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India's two-wheel trailblazer

The only Indian to qualify for MotoGP, 2012 will be the year for Chennai's Sarath to prove himself worthy for the big leagues. Vinayak Pande reports. Journey so far

india Updated: Jan 04, 2012 01:05 IST
Vinayak Pande
Vinayak Pande
Hindustan Times

Before the final weekend of last October, motorsports, as far as casual Indian sports fans are concerned, was just something that existed on television. All that changed when the roar of 24 Formula One cars reverberated in Greater Noida. The spectacle grabbed many eyeballs; in no small part, thanks to the presence of two Indian drivers in the pit-lane.

The latest Indian to venture into the world of top flight international motorsports could be grabbing some of those eyeballs too, albeit while on two wheels instead of four. Twenty-year-old Sarath Kumar has his sights set on becoming a regular feature in Grand Prix motorcycle racing; better known to the world as MotoGP. In fact, to everyone, outside of the motorsports fraternity, Kumar made a low-profile debut in the 125cc category of MotoGP in the opening round of the 2011 season in Qatar.

It was a wake-up call for the 2008 national champion who was used to a far different level of competition in India. “Back in India there are maybe five or six top guys who normally dominate races,” said Kumar while speaking to HT. “In international 125cc racing the top ten riders on the grid are usually separated by no more than a second.”

Despite the increased competition and not qualifying for the start of the first two races of the 2011 season, Kumar managed to qualify for the third round in Portugal. The fact that he did so with Bangalore based Ten 10 Racing made it all the more significant.

Due, in part, to the 125cc category being discontinued from 2012, Sarath has now taken a different route to prepare himself for a possible MotoGP return. Starting from 25 March, Kumar will compete in the Italian Road Racing Championship for Mahindra Racing, who made their MotoGP debut in the 125cc category in 2011.

Paired with the 2007 champion in that series, the 8 round championship will be an audition for Kumar who hopes to step up to MotoGP with Mahindra. No promises have been made, but the fact that Mahindra saw fit to give such an opportunity to an Indian rider could be a sign of better things to come.

First Published: Jan 03, 2012 23:49 IST