Indian racers abroad and their plans for the 2017 season
Spring's around the corner! The reason that's important to us (note the exclamation point) is because along with the changing of the seasons comes the sound of garage doors being opened, tarps being pulled off race machines, and engines being started up and revved to their limit. Aided, of course, by the mashing of the pedal and the wringing of the throttle. Motorsport season is beginning soon, and so it's time for our racers to pack their bags and head abroad to compete in the various series that they will be participating in, in their quest for race and rally wins, and those much-sought-after championship titles. For the 2017 season of racing, India seems to be fairly well represented across various forms of motorsport - from rallying to open-wheel circuit racing, and from sportscar racing to two-wheeled circuit racing and rally-raids. Here's who is racing where in 2017, and in some cases who is hoping to be racing where subject to sponsorship and budgets being confirmed, and what you need to know about them.
Another year in the APRC for Gaurav Gill. When's he going to get to the ERC is the question?
2016 season: Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, Indian Rally Championship
Best finish: 2016 Asia-Pacific Rally Champion
Back in 2013, Gaurav Gill became the first and only Indian to win a major FIA championship, when he claimed the title of Asia-Pacific Rally Champion. It's a feat that Gill repeated again in 2016, making him a double APRC champion, only this time he did it in a Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5 - a state-of-the-art machine that has been used in top-flight rallying around the world. In fact, Gill was so strong that he took six wins of the six rallies that he competed in in 2016, easily besting his team-mate Fabian Kreim. For 2017, Gill returns to the APRC with Team MRF Skoda, in a bid to defend his championship title. The change is that Gill's navigator Glenn Maceall will be replaced by a new navigator, likely from Scandinavia. Who Gill's team-mate is for 2017 isn't known yet, but going by past team-mates - the likes of Jan Kopecky, Pontus Tidemand and Kreim - we can expect it to be someone fairly competitive from the world of European rallying. Other than some more Powerboat racing, Gill will also make a return to the 2017 Indian National Rally Championship, piloting a SuperXUV for Team Mahindra Adventure. He will be chasing after his sixth national rally championship title. But India and Asia aside, there have been a fair number of people wondering why no one is taking Gaurav Gill to the European Rally Championship and letting him prove himself there. After all, this is the same driver who scored points in the PWRC back in 2009. So many titles later, it really is about time!
Narain Karthikeyan is all set for another season in the Japanese Super Formula Championship
2016 season: Super Formula Japan
Best finish: 3rd place at Round 5, Okayama
Narain Karthikeyan is set to compete in his fourth consecutive season in the Japanese Super Formula Championship. And for 2017, Narain's hoping to do much better than he did in the 2016 season. Fourteenth place in the championship for Team Le Mans, where he partnered Kamui Kobayashi, isn't what Narain was hoping for. However, there will be some satisfaction in the fact that he squarely beat team-mate Kobayashi all through the season. Kobayashi ended the championship down in 17th place. But for 2017, Karthikeyan switches to Team Nakajima Racing, where he will partner Daisuke Nakajima. Team Nakajima Racing finished fifth overall in the 2016 championship, a few places higher than Team Le Mans who were down in 10th place. Other big names who will compete in the 2017 season of the championship include reigning champion Yuji Kunimoto, championship runner-up and former Le Mans winner, Andre Lotterer, Mahindra Racing's Formula E driver Felix Rosenqvist, reigning GP2 champion Pierre Gasly, and Nissan GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough. Forty-year-old Narain will have some stiff competition from his rivals, but he's got experience, speed and racecraft on his side!
Karun Chandhok is hoping to make it back to Le Mans in 2017, but time will tell
2016 season: Round 3 of European Le Mans Series
Best finish: 8th at Red Bull Ring
No racecar driver likes sitting out an entire season of racing. Unfortunately for Karun Chandhok, though, that's exactly what happened in the 2016 season. While he had been hoping to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for a fifth consecutive season, with the Murphy Racing Prototypes team, that didn't happen. However, Karun did make a one-off appearance at one round of the European Le Mans series, the third round of the championship, finishing eighth in the Murphy Prototypes Oreca O3R. He also took on a new role with the Williams team as their official heritage driver, which involved getting to drive some of the team's most iconic racecars at festivals like the Goodwood Festival of Speed. However, there are ongoing talks with teams in order for Karun to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Which teams these are, he isn't letting on yet. But there is a possibility that it might be Murphy Racing, a team he's competed with four times in the past.
Another year racing the Audi LMS looks likely for Aditya Patel. The series hasn't been confirmed yet
2016 season: Audi R8 LMS Cup
Best finish: 2nd place at Race 2, Round 6, Shanghai
The 2015 season was easily one of the most competitive seasons of international motorsport for Aditya Patel. The Indian driver managed to fight for the Audi R8 LMS Cup championship title, ultimately finishing fourth overall in the season. But 2016 was the other end of the spectrum then. On paper, Aditya finished sixth in the championship, but he'd been struggling all through the season. This meant that his only podium came in the very last race - a second-place finish at the season finale at Shanghai. Which also meant that Aditya had spent a total of 11 races off the podium. However, he isn't letting that deter him from a promising 2017 season. While there is still the possibility that Aditya might return to the Audi R8 LMS Cup for another season, there are other series that he has been linked to. Like the possibility of a drive in the Blancpain GT Series Asia. There is also a slim chance that the Indian driver might make a switch from racing the Audi R8 to racing the RS3 LMS. Time will tell.
UPDATE: It has since been confirmed that Aditya will race for the ODRacing outfit in the Blancpain GT Series Asia.
Armaan Ebrahim is likely to end up racing in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Championship in 2017 too
2016 season: Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Asia Series
Best finish: Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Asia Series Pro-Am Champion
Armaan Ebrahim followed up a successful 2015 campaign in the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Asia Series - where he and team-mate Dilantha Malagamuwa finished second in the Pro-Am category - with an even more successful 2016 season. The duo, in their Dilango Racing Lamborghini Huracan, finished the 2016 season as champions in the Pro-Am class, while also finishing third in the overall standings. So what of 2017? There is a possibility that Armaan might make a return to the Super Trofeo Asia Series, driving once again for the Malagamuwa-owned Dilango Racing outfit. He's already had one outing with the team at the Dubai finale of the Super Trofeo Middle East championship where they finished third in the Pro-Am class in both races. There is also the possibility that Armaan might manage to wrangle a few races in Europe this year. However, his plans aren't set in stone as yet.
UPDATE: It has since been confirmed that Armaan will drive in the 2017 Super Trofeo Asia Series in the Pro class, for FFF Racing.
For 2017 Jehan Daruvala makes the switch to the European F3 Championship
2016 season: Toyota Racing Series, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault 2.0 NEC
Best finish: TRS - 1st at Christchurch, Invercargill, Taupo; NEC -1st at Hungary
Jehan Daruvala's second year of racing cars went pretty well. The Indian racer began the season competing in the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand, with the M2 Competition team. Three wins and second place in the championship standings was a good result. But the competition was even closer in the two series in Europe that he was competing in. Driving for the Joseph Kaufman Racing team, Daruvala competed in both the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship as well as the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC. He ended the Eurocup ninth in the championship, with the high point being a third-place finish at Race 1 in Algarve, Portugal. Things were better in the NEC, with second place at Monza, first at Hungaroring, a pair of third places at Assen and a third-place finish also at the Nurburgring. Which meant that Daruvala finished fourth in the championship. For 2017 Jehan graduates to the European Formula 3 Championship with the Carlin team, who with Trevor Carlin at the helm, have years of experience in the field of single-seater racing. The competition that Jehan will face in the European F3 championship, however, is going to be stiff, with the likes of Lando Norris, Joey Mawson, Ralf Aron and Jake Hughes (all championship winners in various single-seater categories) also competing in the series. Often touted as India's next big F1 hope, Jehan is going to have his work cut out for him.
Another year in the GP3 series for Arjun Maini in 2017
2016 season: European F3 Championship, GP3 Series
Best finish: 2nd place at Round 3, Race 2, Hungary
2016 saw Arjun Maini compete in the first four rounds of the European Formula 3 Championship with the Threebond with T-Sport team, before switching to the GP3 Series with Jenzer Motorsport. Despite missing the first two rounds of the series, Maini managed to finish a creditable 10th overall in the championship standings, having managed to rack up a podium finish at the second race at the Hungaroring. Consistent points finishes, and only one retirement through the whole season, helped him achieve this feat. For 2017 Arjun makes a return to the same championship, once again with Jenzer Motorsport. Testing, and a complete season in the series, ought to help young Maini achieve his goal of a first win in the GP3 Series. Fighting for the championship, though, that's going to be challenging. After all, the grid does have its share of former champions in various single-seater categories.
Kush Maini will continue in the Italian F4 Championship in 2017
2016 season: Italian F4 Championship
Best finish: 3rd place at Race 3, Round 5, Vallelunga
After a fairly successful campaign in the world of European karting, Kush Maini made the switch to single-seater racing in 2016. While he initially had plans to do either the Spanish F4 Championship or the SMP F4 Championship, the Indian racer made the switch to the Italian F4 series for 2016, racing with BVM Racing. The learning curve was fairly steep for Kush, but he still managed to finish in the points in three of the four races that he contested, in each of the first two rounds at Misano and Adria. The following rounds at Imola and Mugello proved to be a little more tricky, though. But Kush bounced back at the fifth round of the championship at Vallelunga, scoring a podium. The end result of the season was 16th place overall in the championship. This translated to a fifth place in the Rookie category of the championship, which meant that it wasn't too bad a season for Kush. In 2017 Kush will continue in the Italian F4 Championship, racing for Jenzer Motorsport, the same team that his brother drives for. More podiums and a higher finishing place in the championship is a must.
Either GP3 or Euroformula Open for Tarun Reddy in 2017
2016 season: BRDC British F3 Championship
Best finish: 2nd place at Race 2, Round 2, Brands Hatch; 2nd place at Race 2, Round 7, Snetterton
2016 marked Tarun Reddy's third full-season racing cars in Europe. It was a marked improvement over his second season, when he'd ended the FIA MSA Formula Championship in 15th place. But for the 2016 season Tarun switched to the BRDC British F3 Championship, racing with Fortec Motorsports. He managed to do fairly well over the course of the season, ending the championship sixth overall. Along the way he managed to finish second twice, at Brands Hatch and Snetterton. He also managed two more podium finishes, taking third place at Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps. A decent showing for his third-season racing single seaters in Europe. For the 2017 season of racing, Tarun is likely to compete in either the GP3 Series or the Euroformula Open Championship. A GP3 test has already been carried out. But as we go to press, nothing's been signed on the dotted line.
Akhil Rabindra makes the switch to racing GT cars in 2017
2016 season: BRDC British F3 Championship
Best finish: 9th place at Race 3, Round 2, Brands Hatch
2016 was the year that Akhil Rabindra made the switch to the BRDC British F3 Championship. He'd spent 2015 competing in the BRDC F4 Championship with Douglas Racing, and had had an average season. In 2016 Rabindra had to come to terms with new machinery, and a new team - Lanan Racing. It wasn't the easiest of seasons for the Indian driver, who had in the past been a part of the FIA Institute's Young Driver Academy. A ninth-place finish at Brands Hatch was the high point of the season. Nonetheless, Rabindra still did enough to catch the eye of the people at the McLaren GT Academy, who took him on for the 2017 season. He's already been signed on to compete in the British GT Championship in 2017, driving a McLaren 570S GT4 for the Black Bull Garage 59 team. This is partly down to the fact that he's got decent amounts of track time on the British tracks already. And also partly down to the fact that he was hoping to make the switch from single seaters to sportscar racing too. 2017 will be the year of reckoning for Rabindra.
Ricky Donison will compete in the 2017 USF2000 championship
2016 season: Euro JK 16; Indian National Karting Championship
Best finish: 3rd place in Race 1, Round 4, BIC; Indian National Karting Champion - Senior Max class
Ricky Donison has been a force to reckon with in the domestic karting scene over the last few years. In fact, the BPC Racing karter has been so dominant that he's managed to win the National Karting Championship in the Senior category a whopping three times in a row, claiming the title in 2014, 2015 and 2016. In 2016, Donison also began racing cars, competing in the JK Tyre National Racing Championship's Euro JK 16 category. He spent most of the season coming to terms with the machine he was driving, which meant the highlight was the one podium finish at the BIC. Donison ended the championship ninth in the standings. But he did manage to earn a fully sponsored drive in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 series, backed by JK Tyre. The Cape Motorsports driver has his work cut out for him as he'll need to come to terms with racing a wings and slicks machine.
Parth Ghorpade is looking at the possibility of racing in the LMP3 class of the Asian Le Mans series
2016 season: European Le Mans Series
Best finish: Season truncated due to injury
The last few seasons have been riddled with injuries for Parth Ghorpade. A shoulder injury meant that he had to sit out most of the 2014 and 2015 seasons of racing. Then after just a couple of rounds in the 2016 European Le Mans Series, where he competed with Algarve Pro Racing, another injury forced him out of competition. For 2017 though, Ghorpade signed with the FFF Racing team and contested two rounds of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Middle East series. The season even got off to a good start, with Ghorpade and team-mate Jack Bartholomew managing to finish second in class and third overall in Race 1. It could be a sign of good things to come over the course of the season, provided he does manage to find a full-time race seat for 2017. Currently, talks are ongoing, with the possibility of a drive in the LMP3 category of the Asian Le Mans Series.
Soldiering on to Dakar 2018 with Hero MotoSports Team Rally is CS Santosh
2016 season: Dakar Rally, Merzouga Rally, OiLibya Rally Morocco
Best performance: 16th at Merzouga
Our pick for one of the most gritty motorsport athletes we've ever come across is CS Santosh. This time last year, he had told us that he was in the midst of starting a crowdfunding campaign in order to ensure that he would be able to compete in the 2017 Dakar Rally. A few months later, though, everything that Santosh had been working so hard for appeared to materialise. Hero MotoCorp tied up with off-road specialists Speedbrain GmbH and formed Hero MotoSports Team Rally. Santosh was now a factory rider, and had nothing to worry about except for the fact that he needed to get out there and train as much as possible. In 2016 he competed in the Merzouga Rally and the Morocco Rally with Hero, after which he kicked off his 2017 campaign with the Dakar Rally, where he finished a solid 47th position in the motorcycle category. But there's the rest of the season to get through before he manages to go onto the Dakar in 2018. This includes another stint at the Merzouga Rally, followed by the Morocco Rally at the end of the year in preparation for the Dakar. The ultimate goal is to win the Dakar someday.
K Rajini's 2017 campaign in the Malaysian Superbike Championship is already underway
2016 season: Malaysian Super Series
Best finish: 1st Place, Race 1, Round 4
Rajini Krishnan headed back to the Malaysian Super Series in 2016 in order to defend his championship title. But the season proved to be quite tricky for the Indian rider, who rode for Team Chia Motor PJ. His first podium, a third-place finish, came at the second race of Round 3 of the championship. However, a wildcard entry to compete in one round of the China Superbike Championship did prove fruitful. Rajini finished the race third overall, which gave him victory in the Super Stock category. In the MSS, though, it looked like he'd manage a second-place finish in the championship. However, the last two rounds, held on the same weekend were his undoing. Rajini won the first race of Round 4. But crashed out in the second race. Things got worse, when he crashed out in both races of Round 5. This meant he only managed to finish fifth overall in the championship, something he's hoping to remedy in 2017. He makes a return to the MSS, once again with Team Chia Moto. In addition, there are ongoing talks with a Moto2 team for two wildcard entries for the 2017 season. But that is subject to him finding the budget to do so.
Aravind KP will first tackle the India Baja, then the Merzouga Rally for TVS Racing
2016 season: Baja Aragon, OiLibya Rally Morocco,
Best finish: 21st at Baja Aragon
Here's a rider that people have been hoping would make it to the big leagues internationally for quite a while now. Well, Aravind KP landed a factory ride with the Sherco TVS Rally Factory team in 2016. The aim for TVS was to finally put an Indian rider astride one of their RTR 450s in the Dakar Rally. The aim for Aravind, as with any other off-road specialist, was to finally get to the Dakar Rally. In preparation for the 2017 Dakar, in addition to competing in domestic events, Aravind took part in the Baja Aragon, and the OiLibya Rally Morocco. A 21st place finish at the former, and a 26th place finish at the latter meant he was in good shape for the Dakar. But his first outing at the treacherous Dakar didn't go all that well. A crash on the very first stage of the event left him with two broken bones in his left hand. Despite this he decided to soldier on, riding in spite of the pain. Another crash on Stage 3 of the rally and an injured shoulder later, Aravind was out of his first Dakar. But he's recovering well and will compete in the upcoming India Baja rally. Still very much a TVS Racing rider, there's hope yet for Dakar 2018.
Another season racing in the ARRC's Super Sport 600 category for Sarath Kumar
2016 season: Asia Road Racing Championship - Super Sport 600
Best finish: Season truncated due to injury
2016 is a season to forget for Sarath Kumar. It was a season that was marred by injury after injury. To begin with, Sarath missed the first round of the Asia Road Racing Championship, owing to the fact that he hadn't managed to land a race seat yet. Then he was forced to pull out of the second round of the championship after a knee injury sustained during pre-season testing flared up. The Team T Pro Yuzy Honda NTS rider had to pull out of the Suzuka round of the championship owing to the same injury. Then, at the fourth round of the championship at Sentul, Sarath was finally able to finish a race, earning his first and only point all season. While he was hoping to do well at his home race at the Buddh International Circuit, things all came undone when he crashed during practice and broke his collarbone. This meant that Sarath had to sit out the rest of the season. As we go to press, Sarath is out testing, ahead of another season in the Super Sport 600cc category of the ARRC, this time with RAMA Honda Racing by
NTS T.Pro Ten10. An official confirmation from Honda is expected soon.
Udipta Kumar Rath is competing in the Supersport 600 class of the Malaysian Superbike Championship
Udipta Kumar Rath
2016 season: Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship
Best finish: -
Udipta Kumar Rath is a former freestyle athlete who made the switch to racing in the last couple of years. He managed to finish second runner up in the TVS One Make Racing Series in 2015, following which he decided that it was time to move to racing abroad. So for the 2017 season of motorsport, he has signed up for the Malaysia Superbike Championship, contesting in the Supersport A category that features 600cc motorcycles piloted by expert riders. Since this is only his first year racing internationally, competing in the Expert class isn't entirely easy for the Indian rider. Udipta is competing for the ARD Performance Motorsport outfit, and is riding a 2011 Suzuki GSXR in the championship. Udipta has already completed the first round of the championship, registering a DNF in one race, and a 10th place finish in the second race, the latter of which helped him get into the points during his first international race weekend. He plans on competing in the same championship for the 2018 season as well, after which he's eyeing the Supersport category of the WSBK, or the Moto2 category of MotoGP. He's also competing in the Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship in 2017, astride a KTM 390 in the new up to 400cc class that has been introduced.
Shahan Ali Mohsin is set for his first full season of European karting
Shahan Ali Mohsin
2016 season: Asia Max Challenge; Indian National Micro Max Karting Championship
Best finish: Asia Max Challenge Champion - Micro Max category; Indian National Karting Champion - Micro Max category
Shahan Ali Mohsin's third consecutive season of international karting proved to be his best. He managed to perform extremely well at the KRS Asia Max Challenge, winning the championship in the Micro Max category. Back home Shahan was no slouch. After all he'd won the Micro Max category of the Indian National Karting Championship in 2015, a title that he defended successfully in 2016. For 2017 though, he's making the big leap to karting in Europe, where the grids are larger and far more competitive. Shahan has signed with the Formula K Junior team, headed by former racer Jura Serafini, for the 2017 season of the World Series Karting championship. He will compete in the Mini 60 category of the championship, which features approximately 90 competitors.
2016 season: Indian National Micro Max Karting Championship
Best finish: 1st place at Hyderabad and Kolhapur; Runner-up Micro Max category
Ruhaan Alva had a good year in the 2016 season of national karting. To begin with the young karter from Bangalore had been signed on by the Birel ART team to compete in the national championship's Micro Max category. The team had also decided that Ruhaan would compete in a few rounds of karting championships in Europe. He performed well all through the year, and came very close to winning the Micro Max championship too. He won the last race of the season at Kolhapur, ending up second in the championship standings. For 2017 Alva has made the move to karting in Europe. He competed in one round of the ROK Cup at Adria in February, after deciding to make the switch to the Easykart Championship in Italy. He competed in the first round of the championship at Castalletto, in the championship's Mini 60 category, winning his class. Which means that 2017 has already gotten off to a good start for Ruhaan. However, given the fact that the grid in the Mini 60 class wasn't particularly full, the decision was made to shift Ruhaan to the Easy Kart 60 category, where he will have to contend with much stiffer competition, which will in turn help hone his racecraft. This category will best help prepare Ruhaan for the World Series Karting championship, which is the next logical step for him.
Shaurya Kapani and Aryan Vasishta are gearing up for the 2017 X30 Asian Series
There are other racers who will compete abroad in 2017, or hope to compete in certain rounds of certain championships. Sanjay Takle, who is a regular fixture at the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, will return to the category's Production class. Meco Racing's Akash Gowda, who competed in the 2016-17 Formula 4 South East Asia Championship, is likely to do another season of single-seater racing in Asia. Ameya Vaidyanathan will compete in the EuroFormula Open Championship with Carlin in 2017. Krishnaraaj Mahadik is also set to return to a racing series in Europe, having already competing the BRDC F4 Championship in 2016. And there are some young karters in the fray too. Rayo Racing's Shaurya Kapani and Aryan Vasishta are gearing up for a season of karting in the X30 Asian Series. And on two wheels, Dinesh Kumar is heading to Malaysia for a season in the Malaysian Superbike Series.
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