Motor Sports Expert Views
India needs more go-kart and racing tracks to promote motorsport - Parth Ghorpade, Indian racing driver
Living life in the fast lane is a thrill experienced by a very exclusive club of Indian racers. From Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandhok, Jehan Daruvawala and now Parth Ghorpade, motorsport may not be synonymous with the Indian subcontinent, but India is brimming with talent, waiting to showcase their skills if given the right platform and guidance.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Indian motorsport driver Parth Ghorpade speaks about how he got involved with the sport, the various challenges that he faced, winning the F3 Car Test at the Ferrari Driver Academy, motorsport idols and memorable events, elevating Indian racing and future goals!
Q 1) You come from Kolhapur which isn't exactly a motorsporting city so how did your interest in this sport grow?
I always had a love for cars and used to watch Formula 1 races with my dad when I was a kid and there was actually a small rental track in Kolhapur. My dad also had a thing for cars and races which is why we started going to the track more and more often and it just clicked. That’s where it all started, because of a small go-to location in Kolhapur.
Q 2) What are the biggest challenges a racing driver has to overcome in order to pursue this sport professionally in India
Unlike Europe, the United States or other countries, India does not have many facilities for racing. The level of the sport is a lot higher in other countries and the facilities are a lot more sophisticated and professional as motorsport is one of their main sports. As those facilities don’t exist here, I had to go for testing to Europe and that was one of the main challenges that I faced. It’s an expensive process so funding was another challenge that I faced in my journey.
Q 3) Tell us about your experience winning the F3 car test at the Ferrari Driver Academy?
I got the drive because I won the Asian title at the Formula Pilota Championship. It’s a small track but Formula 1 cars are tested there and Maranello and Fiorano is the home of Ferrari so it’s a legendary circuit where every race car driver wants to test drive and be a part of that team. It was quite a good experience, the way they work and their facilities are amazing and it’s a dream come true to be at the homeground of one of the best Formula 1 teams in the world.
Q 4) Who were some of your motorsport idols while you were growing up? Which has been your most memorable race or victory so far?
There is an idol that I look up to but he’s not there with us anymore, his name is Ayrton Senna. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was a kid, but I used to see his videos because of my dad who also followed Formula 1. He’s one of the legends and he will always be my favourite. The most memorable moment for me would be the race in Sepang, Malaysia. It was the last race of the Asian Championship which started off with completely dry weather which then became a thunderstorm. Hardly any cars managed to finish that race because it was pouring and one of the drivers, Antonio Giovinazzi on the grid is now in Formula 1. That was one of the most memorable races I have ever had in my career so far.
Q 5) How much of a change has the Indian Grand Prix brought in the motor sporting ecosystem of India?
Right now, the Indian Grand Prix is not there but when they were it was a huge pickup for Indian motorsports and people came to know about it. Even though it had an impact, we need more tracks to come up and get some life back into motorsport in India.
Q 6) What are the areas you think India needs to address in order to elevate the level of India motorsports to that of Europe?
India needs more go-karting tracks, because that’s the best way to get more individuals to start racing. There needs to be more racing tracks as well, there is one in Chennai and another in Coimbatore but it would make it easier for Indian racers to do what they do in Europe right here in India instead of travelling all the way for testing. These would make a big difference to Indian motorsports.
Q 7) What are you next looking forward to and how do you plan to achieve your goals?
The last two years have just been deleted because of the pandemic but I’m looking forward to doing the Asian Le Mans and then the plan is to go to Europe for the European Le Mans. I also want to progress to the World Endurance Championship because it has more openings that helps you earn earlier compared to Formula 1 and single seaters. We just need to keep our heads high and do what we do best, work around this pandemic and keep moving on.
Our hard work paid off in Saudi but we are fully focused on X Prix in Senegal - Johan Kristoffersson, Rosberg X Racing
Johan Kristoffersson is one of the most successful World Rallycross drivers in the world. The ‘Super Swede’ is a part of Rosberg X Racing in the electric off-road racing series Extreme E and recently won the Desert X Prix in Saudi Arabia. In his glittering career, Kristoffersson has won the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship, Porsche Carrera Cup Scandinavia, International Superstars Series and more!
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Kristoffersson speaks about his experience of winning the inaugural Extreme E race, Rosberg X Racing, driver swap and ODYSSEY 21, his strengths and weaknesses and whether he has a competitive advantage due to his rallycross background.
Q 1) You along with your teammate Molly Taylor set the fastest time in the first race of the series in Saudi Arabia, how proud are you of becoming the first ever winners of an Extreme E race?
Ans: “It was an amazing experience to take the win in the first-ever Extreme E event. The weekend was so crazy and we didn’t know what to expect, so to get the win and know that all our hard work had paid off ahead of the new season was a great feeling for the team. Now we’re fully focused on the next X Prix in Senegal.”
Q 2) How much of a credit goes to Rosberg X Racing for the result in the Desert X Prix? What are the factors that contributed to the win?
“We prepared as much as we could before the race weekend and worked as hard as possible to try and understand how the car might react in the desert, how all the procedures might work, and then on the race weekend we analysed every piece of video footage and data we possibly could. Hard work pays off!”
Q 3) What are your thoughts about the ODYSSEY 21? How tricky is the driver swap?
“The car is cool! We’re racing in 400 kW (550bhp) all-electric SUVs that will help shape the future of off-road electric mobility in some of the most extreme environments in the world. The driver swaps are a new challenge for most of the drivers in Extreme E; Molly and I had to practice a lot as we have very different heights [Molly is 168cm, Johan 192-194cm]!”
Q 4) How did you and Molly Taylor prepare for the inaugural race of Extreme E? How do the two of you complement each other's strengths and weaknesses?
“We both have a lot of experience of off-road racing, but we have raced in very different formats. My off-road background is mainly rallycross, while Molly is an experienced rally driver. Extreme E combines a lot of factors of both disciplines, so comparing notes and making sure we are learning from each other’s experiences is a big part of our development.”
Q 5) Do you think you have an advantage over others because of your rallycross background? How challenging has it been to adapt to an electric car?
“It may help when the race starts, but there’s also a number of other drivers in Extreme E who have a rallycross background, such as Mattias Ekstrom and Timmy Hansen. Driving an electric car is a strange sensation at first because of the lack of noise and the instant power delivery, but I am now used to it and learning something new every time I get behind the wheel.”
I want to inspire girls around the world to get involved with motorsport - Molly Taylor, Rosberg X Racing
Australian driver Molly Taylor is in high spirits, having recently won the Saudi X Prix with teammate Johan Kristofferson in the inaugural race of Extreme E, an all electric motorsport series. Having grown up in a motorsport family, Taylor’s mother was a professional co-driver for 18 years and won three Australian titles. For an industry largely dominated by men, Extreme E is giving women an equal platform to showcase their talent and drivers such as Molly Taylor are a breath of fresh air in a tournament focused on bringing awareness to the climate crisis and sustainability.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Molly Taylor speaks about whether she has a competitive advantage due to her rally experience, driving on the desert terrain of Saudi Arabia, gender equality in motorsport, the ODYSSEY 21 and more!
Q 1) You are the only female winner of the Australian Rally Championship, how much of an advantage is that experience in competing at Extreme E?
Ans: “I’m really proud to have won my national rally championship back home, but I think I get more of an advantage from my experience of competing in rally competitions for a number of years – not just my championship year in Australia. Extreme E is a highly-competitive field, so everyone at Rosberg X Racing is committed to calling on their experience to make sure we remain competitive as a team.”
Q 2) Do you have any pre-race rituals or superstitions that you follow? How challenging was it to drive on a terrain like the one in Saudi Arabia?
Ans: “I don’t have any superstitions, but do like to take a moment to visualise the course in front of me and focus on the challenge of racing the ODYSSEY 21. The terrain in Saudi Arabia was really difficult to navigate as new ruts were appearing with every lap we completed. I had a big moment in one of the time-trials on the Saturday but managed to keep control – that was a wake-up call!”
Q 3) How important is a series like Extreme E to develop female racing talent and to promote gender equality in motorsport?
"Equality is a huge part of sustainability, and this series, our team and one of my personal biggest passions is improving equality. Extreme E is the first racing series to feature male/female driver line ups at each team, and I hope to use my platform as an FIA Girls on Track ambassador as well as driver in Extreme E to inspire girls around the world to get involved with motorsport, which has given so much to me.”
Q 4) How does the ODYSSEY 21 compare to other rally cars you have raced with? What role have you played in tailoring the car to your specifications?
Ans: “The ODYSSEY 21 is unlike any other car I have driven. Firstly, it’s massive! It also has a serious amount of power [400kw] and delivers it instantly when you apply the throttle because of the electric motor. It’s very difficult to compare it to the Subaru I race in the Australian Rally Championship in every sense, but working with Johan and the team to better understand how we can get the most out of it has been a lot of fun and we can’t wait to continue at the next race in Senegal.”
Q 5) What excites you the most about Extreme E as compared to other rally races?
“It’s unlike any other racing series that has ever existed, and that for me is the most exciting part of Extreme E. We’re racing in 400 kW (550bhp) all-electric SUVs that will help shape the future of off-road electric mobility in some of the most extreme environments in the world, and all with the goal of raising awareness about the biggest threat to mankind today: climate change.”
Extreme E hopes to raise awareness of climate crisis through motorsport
Extreme E has an ambition to reinvent motorsport with it’s outlandish electric SUV off road racing series. It’s a concept like no other motorsport championship and this seemingly impossible dream has been made into a reality by Alejandro Agag, the founder of Formula E. The five locations are based on different environments - ocean, desert, arctic, rainforest and glacier with the objective of using motorsport as an instrument to highlight the damage to some of the most vulnerable ecosystems on our planet.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, series founder Alejandro Agag talks about how it all began, the social aspirations of Extreme E, the challenges faced in making it a reality and the goal to raise awareness to help save our planet.
As founder and CEO of Extreme E, how did the idea formulate and what was the process that led to the idea becoming a reality?
Following the success of Formula E, I wanted to take our electric mission one step further and highlight the climate emergency – one of the biggest challenges the world is facing - through an exciting new motorsport.
Extreme E takes electric SUVs to some of the most remote corners of the planet to show damage to the environment and inspire change, by showcasing less carbon intensive ways of living. Through the Legacy Programmes at each race location, we will leave a long-lasting positive impact on the areas we visit and it has taken a lot of hard work securing locations, teams, drivers, partners and scientists.
The goal of Extreme E from a social standpoint is to highlight the effects of climate change and endangered habitats using motorsports. How do you plan to do that?
We hope to highlight the effects of climate change through the power of sport, after all 24 out of 25 of the most watched TV broadcasts ever have been about sport. As we won’t have spectators on-site our broadcast product is one of the main ways we speak to our audience, so we are creating a very innovative product in terms of the racing including graphics and overlays, but also a magazine show which tells the stories of the locations and the issues faced, plus the people involved.
How different is Extreme E compared to other motorsport events?
In some ways very similar, we will have exciting racing, but in other ways very different, as we are using motorsport to highlight the climate emergency.
We have a couple of world-firsts in the motorsport world including the stipulation teams must field both a male and female driver in a bid for gender equality. We will also be using a hydrogen fuel cell to charge our electric SUVs emissions free, so in that sense we are very forward thinking.
From a sustainability point of view we aim to be net carbon zero by the end of our first race and we are doing everything we can to make that happen, from keeping the championship’s carbon footprint as low as possible in its operations, for example, using a ship, the St. Helena, instead of air freight, right through to trophy creation – these will be made from recycled plastic.
What are the challenges you have faced in making Extreme E a reality?
There have been a few challenges like any start-up, but I would say we are in pretty good shape, we have incredible teams, drivers and a host of global broadcasters so despite the challenges things have really moved forward.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your plans?
It has made everything harder due to the travel restrictions, we haven’t been able to complete as many site visits as we would have liked, but all in all, COVID really hasn’t stopped us. In 2020, we were in the preparation phase in terms of signing teams and partners and we were lucky that we could really carry on during COVID.
How do you plan to generate interest in Extreme E and gain acceptance from the motorsport fans especially considering that no fans will be allowed to be at race venues?
Already we feel like there is a massive amount of excitement from motorsport fans about Extreme E, you just have to look at our social media. Not having spectators on-site was always our plan, so it is through our engaging broadcast product that we will reach fans.
Tell us more about the virtual hospitality packages available for each race?
Virtual hospitality is incredibly interesting, it’s a great concept that the team came up with and I think to bring great hospitality to people’s homes you need to offer premium access and the opportunity to be able to see behind the scenes as well as tailored content specifically for them so they feel they are one step closer to the event than everyone else watching on TV. You can send merchandise to the homes and even a chef to prepare special food, and one of the brands associated with us could take them for a spin in an electric car around their homes or in their city. There are many things you can think of with virtual hospitality, and we are very excited about it.
What impact do you hope to create from the inaugural season of Extreme E?
I hope we will raise awareness of the climate crisis, but go beyond that and encourage people to take action, big or small, to reduce their carbon footprint to help save our planet.
In our specific race locations, we will leave a long-lasting positive impact through our Legacy Programmes which include planting one million mangroves in Senegal, empowering young climate changemakers in partnership with UNICEF in Greenland and reforesting 100 hectares of the Amazon rainforest.
Debunking the myth that motorsport drivers aren't real athletes
Every racing fan knows a person amongst their friends or family who firmly believes that motorsport isn’t a “real” sport. To them, a sport involves a large amount of physical effort which leads them to conclude that archery, shooting and god forbid, football are also not real sports, despite the fact that they will be played at the Olympics. Usually, the problem is that they compare the physical demands of auto racing to their own experience of driving to the supermarket in a regular road car, which indeed requires no physical exertion whatsoever, but these two things have about as much in common as fishing by the lakeside and wrestling with an alligator in the lake. I was appalled to find that a large percentage of people believe auto racing isn’t a sport because in their eyes, racing drivers simply sit in a seat and drive a car. They are rooted in the perception that an individual is only considered an athlete when they physically move. Then there are people who claim that the six time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson wasn’t an athlete because “he sits in a car and he drives… what is he athletically doing?” Unfortunately, people like these are not well informed. Motor racing is one of the most extreme sports on the planet. Sitting in a racing car is unlike any other car ride a person may have ever experienced. As part of the engineers’ effort to strip as much weight from race cars as possible and only keep the necessary parts, a racing car features very few creature comforts. The seat is functional enough to ensure drivers stay in place while maneuvering around corners and the absence of air conditioning means enduring the heat and humidity for hours on end, especially at races like the Malaysian Grand Prix, with humidity up to 80% and temperatures exceeding 104° F or 40° C. In addition to the difficult conditions, a racing driver is expected to wear five-layer fireproof race overalls which add to the discomfort for long durations. It can be even worse for drivers racing in closed cockpit cars, inside of which temperatures frequently surpass 120° F or 49° C. The heat causes more than mere discomfort, as the average F1 driver sweats upto 8.8lb/ 4 kg of his own body weight throughout a Grand Prix. The loss of such a significant amount of body weight also results in a drop in mental focus and reflexes, attributes that are key for any racing driver. To remedy this, drivers are expected to drink up to 2 gallons or 7.6 liters of water before hot races to ensure hydration. As compared to the ordeals of auto racing, these are the easier parts. Let me leave this article here for now.. Shall talk more on why auto racing is a ‘real sport’ in the upcoming articles. About the author Sahil Sanjay Shelar is a professional motor racing driver with over 17+ years of motor racing seasons under his belt and 100+ races in India and Asia. He is also a motorsports mentor and is associated with various automobile magazines and publications to review all things cars and motorsports.
The emergence of motorsports in India
Motorsports has existed in India for more than six decades now, but it is in the last few years that this sport has gained popularity and generated interest across the country. With growing participation in international races and road racing events, India's role in the global motorsport arena has never been bigger. Indian auto manufacturers are investing their resources into this sport and are already seeing returns with strong finishes in international events. Even our home-grown racers are making a name for themselves on the global stage, and today many young racing drivers in the country are aspiring to be professional racers. What started as and was always perceived to be a niche sport for the affluent in the early years, has gained mainstream popularity and has been considered as a serious sport after the establishment of Federation Of Motor Sports Clubs Of India (FMSCI) in the 1970s. It not only brought about a shift towards this sport but also set the base for serious professional motorsports in the country with standardised rules and regulations. Post this development, this game attracted attention from auto industry players as they realised that the learnings from the track would help in improving the performance of the stock vehicles and will also provide impetus to the motorsports in India. Today we have two big racing series in India, the JK Tyre National Racing Championship and the MRF Racing Championship which has series like the Volkswagen Polo R Cup under it, giving the athletes scope to showcase their motor racing skills across various categories. From the years of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, we now have many motorsports athletes coming up through the ranks… and the scene of motorsports in India is poised for a glorious future. The sport still needs more brands and big players to come in and support the sport and its athletes. When this happens, we will see motorsports become the pinnacle of sports in India in no time. The sport already has a crazy fan following, which is only growing with every passing day… and with upcoming race tracks in Pune, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, it is only going BIG! About the author Follow him on Instagram: sahilsanjayshelar Sahil Sanjay Shelar is a professional motor racing driver with over 17+ years of motor racing seasons under his belt and 100+ races in India and Asia. He is also a motorsports mentor and is associated with various automobile magazines and publications to review all things cars and motorsports.