Japan
Manufacturers need to support Indian racing, writes Karun Chandhok.india Updated: Oct 15, 2011 01:46 IST
I've just had my first trip out to the Land of The Rising Sun and have to say I've come away highly impressed, and in awe of the country and its people.
The infrastructure across the country is truly incredible and the level of organisation coupled with the history and culture is very special.
From a motorsport point of view, I was hugely surprised and amazed by the amount of racing that happens in Japan, and the way that it's all structured. For a relatively small country geographically, it has at least 6 high level international race tracks and a motorsport industry which should be the envy of the rest of Asia.Admittedly, the sport isn't as big as it was 15 or 20 years ago when the likes of Eddie Irvine, Heinz Herald Frentzen (both F1 race winners) or Tom Kristensen (Le Mans 24 hours legend) were making as much money as the F1 stars by racing out here but it's still something to be proud of.
The Japanese Super GT series and the Formula Nippon series are both still reasonably strong and still attract the fans and a decent level of European drivers.
The rivalry between Honda, Toyota and Nissan is fiercely competitive with teams spending huge amounts of money. Much like the Holden vs Ford battle in Australian V8's, the fans here are very much either Honda, Nissan or Toyota supporters and are hugely passionate about it.
But despite this huge rivalry, the manufacturers all feel a common sense of responsibility to the sport and to the up-and-comers.
Honda built and funded the Suzuka circuit and continue to support the Japanese Grand Prix even though they haven't been in F1 since 2009 while Toyota re-did Fuji and built it up to modern F1 standards hosting races there in 2007 and 2008.
The most interesting initiative though is something that I uncovered this weekend called Formula Challenge Japan.
It's a fantastic concept where all the 3 big manufacturers have decided that they won't attack each other in the market for junior Formula racing and instead pool-in their resources to support a single neutral championship with what were basically Formula Renault cars.
It's a bit strange to see the race suits of every driver carrying advertising for all three rival companies with their cars or helmets carrying the logos of just the one that supports them!
I was hugely impressed by the fact that all these three major brands were able to put aside their battles for visibility and share a platform that in the end benefits the sport and the young talent.
The Japanese have shown me that the way forward could be to get everyone willing to invest even smaller amounts, to collaborate in something for the greater good for the future Karthikeyans and Chandhoks of India.