‘Buddh Circuit looks nice, great on TV but that’s about it,’ Former F1 driver says infrastructure not very strong in India
Accessibility is key for spreading motorsports in a country and India needs much more than the one Formula 1 level race track the country presently has, according to former F1 driver Alex Yoong.
Yoong, who in 2002 became the first Malaysian to race in the F1, will return to India as one of the foreign drivers who have been brought in for the X1 Racing League.
“It’s still in its infancy,” Yoong told IANS when asked about what he thinks about motorsports in India. “It is similar to where Malaysia is in someways. India have got some good drivers who have gone abroad like Narain (Karthikeyan), Karun (Chandok) and all these new kids coming along.
“Like Malaysia, the infrastructure is not very strong. We’ve only got one or two tracks,” he said.
Yoong said that F1 does little to help improve the infrastructure in a country. “It’s too big. It comes in sucks up all the money and doesn’t do anything for the structure. We need to support local teams and local championships like X1 because are what help grow the infrastructure,” he said.
The Buddh International Circuit (BIC), which was built for the Indian GP that was held in 2011, is one of two tracks where X1 Racing is slated to be held. Only three editions of the Indian GP -- in 2011, 2012 and 2013 -- could be held at the BIC and Yoong said that while the track is world class, it is too big and it is smaller tracks that increase accessibility.
“It’s a world class track of course. It’s a typical Formula 1 track, very wide, very open. The money was well spent, the track is fantastic,” he said.
“We just need more stuff around it to support it. One big track is not going to be very useful. In fact, it is too big, you need five or six smaller tracks. Make it cheaper, more accessible. That is key, one big F1 track is not good for accessibility. It looks nice, great on TV but that’s about it.”
Yoong’s familiarity with India goes beyond his visits to the country for the Indian GP editions or the fact that he is familiar with some of the famous drivers in the country. His son Alister participates in the Formula 4 South East Asia Champioship. Chennai’s Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) has been one of the host venues for the championship in the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
“I will definitely ask him for some advice. He has driven in Chennai. As far as fans go, they don’t get more passionate than the Indian fans. They are amazing and they are scary as well. If you don’t perform, they are on your case. I expect to see that for X1 as well,” he said.
Yoong said that he did not hesitate for a moment before saying yes to participating in the league, largely because he knew the founders Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim, who are racers themselves.
“I said yes straightaway. Aditya and Armaan are good men. I like the idea. I know that the franchise model worked well for Indian cricket. So I was like, sign me up,” he said.
Yoong will be racing for DG Racing Ahmedabad which includes British F3 race winner Krishnaraaj Mahadik, Swiss driver Rahel Frey, experienced Indian racer Ameya Walavalkar and current LGB Formula 4 racer Chittesh Mandody. The first leg of the league will be held at the BIC on November 30 and December 1 while the second leg will be held at the MMRT on December 7 and 8.
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- While they were busy putting in the framework to get the seventh edition up and going, they received a setback when two of the biggest manufacturers—Audi and BMW—announced their decision to pull out from the sport at the end of this season.