The State of Indian Motorsport: An interview with Armaan Ebrahim
Armaan was in Bengaluru to inaugurate Meco Kartopia, a Bengaluru-based karting and race track.
Armaan, son of Indian Formula 3 champion Akbar Ebrahim, is an accomplished driver in his own right. The first Asian driver to sign up for the rebirth of FIA Formula Two in 2009, 26-year old Armaan will compete in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia Series this year, driving a brand new Huracan. He speaks to Anuradha Santhanam about karting and facilities in India, Indian motorsport, Formula One and his plans for racing this year:
Q. You have an impressive racing record: you have had great success at Formula Two. What do you enjoy most about competitive racing?
Well, just being able to push the car to its absolute limit and beyond is something that I will always enjoy the most.Then there's the whole competition and competing against the best, trying to beat them.For that I have to extract everything from the car.Which means knowing the technical side as well and just being able to find that sweet spot makes it so enjoyable.
Q. Considering your background, was it a natural choice for you to get into motor racing? Did you feel as though you were naturally inclined towards it? Talk to us about your training, and growing up with and around motor-racing.
I grew up around motorsport and loved being track side as a kid. But it was never the end plan.I got my first taste of actual racing at the first JK Tyre karting training program back in January 2003, which I ended up winning, and got the chance to race and train in Malaysia. I spent my whole summer break there working on karts as well as racing in their National and Asian Zone Championships. The whole process of learning and actually working on all sorts of karts really gave me an insight on the machine that I was racing as well as a much better understanding on dynamics of a kart. With more seat time I got better and started winning by mid-way through that year.
Q. You were the only Asian driver who was part of Formula Two when it was reinstituted in 2009. Do you feel as though Motorsports, and especially Formula racing and karting do not have enough of an audience or following in India?
I think there is a decent percentage of people in India who follow motorsports, primarily Formula 1. It's definitely growing but I do feel that we need to have a lot more international racing series in India for people to start following the sport and actually relate to it.
Karting is quite popular,because of the number of recreational facilities that have opened across the country. We run The National Rotax Max Karting Championship and the aim is to take that to as many cities as possible in order to increase the awareness.
Q. Do you feel that new karting facilities will open up the world of motorsport to Indian youth who are interested but unable to pursue it?
I certainly hope so. That is the plan and vision behind opening karting tracks in different cities. This is the kindergarten of motorsports, where people get there first taste of what it's all about.
Q. Of all the formats you have raced in - F2, the Sprint Series, Indy Lights - which did you enjoy the most, and why?
I have enjoyed,learned and gathered so much knowledge and experience through the various racing series that I have had the opportunity to compete and succeed in. Yes Formula Two was the highest point of my single seater career so far and it was great to do well there. Then I moved to sports cars in which I currently compete in, I've had the opportunity to race for various manufacturers and finish on the podium. This year I take up a new challenge in the form of the Lamborghini Trofeo Asia Pacific Series,driving the all new Huracan!
Q. What are your views on the recently concluded Monaco Grand Prix? Do you have any favourite Formula 1 drivers or teams? What are some aspects of F1 you would like to see changes in?
I didn't get a chance to watch the Grand Prix as I was busy with the opening of our new track "MecoKartopia" in Bangalore which also hosted the JK Tyre MMS Rookie Cup. I think Formula 1 needs to get some stability on their rules. They seem to be changing too much way too often.
Q. How do you feel India could better consolidate itself in the world of motorsport, and how could motorsports be better promoted in the country?
India has already come a long way in terms of the standard of motorsport. We have a solid foundation for kids who want to get into the sport and make a name for themselves domestically. We can most certainly gain from having more manufacturers getting involved.Just like VW has done with its Polo Cup and Toyota with its Etios. I think we do need promoters to bring in International championships to come to India,as this will help Indian drivers immensely by giving them an opportunity to showcase their ability on an International platform racing at home. More importantly, it makes it a lot more attractive for a sponsor.