He eked out a living as an auto lining mechanic. He had not seen a racetrack until he was 22. Now, he is a national biking sensation. Meet Krishnan Rajini, who had a podium finish at the fourth leg of the Petronas Asia Road Racing Championship (also known as Asian GP) for 600cc superbikes.

As he speaks about his life, Rajini leaves many impressions -- the most dominant ones being those of a racer willing to give up every comfort to achieve tarmac glory and a sensitive youngster who is deeply disturbed by the misfortunes that have overtaken his family.

Working long hours at his eponymous auto lining garage in Arumbakkam constituted a huge part of Rajini’s routine. He lost his father when only 16, and decided to be more responsible than boys his age are expected to be. “I was a hardy worker. As I was confined to my garage for most part of the day, I did not see much of the world.”

But, one day in 2002, a suggestion by a friend changed Rajini’s life for good. “A two-wheeler mechanic, Saravanan, asked me if I would go with him to watch a two-wheeler racing championship at Irrungatukottai.” The sight of whizzing bikes triggered something in him. “After that day, nothing seemed as important as racing bikes.”

Besides riding a Yamaha RX at a blistering pace on open roads, Rajini had no qualifications for racing. And, 22 was an age when bike racers peaked; it was not the time to start a racing career. Undeterred, Rajini trained on his own with only a mechanic to help him occasionally. The money he earned from his garage went to fuel his racing pursuits -- limited to small bikes. The results came surprisingly fast, and in 2004, TVS Racing took him into its fold. In 2006, he won the UCAL-Rolon national championship in Group C (150cc two-stroke, racing-modified bikes) riding a Shaolin, and also in Group B (150cc four-stroke, racing-modified bikes) riding an Apache.

The same year, he sponsored his own way to the Malaysian Super Series at the Sepang Circuit — where he won the Kawasaki Cup. “I spent about Rs. 4 lakh, which I managed to pool with great difficulty. But, I have no regrets. In any field, only learning enhances skills. A biker learns little until he rides in several international circuits.”

Only after he was convinced he had mastered the techniques of small bike racing did he turn to super bikes. In the fag end of 2007, he met Bangalore-based industrialist Dinesh Reddy, one of the biggest patrons of motor racing. Luckily, Dinesh was planning to form a racing team (Red Rooster Racing-RRR); impressed with Rajini’s credentials, he took him in. For Rajini, it was a positive end to an otherwise turbulent year — when his brother died due to jaundice.

In 2008, Rajini finished second in the 600cc category of the Malaysian Super Series, representing RRR and riding a Yamaha R6. He suffered bad crashes in the first three legs (held in Malaysia, Japan and Indonesia) of the ongoing Petronas Asia Road Racing Championship, but says it the best thing to have happened to him. Not because he finished third in the Indian leg (held at Irungatukottai recently), but “because of the lessons learnt along the way”.

“Racers outside India have a decided edge over us. They start early and, for most, access to a superbike is unlimited. We can try to counter their challenge only if we get to ride on the circuits they are familiar with and keep learning fast.”

As RRR has stationed a Yamaha R6 at Irungattukotai, Rajini need not worry any more. Rajini is glad he met Dinesh. And, he is thankful to Sarvanan, but for whom he would have never have stepped on a racetrack.

Top Five

l Finishing first in the nationals for Group C

(150cc two-stroke, racing-modified bikes) category in 2006

l Finishing first in the nationals for Group B

(150cc four-stroke, racing-modified bikes) category in 2006

l Finishing first in Kawasaki Cup championship of the Malaysian Super Series at Sepang Circuit in 2006

l Finishing second in the 600cc suberbikes category of Malaysian Super Series at Sepang in 2008

l Podium finish at the Indian leg of the ongoing 2009 Petronas Asia Road Racing Championships

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