A drive to be numero uno!

The achievements of 19-year-old Nikhil P Kashyap belie his age. The second-year mechanical engineering student of Sri Bhagawan Mahaveer Jain College of Engineering is also a race trainer and conducts programmes for aspiring and up-and-coming drivers from all over India.

In fact, he has brought so many laurels to the country and the educational institutions he has studied in that he was exempted from paying his school and van fees from class five to ten, much to the envy of his classmates! Till date, his college fee is subsidised.

It was at the age of seven that Nikhil first tried his hand at go-carting. “At that time, it was quite new in Bangalore. But I was keen to try it out and my first attempt was better than I expected. In fact, the staff there said that I was much calmer than the others and thought before taking each step,” he recalls.

Quick to spot his talent, Nikhil’s father began hunting for training centres. “He finally found a coach in Chennai and I began to attend short courses,” he says. At the same time in 2003, Steve Chapman, a Formula 3 driver, had come down from the United Kingdom and was training a few youngsters. “I was lucky to get a chance to train under him. It gave me a great exposure into the world of racing and proved to be a good foundation,” he exclaims.

In 2010, he took part in the ‘JK Tyre National Racing Championship-Formula Rolon’ and came second in his very first tryst with Formula racing! His other recent achievements include finishing in the top five in a couple of the races at the ‘JK Tyre Rotax Max National Karting Championship’; visiting the Redbull Racing F1 Factory in the UK as the ‘National Champion of the Redbull Kartfight India’ and meeting the men behind the success of the ‘World Champion’ team; participating in the ‘Sahara Force India-One From A Billion Hunt’, for which he underwent a week-long training and assessment process under the guidance of the stalwarts of racing — Bob Fernley, Eddie Jordan, Anthony Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg.

Pointing out that the sport is an expensive one, Nikhil says, “It’s a tough sport to hold on to because it’s financially draining. My parents were quite relieved when I was exempted from paying the school fees. They have worked really hard and saved money for me to pursue the sport. In the last few years, I’ve been able to get sponsorships but before that, my dad used to pay. I don’t think I can repay them in any way.” He adds, “That’s why I am mature for my age. I remember going to Malaysia in 2006 all by myself for a training programme. My dad gave me a great sum of money. But I brought back half of it. My parents were impressed with how I managed myself.”

Pointing out that racing is not like cricket, Nikhil explains, “A lot of planning is required. It’s strenuous and tough to hold on to.” He feels he still has a long way to go. “I am keen to settle down in the same field. But I’ve taken up engineering so that I have an option to fall back on. This way, I can even get to be in a professional motorsport team as an engineer,” he notes. Ask him how he manages his academics and he says, “When I study, I do it with full concentration and when I’m racing, I don’t think of anything else. Despite that, I find it difficult to balance both but I am still managing.”

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