Interview: Vishnu Prasad opens up about taking the Euro JK 17 series by storm, struggling to find sponsors, infrastructure for motorsport in India and more
After round 2 of the Euro JK 17 series, Vishnu Prasad sits on top of the provisional points table, leading defending champion Anindith Reddy by a solitary point. We had the privilege of catching up with the Chennai-born racer at the Kari Motor Speedway in Chettipalayam, Coimbatore.
Q: How did you get your start in motorsport?
A: "My dad used to rally. So when I was six years old, he put me into karting. And when I turned 8 or 9, I joined Meco Motorsports. Ever since then, I've learned everything from Akbar Ebrahim — owner of Meco Motorsports."
Q: You've more or less taken Euro JK 17 series by storm. How have you managed to capture a spot at the top of the points table?
A: "I've driven this car before and had a lot of success. I didn't drive the car last year, but during the 4 years that it has been in India, I've won three championships. We swept the first round, and we should've had a few more wins during the second, but it's racing and anything can happen."
Q: What is the biggest adversity you've faced in your career?
A: "The greatest adversity I face is away from the track. It's incredibly difficult to find sponsors and raise enough money to go racing. It's not the physical or mental challenges that set you back.
For most racers in India, the most difficult thing is to find sponsors and get the budget to do what you love. Sometimes, you're not even sure if you'll be sitting in the seat during the next season, so that is the greatest adversity facing every Indian driver currently."
Q: Who are your sponsors for this year?
A:" JK is helping me out. They've been helping me out for the last 15 years, and I don't think I would've gotten anywhere without them. I've been racing in their championships for the last 10 years. They saw a little bit of potential in me, so they decided to help me out, and I certainly wouldn't be racing without them.
I also have a sponsorship with Meco Motorsports as well because of my long-term association with them, and I've had a few sponsors on and off during my career. However, if you want to go abroad, 1 or 2 sponsors aren't enough, and you need a lot more funding."
Q: What is the next step for you? How do you plan to further your motorsports career?
A: "I'm planning to try my hand at GT racing in Asia because Europe is quite expensive, but Asia is relatively affordable and it's within our budget. We're looking to some sort of GT racing in Asia next year. Maybe CTR or Lamborghini or one of the other series. I think Armaan Ebrahim is also planning to do some GT racing in Asia."
Q: Who are the people that you've looked up to?
A: "Apart from my dad, there's Akbar Ebrahim who's pretty much taught me everything I know about racing. But whether it's on the track or off the track, he's moulded me as an overall person. I also look up to drivers like Armaan Ebrahim and Karun Chandhok — drivers from India who've made a mark on the international stage.
It's hard not to admire those drivers because we all come from a similar background, and we've all had to struggle with sponsors. Not to forget Narain Karthikeyan who laid the roadmap for all of us in many ways. Fortunately, all of these drivers have been around and have helped a lot, so I definitely look up to them."
Q: What are your thoughts on the infrastructure for motorsports in India? Where do you think that we need to improve?
A: "I think we can have more tracks in India. We currently have three major ones in the country: Chennai, Coimbatore and Delhi. We could also have more races. I definitely think motorsport is picking up in India, and our crowds are certainly bigger than they were 8 years ago. A lot more people watch Formula One in this country.
Hopefully, in the future, we can get more manufacturers to support motorsport and help it grow from strength to strength."