There are no sob stories here, just confident young men who put their passion above everything else – keen to learn and make a mark. I had the opportunity to witness the Round 6 of Asia Road Racing Championship held from 1 December to 2 December at Chang International Circuit in Thailand. In a nice long conversation with the two Indian racers competing in the championship – Anish Shetty and Rajiv Sethu – it was quite delightfully evident that our countrymen are now opening their minds to wider horizons – ones that involve sheer speed.
Motorsports have existed in India but only to those who have had a taster of it or know a family member or a friend who's indulged in it. To the masses, the concept of riding around in circles hasn't really been a lucrative career option or even good enough for relieving enthusiasm.
However, looks like the scenario is now changing. While the progress may be slow, but it's faster than it was 10 years ago. Prabhu Nagaraj, Vice President, Brand and Communications, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, explained to us how Honda 2Wheelers was doing its bit to find young talent in India. Honda Racing simply invites registrations from prospective riders and throw them a basic test on a karting track to shortlist those who show promise. Post then, they're honed and trained at Honda T Pro Ten10 Academy at Honda's expense.
We live in a country where if it's a boy, he'll be an engineer and if it's a girl, she'll be a doctor, is not just a social media meme but a very stern and real expectation that parents have of their children. But Prabhu revealed to us that Honda conducts interviews with the parents of the prospective racers as young as 13 to explain to them the exact details of their child's career choice.
Out of these, he says that about 30% are outspokenly willing to support their kid's dream. While the other 30% say they're only doing it because their kid insists, another 30% are reluctant but don't want to see their kids throw a tantrum. Only 10% of these families outwardly deny their child's right to pursue his/her dream, well, because it doesn't make much sense to them.
Team & Rider Profiles:
RAC 1 result
Honda Racing India’ by T Pro Ten10
Asia Production 250cc
Super Sports 600cc
Rajiv also revealed that his family didn't at first support his choice to become a professional racer, fearing that his academics would be affected. But he enrolled with Honda racing academy in 2014 and within months he had several podium finishes to his name, which then flashed on news websites and papers. It's been smooth sailing with his family for Rajiv since then as he also aims to finish his Bachelor of Commerce.
Anish, on the hand, is a working professional but that doesn't stop him from racing. A software engineer at Accenture, Anish has taken a sabbatical from work to compete at ARRC and already has two national championships to his name.
At the end of Race 1 of Round 6 of ARRC, we received good news for both Indian riders in the 250cc category. It was the first time for Rajiv to earn points on foreign lands, having finished 13th and Anish too climbed from 26th position to 23rd.
Both the riders seemed extremely determined. The fact that the two broke Indian stereotypes about a stable job being the way forward is proof enough that they won't back down for anything. It will be riders like Anish and Rajiv who will spearhead India's progress towards championships like World Superbike Championship or hopefully soon enough to MotoGP.