Young racers to kick-start the Chennai leg of ‘One From A Billion Hunt'

Raj Ganatra's bone-crushing handshake suggests he is high on confidence. The 15-year-old has qualified from the furiously competitive Kolhapur leg of “One From A Billion Hunt”, an initiative by “Force India FI Team Academy” to identify a peerless racing talent through a go-karting tournament (for boys and girls in the 14-17 age group) in seven Indian cities (Mumbai, Margao, Kolhapur, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Amritsar) and the Silverstone racing circuit.

(The winner — chosen from a decisive race this October at Silverstone — will be rewarded with “a full season of racing in a top-notch 2012 UK championship” and a possible patronage for another three years. The first runner-up will get to compete in an Indian championship for one full season while the second runner-up will receive special coaching at an Asian racing school).

Raj, who was in city with five other young racers for the launch of the tournament's Chennai leg, from May 30 to June 5 at Kart Attack (Akkarai, ECR), has a nagging health condition. Tubercles on his skin and a back surgery cause him great pain, but Raj says, with the resignation of an adult, that he has learnt to live with it. “While I am buckled into the seat of a go-kart, I don't let the niggling pain affect my concentration.”

Fourteen-year-old Rishica Nadkarni is another adult in a child's body: after failing to make it from Mumbai, she went to Kolhapur but missed the qualification mark there by a fraction of a second. Not someone to give up, Rishica has caught the plane to Chennai for one more crack at the Hunt.

Except for recreational karting in the United States, Rishica is alien to the sport. Her father Pravin Nadkarni — once a 600cc bike racer — has accompanied Rishica to Chennai, more as a coach. “She is improving with every race,” says the father.

Vincent DeSouza, father of 17-year-old Keith DeSouza (who finished first in the Goan leg) gushes over his son: “Keith has a way with machines. I run a workshop in Goa, and he attends to high-end cars.”

Siddharth Shyamsundar, another 17-year-old, has barely a year's experience in motor sports, but he overcame this disadvantage through a diligent application of his mind. He believes sound technique, acquired through a proper study of the sport, is any day a massive strength. This youngster from Pune has qualified from Mumbai, finishing eight.

Tarun Reddy and Subhiksha Vishwanath, both 1997-born and from Chennai, speak with a maturity that belie their age. Tarun has travelled wide for karting contests and the exposure seems to have done him great good. Subhiksha — who drove to notice in the Amaron karting challenge — talks about having been inspired by Alisha Abduallah. Like Alisha, she does not consider motor-sports a male bastion.

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Keywords: go-kartingracing