Narain Karthikeyan recalls all too well the underpowered and not particularly sophisticated single-seat cars he drove in India before venturing abroad to chase his dream of becoming a Formula One driver.
Now, sitting in the pits of India's very own F1 grade circuit and waiting to test the all-new MRF Formula 2000 car, Karthikeyan feels more hopeful about
aspiring Indian single-seat drivers' prospects.
"We've certainly come a long way since when I was racing," Karthikeyan told HT. "Drivers wanting to get into F1 or any other top racing series will still have to do either Formula 3, GP3 or GP2 but this new series will get them to a level at which they will be able to compete in those series."
The MRF Challenge made its debut as a support race for the inaugural Indian Grand Prix last year, but it was with the MRF Formula 1600 car that produced 130 horsepower.
Getting a boost
The series will return for this year's race too but with the Formula 2000 car that has been built by Coimbatore based Jayem Automobiles Ltd in collaboration with racing chassis manufacturing giant Dallara of Italy. Dallara provides chassis for teams in Formula 3, GP3, GP2 and Indycar.
Unlike the Formula 1600 car, the Formula 2000 car will have a carbon-fibre driver's cell and nose section like in F1 and its normally aspirated Renault engine -- the turbocharged version of which is used in the GP3 Series -- will be good for 210 horsepower, giving the car a potential top-speed of 260 kmh. It will weigh just over 500 kilograms.
According to Dallara's head of Engineering and Project Management Jos Claes, the majority of the car has been built in India. "We provided some of the structural components for the car," said Claes. "But the rest of the car is built by Jayem based on our technical drawings. And I can't tell the difference between the car built in Italy and the one built here!"