Speed is his middle name and his success mantra. Akhil Khushlani talks to PRABALIKA M. BORAH about his journey on the fast track

Akhil concluded his career as a junior karter by finishing 5th at the World Karting Championships 2005 held at Langkawi, and “this made me the first Asian to do so in any Motor Sport world championship,” he says with pride.

After that Akhil participated in the Rotax Max Challenge 2006 (the national championship) as a senior. Here he won two rounds, taking second places in both. “I however did not finish the 5th round and ended up third in the overall championship,” he smiles.

He also test drove the Formula BMW Asia at Malaysia and Indonesia with distinction. Meanwhile Formula Rolon, in line with the Formula Asia was launched in South India at Coimbatore. Narain Karthikeyan was forming his team for Formula Rolon and was on the look out for talented drivers. He organised Team N K Racing Shoot Out in July 2006 to select his drivers. Akhil took part in the trials and was selected for the team.

Akhil reasons how each championship and even the slightest mishap helps him emerge as a better sportsman and that helps him improve his skills. “It doesn’t deter me at all, it actually makes me stronger and experienced. In motor sport, every second counts. You miss a gear and you as a driver tend to miss 6/10 of a second. That’s the importance of every second in the sport,” explains Akhil.

Akhil’s passion for speed is such that after his 12th standard, he enrolled in PPL (Professional Pilot Learning) and is planning to do ‘motorsport engineering’ abroad in the coming years.

When back from the championships and the racing tracks which keep Akhil away from home and friends, he loves to spend time at home with his parents, pets and friends. Pets — Poly, a parrot and a plump Dalmatian keeps him company. “Her name is Snoopy and she wants lots of love and a drink or two occasionally,” he laughs.

Highs and lows

The BMW stint, though, was clouded by technical trouble halfway through — it caused Akhil to slip to an overall third spot that he had made his own for a brief while. But this didn’t make him lose heart in the championship. The cumulative effect led to a coveted invitation to compete in the Formula BMW World Championships in Spain. “The Formula BMW is considered to be a stepping stone to the greater glory of Formula One racing,” he says.

When asked about the challenges and preparations required to get into this sport, Akhil says, “You have to have it in you; both in terms of talent and money. This is a very expensive sport and a lot of money needs to be shelled out until one finds a suitable sponsorship. This is a sport which cannot be taught. Driving can be taught but the skill has to be your own. A lot of it does come with practise but without the passion the skill will fizzle out,” he reasons.

How is the passion for speed handled at home? “Mom was kind of used to it seeing dad race. When I took to go karting she was worried and wanted me to rethink but after a point of time she became confident. Well, almost, until I met with a mishap which almost punctured my spleen. But I was back with a lot of confidence and took time to recover,” says Akhil who idolises the late Ayrton Senna, the Formula One champion. Akhil never saw Ayrton Senna on the tracks but videos and clippings of his performance and his talks were enough to make Akhil follow the champion who he thinks was a legend of the sport. “He used cars which were not as equipped and h- tech as the cars used these days. Yet his speed and driving skills remains unmatched and that makes him my hero,” he adds.

Any other passions? Akhil says he isn’t a big gadget freak and the only gadgets or machine which he loves spending time are the remote control petrol cars which he owns. “These are quite powerful as well and can be used to polish racing skills and practise and increase concentration. I love spending time with those whenever I get the time,” he says. “We keep them away at home, as Snoopy (pet dog) is terrified of them,” he says as he pets and cajoles ‘Snoop’ to sit beside him.

We switch from the race tracks to life track- is the navigation seat in his non-racing cars eEmpty? He only smiles in answer to this query.