Motorsport push clearly lacking in India

Motorsport push clearly lacking in India

Motorsport is increasingly looking for newer and emerging markets. India and China seemed to be the obvious choices for major international events, but it looks like our country is not taking advantage of the demand for newer venues. 

Malaysia has always rolled out the red carpet for international motorsport. Azerbaijan has done the same and so has Russia. While these countries have been desperately trying to get international events, it is difficult to say that about India.

There are several national championships and more than three dozen Indians are participating in events abroad, but the buzz is clearly missing.

For fans of the Force India Formula One Team, it was a big disappointment a couple of days ago when the owners of the team removed the ‘Force India’ part and entered the 2019 World Championship as Racing Point F1. The Vijay Mallya-owned team was sold to a conglomerate of businessmen led by F1 driver Lance Stroll’s father, Lawrence.

F1’s return to India looks to be a distant dream as of now as the promoters of the Indian Grand Prix (held in 2011, 12 and 13), Jaypee Sports International, are in all sorts of financial trouble. The Buddh International Circuit has clearly become a white elephant with a couple of national championships being run there.

India has lost two major events at the Asian level. Two editions of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship were held in Chikkamagaluru in the last two years, but the Coffee Town just hosted a round of the Indian National Rally Championship last weekend. The major crowdpuller, among others, was Gaurav Gill, multiple national champion and two-time APRC title winner. The Delhi driver has graduated to the WRC2 category and that has perhaps taken away a lot of interest from the Chikkamagaluru event though it is one of the best run rounds on the calendar.

Whether we could attribute it to the missing APRC or other factors, the point is that there is one less international event in the country.

The two-wheeler Asia Road Racing Championship was hosted by the Madras Motor Sports Club in 2017 and 2018, but in the calendar released recently, the event at the Madras Motor Race Track in Sriperumbudur is not listed. It was a fabulous event with some very serious talent racing in the 250cc and 600cc SuperSport categories. In fact, some of the entrants in the 600cc category have been in the MotoGP or Moto2 World Championship. This is another big loss for India as it was a great show of top of the line racing machines in the two categories, apart from the Underbone class.

However, there are a few positive points. The foundation stone for a track between Mumbai and Pune was laid and there is one track in the offing in Hyderabad.

The State Government of Andhra Pradesh is sponsoring the CGBM Evolution Moto2 team. But even with positive developments, there is little that the Indian motorsport fan can look forward to.

Needless to say, there is much that can be done. There is no denying the fact that motorsport in India is never seen as a whole. It is rather a question of the club trying to break even, if not making a profit by hosting an event. In case of a sponsor, it is just how much mileage they can get in the midst of so many other disciplines in which India is doing incredibly well, like cricket, badminton, wrestling, shooting et al.

There is little media interest because there isn’t too much of a push from the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India.

It is indeed surprising that India is a huge automobile market but the biggies in the automobile industry are still hesitating to sponsor motorsport or start teams.

It is high time that the sport is taken seriously by the stakeholders. If there are more events, more sponsors are likely to shell out the funds for motorsport or to even build tracks.

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