Indian F1 driver Karun Chandhok's Karting Karnival gave mediapersons an opportunity to be motor racers. Prince Frederick, who had a turn at the wheel, reports
A felicity with words is part of Karun Chandhok's irresistible charm. Many sports channels have cast the Indian F1 driver as a race commentator. Not only that, he has played the offbeat role of an autorickshaw-driving guide who takes BBC Sport's Jake Humphrey through the lanes and bylanes of Delhi.
Karun has the right word for every occasion and Tony Fernandes, team principal of Team Lotus, was probably alluding to this ability when he called the Indian racer a great motivator. Test driver of this F1 team, Karun has won the hearts of his teammates.
His amiability is like the sun; it shines on everyone and this explains the lasting bonds he has forged with the support staff at racing circuits and with media personnel across the world. Sometime ago, the Karun Karting Karnival aimed at providing mediapersons an opportunity to be motor racers.
Just for journos
The first KKK, organised just before the British Grand Prix at the Whilton Mill kart track, attracted 40 journalists and a barbecue enabled them to rub shoulders with F1 experts in an atmosphere of informality.
A KKK event for Indian journalists was organised at Kart Attack, Akkarai (East Coast Road) recently with some support from JK Tyres.
These journalists have been tracking his career for years, and Karun felt obliged to give them a fun-filled evening at the track. Since 2002 — when Karun moved to Brackley, a town in south Northamptonshire, for its proximity to the Silverstone — he would catch up with the journalists during his short trips to India and some of them have remained mere voices on the telephone for years. The interaction would always revolve around questions and press releases and Karun wanted to break the pattern.
He cherishes sojourns in his hometown as much as he does old ties.
Emotionally attached to this city, he still refers to it as Madras. Having said that, he enjoys the serenity that pervades the little town of Brackley. The roads are conducive to cycling and Karun does a weekly quota of 300 km on the road on his bicycle. In addition, living in Europe enables him to witness cycling extravaganzas such as the Tour de France and Tour de Italy.
The move to Britain, racing and other commitments (as a commentator and columnist) leave Karun perennially strapped for time. “From watching two films a week, I watch only one a month.” Even this occasional film is watched while waiting for a flight.
Driven by the ambition of getting to race full-time on the F1circuit, he does not hesitate to make these sacrifices. “Nobody wants to be a test driver,” says Karun. “I'd love to race full-time for Team Lotus.”
The Rules and the Race
This is probably the wackiest drivers' briefing in the history of motorsport. The clerk of the course (CoC) is outrageously arrogant: “I have decided to change the rules. I'm not a CoC. I'm a dictator.”
After reeling off a list of iron-clad, self-made laws, he blusters: “Any protests. Not that I care.” Instead of being hauled off the track for his insolence, he is cheered. Here's the bigger surprise: Karun Chandok is this CoC.
Eighteen drivers in the fray for Karun's Karting Karnival at Kart Attack, Akkarai – organised by Karun for Indian journalists — are split into six teams. The team which tops the table after three races wins. The three races are fiercely fought and the persistent shouts of appreciation from the sidelines submerge the drones of the karts. The camaraderie among the journalists during the prize distribution ceremony is in stark contrast to this spirit of competition. This makes it evident that they had decided to come along just to reconnect with one another and with Karun.