Racing enthusiast Jose Pottamkulam, popularly known as Ootta, has taken his passion for racing another step. He owns the racing team M&N, which fields cars for the MRF Formula Ford 1600 Championship
Jose Pottamkulam a.k.a. Ootta is always ready to go that extra mile for motorsport, and it's with a single minded dedication that he pursues this “passion” of his. This city-based racing enthusiast is the team principal of M&N racing, perhaps the only Malayali-owned and sponsored racing team in the country. The team, with the support of Kerala-based companies Kunnath Pharmaceuticals (Musli Power Xtra) and the Muthoot Pappachan group, put on the grid four cars in the Delhi leg of the MRF Formula 1600 Championship, the official support races that were held prior to the inaugural edition of the Indian Grand Prix at Buddh International Circuit, Noida, in October.
To drive these single-seater, lean mean speed machines with their 1.6 litre Ford Duratec engines and tubular Van Diemen chassis, Jose roped in Indian rally legends Gaurav Gill and Arjun Balu (for the Muthoot car), and British racer Alex Waters and leading French racer Philippe Layac (for the Musli power car). Although Team M&N didn't qualify for a podium finish, Jose seems upbeat when he says that this is only the beginning of a what will be a “glorious era” for his team – and motorsport in India, of course.
It's a big deal
“It really doesn't get bigger than this in the current Indian motorsport scenario. I'm just thrilled that I was able to send out not one but four cars on such a superb track. I can't begin to explain how much of a boost to Indian motorsport such a circuit as Buddh is going to have. We have some amazingly talented racers but until now we've never had an international racing track, where drivers can utilise and/or hone the skills to the maximum,” says Jose, who started off his racing career in motorsport as a rally driver.
Jose, who moonlights as a planter, began racing back in 1984, while he was studying at Mar Ivanios College in the city. “Ever since I was a child, I've always been interested in speed. My first competitive race was in 1984, when three of my friends and I – or Team Trivandrum as we called ourselves – signed up for the city leg of the Popular Rally. We drove a beat up old Ambassador with questionable breaks but came up first in the sector! Needless to say, I was hooked. I raced for around 24 rallies till 1987,” recalls the 49-year-old Jose, who's even had quite a few podium finishes in some renowned rallies such as the Maruti Suzuki Cochin Autocross 2008 and the Cotton City Challenge, Coimbatore. For long he's also been a test driver for Coimbatore-based JA Motorsport.
The idea for a racing team was formulated when he realised that he was “getting too old” to drive competitively. “I realised that if I wanted to continue my association with motorsport, I'd have to start a team. And well, I was crazy enough to do just that! I named the team M&N after my kids Mika and Nikki,” says Jose, whose team made its debut in the Chennai leg of the MRF Championship in February this year, where they fielded six cars.
He admits that is quite an expensive thing to put cars on the grid, costing roundabouts 15 lakh per car, per year. “But it's worth it. You've got to experience riding in a car in high speed to understand the thrill of it,” says the adrenalin junkie, adding: “In Kerala, motorsport is still not very popular but seems to be gaining enthusiasts by the day. Perhaps it's because there has not been much of exposure to motorsport save for a few elite who are part of motor clubs. We need more people to be involved.”
One of Team M&N's Formula Ford 1600 single-seater racing cars will be on display at the lobby of Tejaswini building in Technopark from Monday. Racing enthusiasts, who want their picture taken in the driver's seat, may avail themselves of coupons from branches of Muthoot Pappachan group concerns in the city.
Keywords: MRF Formula 1600 Championship