'Swift' journey for young driver

Sudharshan Rao followed his dreams to make a mark on National circuit

The young Bangalorean hasn’t stopped at that, going on to defeat some of the best in the business for a JK Tyre National Racing championshp title this year.

Nothing about this 24-year-old qualified pilot screams ‘speed’, but the moment racing springs up as the topic of conversation, the glint in his eye is followed by a excellent insights into a fast-paced world.

As with many teenagers of the time, Sudharshan was caught up with the Formula One frenzy but unlike most who would wish to go fast and then let the idea fade away, he stuck to it. After the ‘surprisingly fast’ experience with the moped his parents gifted him in his first year of pre-university at Vijaya Junior College, the ambitious young lad took to karting with a friend of his at Freeway19.

“Formula One got me thinking about the possibilities of speed. My first real machine, if I may call it, was a Scooty but don’t let it fool you. It was real fast,” said the instrumentation engineering student of RNSIT.

Sudharshan took to karting like duck to water, going from ‘unrecognised greenhorn’ to one with ‘potential’ in just six months. His weekly trips to the karting range in Palace Grounds got him the recognition he was looking for in the racing circle and with it came his father’s permission to take part in the JK Tyre National karting championship 2002, where he finished seventh. Within months he took part in the MRF Indian karting championship and finished second.

“Karting was fun. A friend of mine and me went to the track every week and I just kept getting good at it. People started to see something in me and that was a wonderful feeling. The karting championships were great. I did not do too well in my first season but once I got the hang of it there were results,” he said.

Sudharshan’s big break came in 2004 when he finished seventh in the JK Tyre National karting championship and won the MRF karting championship. With support from family and close friends, he gathered enough money and the car to take part in three rounds of the JK Tyre junior National Championship 2005 Formula Maruti.

“Every race cost around Rs 20,000. I did not have any sponsors but my family and friends helped me take part in the event. I did pretty well, I finished seventh on debut and in 2006 Valvoline Cummins along with the Wallace Sports and Research Foundation sponsored me.”

Driving with sponsors in 2006 at the JK Tyre Junior National Racing Championship, Sudharshan proved his mettle with four podium places and an overall fourth place finish.
 But with only the top-three allowed to take part on the senior circuit, Sudharshan missed his chance. A glimmer of hope surfaced when Ram’s Racing offered the young lad a chance to drive in the JK Tyre National Racing Championship formula Hyundai and he grabbed it, finishing fifth overall.

In 2007 Sudharshan, without sponsors, once again drove on the Junior circuit but this time it was different. He finished on the podium ten times out of the twelve races and the JK Tyre sponsorship came calling. With a big sponsor on his back, the Bangalorean drove at the National senior championship, finishing fifth overall.

Coming back into racing this season after a year’s break, nothing special was expected from him, but he showed his talent against all odds. His dynamic approach on the corners and the resilient approach won him the first championship title in the Formula Swift 1600 cc category and what’s better, the second best driver was 15 points behind him.

High on confidence, the young driver said he has plenty more to achieve. “The ultimate goal is Formula One but I know there is a lot in between. I’ll handle all of that first and then we’ll see,” said Sudharshan with a smile.

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