Motorsports are slowly catching on in India but we’re still a ways away before headlines celebrating the first Indian to win the Formula 1 championship pop up on our screens. But there’s good news, hopeful news, news like Akhil Rabindra becoming the first Asian in 2020 to be re-selected by the Aston Martin Racing Driver Academy. The young lad from Bengaluru with a goal to become a factory driver for Aston Martin is stirring up a storm, with a substantially long racing career at the age of 23.
With a podium finish and a top 5 finish in the GT4 European Series and three podium finishes in the 24H Series, Akhil has been putting up a good show for team Prosport Performance driving an Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT4. We got in a conversation with the man of the hour to find out more about his career so far and what he hopes to achieve in a future not far away.
1. How would you describe your growth since your days of go-karting to driving for the Aston Martin Racing Driver Academy?
It has been 10 years for me now in the domestic and international motorsport, I have definitely learnt a lot in every championship that I have taken part in and the different cars I have driven. Go-karting is the basics, the ABCD’s of racing where the fundamentals apply in whichever car one drives with whatever level of power and aero.
I had the privilege to have 6 years in single-seater racing while I was trying to pursue my formula one goal and then switched to GT racing which is a completely different format with longer races and co-drivers.
Being on the Academy has been great, we have access to factor drivers, the sim and physical training which we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Utilizing these resources has definitely made me a better driver in the car and taught me a few things outside the car too.
2. How has the GT Championship season been for you so far? What was great and what could’ve been better?
This year has been a bit difficult on all fronts, it has created more problems which is hard for everyone. The first round we had was fine, we finished mid-pack and struggled throughout the weekend with the setup. We would have preferred to be fighting right up there in the top 5. Saying that, the competition in this championship is with the most competitive Gt4s championships, during qualifiers you will see the top 16-18 cars all within one second of each other which makes it tough and interesting at the same time. The Pro/Am category has 17 cars, the silver category has about 5 and there are about 10 Am cars.
The second round was much more positive for us as we were fighting in and around the top 10 and missed out on a class podium. We have made progress with the car and the team from the first round to the second round. I think there is still a few tenths to find and once we find that we’ll consistently be fighting in the top 10 and fighting for class podiums.
This is my first time in a Pro/am category where I am fighting the Pros in the Pro/am and the silvers in the same race. It’s definitely been a positive challenge for me, it is demanding a different side of me to scale up and perform.
3. What’re your thoughts on the Vantage GT4?
It’s a great car to drive, I’m not saying that because I am biased but after driving the McLaren, BMW, Mercedes, the Aston does feel like it has all the right features a GT4 car needs to have. It is very racy to drive, it manages its tires well, it’s got plenty of grunt when needed but expensive when it comes to damage. Like anything, there are a few negatives but you can overcome it with the positives.
4. Was sports car racing always your preferred form of racing? Will we see you get behind the wheel of a Formula race car in the near future?
Formula one was always the goal for me initially right from karting to British F3. It was the end of 2016 we decided to stop pursuing the formula one route and go the GT way. This decision came from various factors such as experience, timeline, financial and just the basic odds of making it to F1 after spending time, effort, and money it’s still an ‘if’. Today, to make it to F1 it’s a lot more than pure driving talent, you need to be a complete package which the team sees a fit. Let’s not forget that there are only 20 drivers in F1 and only a few changes happen every year while there is a ready supply of reserve drivers, F2 champions from the previous years and sometimes ex-Formula One drivers coming back. The average age in the 2020 season is probably the youngest ever, having 8 drivers under 25 so it’s really important to choose the right championships with good teams and have great outcomes. Most F1 drivers today have ‘made it’ before they turn 25.
5. What is the daily physical and mental fitness regime for a professional race car driver?
I personally try to follow a balanced diet; I do have a higher protein intake which helps me with my training. It’s just keeping it simple, drink enough water daily, get good workouts, eat healthy and clean, get a decent amount of sleep and that pretty much keeps you in check. Workout wise depending on the time of the year, the workout varies, normally during the preseason we really push our fitness to the next level and it deteriorates during the season with all the travel and races. It’s all about maintaining a good level during the season and not letting it fall. It’s important also not to push all the time because recovery and safety are equally important for the body. The single biggest point is about being consistent throughout the year no matter what, which will raise the average level of your fitness.
6. What’s next for Akhil Rabindra after the end of this season?
The plan after the season is to relax for a bit but get straight back into it. I’ll be hitting the gym hard towards the end of the year and early next year to push my fitness levels to new highs. Racing wise I am planning to do GT3 next year which has a faster car and is physically more demanding. We are evaluating different teams and championships.
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7. Your advice to young drivers or motorcycle riders in India who wish to get into racing full time, considering that motorsports are still a novel concept here.
I would say focus on the fundamentals first, get the basics right. Once your fundamentals are strong it will always have your back in whichever car you race in whichever part of the world. Racing being an expensive sport which demands a higher financial investment, really focus on your presentation skills to attract sponsors, and develop relationships.
8. Senna or Schumacher
That’s a hard one, Schumacher because I have watched him race live and seen his talent. Senna is still and will be a legend with his hard work and work ethic.
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