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A few bright spots in the fast lane

Roshan Thyagarajan, Dec 23, 2013, DHNS:
Promising youngster Jehan Daruvala won the British Karting Championships this year.

Much like the years that have preceded this one, there were soaring highs and abysmal lows in the Indian motorsport lane. Of course there were some winners and a handful of losers.

Should a 2013 sort of a year transpired a few years ago, it would have been the best thing to have happened to Indian motor sport by a far stretch of imagination. But given the strides made by the country, this year was a let down.

Yes, the third edition of the Indian Grand Prix witnessed the crowning of Sebastian Vettel as the Formula One’s world champion and the semi-successful running of the third edition of the event at the Buddh International Circuit. But the languid sights and sounds at the walk-ways of the usually energetic paddock and cramped stands made it more than obvious that the buzz that made the Grand Prix a spectacle had died out. It had become just one of the 19 races on the calendar. Vettel’s coronation sure did add an element of entertainment, so to speak.

The problem was not so much the year that played out. It had more to do with the year that is to follow. Jaypee Sports International, the organisers of the Indian race, will not get to host the event for the fourth year in a row, owing predominantly to a ‘logistical problem’ brought to fore by FIA’s -- by extension Bernie Ecclestone’s -- plans to run the race in March 2014.

JPSI painfully admitted that they would be unable to execute a race within months of the 2013 event. The end result was a loose promise by FIA and the organisers that the event would be run in March 2015. ‘Will it or won’t it?’ (be held in 2015) was the question on everyone’s lips.

Those queries hung around the room a while before the fraternity’s focus shifted to Gaurav Gill.

It was unexpected but not altogether implausible that Gill could finally live up to his reputation of being one of the best rally drivers to come out of India by winning the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The Delhiite has unequivocally changed the face of rallying in the country.

And perhaps inspired by his former Team MRF team-mate’s moment of crowning glory, Amittrajit Ghosh put on a dominant show to gift himself and his navigator Ashwin Naik the Indian National Rally Championship crown with one race to spare on the calendar.

The INRC and several other National championships involving two and four wheels have had a flaccid year, and it is only obvious that it will continue to remain so should the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs in India not rejig rusty lines.

FMSCI’s chairman Vijay Mallya, however, was taking a step in the right direction. The Force India owners’ investment in identifying an Indian Formula One driver seems to have paid off as Jehan Daruvala, a product of Mallya’s ‘One From A Billion’ programme, won the prestigious British Karting Championship.

A boisterous rally driver and a 15-year-old talent have given us hope of more to come. That being said, what 2014 has in store for Indian motor sport is part of a guessing game. The wheels are already in motion with FMSCI president Vicky Chandhok opting out of standing for re-election. Guess the time to wait out the holiday season before strapping in for the long ride is here.



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